Ten Years Gone: Red Sox live to play another day in 2004 ALCS


Well past 1 AM on a New England October night, after Sunday gave way to another Monday of 8 AM classes and Elvis Costello greetings, I sat, hunched forward on the edge of a futon, battling bleary eyes and blocking out other responsibilities, waiting for something to happen as the longest postseason game in Major League history stretched into the 12th inning.

That’s baseball. You wait. For the next pitch, the next time the bat makes contact with the ball. Some games, it doesn’t happen at all. You wait for your team to dig itself out of a big hole and make a comeback. You wait. There is no clock. When the game is good and ready, it ends.

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In 2004, Red Sox fans might as well have thrown away their clocks. Beyond whatever regimented realities persisted in everyday life, the only thing that mattered in New England was the Red Sox digging out of a 3-0 hole to the Yankees in the ALCS.

That’s why we jubilantly launched ourselves from our futons, or wherever we were sitting, when David Ortiz, continuing to heave boulders upon his great wall of postseason heroics, pounded a Paul Quantrill offering into the right field stands to give the Red Sox new life.

A tick more than 24 hours after one of the most deflating losses in team history, Big Papi had dealt winter a defiant blow, slugging the idea of another six months of Yankee worship by the media into the midnight sky. There would be one more day of summer.

Derek Lowe, he of the ugly 5.42 regular season ERA, backed into his first start of the postseason after scheduled starter Tim Wakefield had chewed up a few innings in the previous evening’s fiasco. He kept his team in the game, leaving with a 3-2 lead in the sixth.

Though Mike Timlin surrendered that lead, Keith Foulke, Alan Embree, and Curtis Leskanic did yeoman work out of the ‘pen.

And of course, there was Millar‘s walk, Dave Roberts‘ scintillating steal, and Bill Mueller‘s clutch base knock to tie things up in the ninth off the seemingly insurmountable Mariano Rivera, looking to send his club to the Fall Classic for the seventh time in nine years.

Kevin Millar‘s oft-quoted “don’t let us win tonight” seemed like blind optimism at the outset, particularly for a bunch as lifeless as the ’04 Sox. But in a span of five hours and two minutes, the team reminded us why they were there in the first place. Boston had new life and heroes new and old.

Amazingly, in Game 5, it would get even better.