Back in late September 2004, a little bit of doubt might've been beginning to creep in for Red Sox Nation. Their team had its playoff spot all but secured, though cracks were starting to show as it lost three straight games -- by an aggregate score of 34-11 -- and was on its way to a fourth after Keith Foulke wasted eight shutout innings from Curt Schilling by surrendering a two-run, go-ahead homer to (the pre-calcification version of) Javy Lopez in the ninth.
Just as quickly, however, those Sox showed what they were made of. In the bottom half of the frame, Mark Bellhorn shook off two earlier strikeouts (surprise, surprise) to drill a two-run, game-winning double to deep center. The next night the Sox blew another ninth-inning lead to force extras, but Curtis Leskanic pitched out a jam in the 12th, then Orlando Cabrera followed that with a leadoff homer.
Once it cleared the wall the Sox had gutsy, gritty, never-give-up walkoff wins in back-to-back games, and with that it really began to feel like there was something special about that bunch.
Just like these past couple of nights have convinced the Nation of this 2013 team.
By overcoming a five-run, ninth-inning deficit for the first time in six years, the Red Sox registered their 11th walkoff win of the season. That's the franchise's most in any campaign since 1978, and is two shy of the team record, and they'd seem to have a reasonable shot of reaching that mark considering they haven't gone more than 10 straight home games yet this year without finding reason to leave the field with jerseys ripped, helmets tossed, and playful jabs thrown.
Now, there's no guarantee it'll ultimately end the way it did for that 2004 team, considering the last time the Sox had walkoff wins on consecutive days was August 2011 -- and everybody knows how things wound up for that team. But for the moment things seem "magical," as John Farrell might put it, so enjoy the fun.
And what better way to do that than to relive it all. Here's our ranking of the Red Sox' 11 walkoff wins this season:
11. June 30
Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4
That Koji Uehara could actually blow a save seems at this point a notion as foreign as the reliever himself, but the Sox covered for his single gaffe since assuming the club's closer role by rallying in the ninth and scoring the winner when Shane Victorino's chopper ate up Josh Thole -- a catcher by trade -- at first base.
10. July 31
Red Sox 5, Mariners 4 (15 inn.)
Wednesday's triumph featured a couple of big defensive plays and quality work from the Red Sox bullpen, though it wasn't exactly an instant classic despite Stephen Drew delivering Dustin Pedroia with a hot shot into the right-field corner.
9. July 3
Red Sox 2, Padres 1
San Diego struck for a run on three hits in the first inning, but Sox pitching yielded only three hits the rest of the way, and although Boston squandered a golden chance in the eighth, Jonny Gomes added to his legend by leading off the ninth with his second walkoff homer in two weeks.
8. April 13
Red Sox 2, Rays 1 (10 inn.)
It ended oddly -- with Tampa's second baseman throwing to first after making a diving stop on Shane Victorino while Jacoby Ellsbury darted home from third with the winner -- but it nevertheless offered the first suggestion that something was afoot. David Price was tough on them all afternoon, yet they scrapped and clawed until victorious.
7. July 21
Red Sox 8, Yankees 7 (11 inn.)
Mike Napoli had a chance to put the Sox ahead three innings earlier, but hit into a double play with one out and the bases loaded. He made up for it later with his second homer of the night, the two-out blast giving Boston a series win over the rival Yankees.
Napoli HR; had hit into DP with bases loaded in 8th
6. June 6
Red Sox 6, Rangers 3
David Ortiz hadn't hit a walkoff home run in four years -- and apparently over that time Texas Manager Ron Washington forgot that was something Big Papi was wont to do. After Gomes doubled, the Rangers walked Pedroia intentionally to get to Ortiz against lefty Michael Kirkman, and the DH made them pay dearly with a ticket to yesteryear.
5. June 18
Red Sox 3, Rays 1
After Andrew Bailey coughed up the game-tying homer in the top of the inning, and Daniel Nava walked, Farrell stuck with Gomes against righty Joel Peralta and Gomes responded by launching his first walkoff tater as a member of the Red Sox -- and subsequently punting his helmet en route to the plate.
4. May 6
Red Sox 6, Twins 5 (11 inn.)
Six of the Sox' 11 walkoff wins have come after the bullpen blew a lead in the eighth or ninth, and none would've been as frustrating a loss as this. They had chipped away with a run an inning to take a lead on a Pedroia homer, though Joel Hanrahan gave it away on a Brian Dozier long ball (in Hanrahan's farewell), and Boston couldn't capitalize on 16 hits. At least until Drew plated Jarrod Saltalamacchia with a double. Instead of defeat, they left the field with proof of their character and resilience.
3. April 15
Red Sox 3, Rays 2
This one disappeared quick from Boston's consciousness, coming minutes before the marathon bombings. But it was a nice win, coming when Napoli lifted a double off the wall in left-center, and Pedroia made the mad dash all the way from first to complete a sweep of the Rays that could prove huge in the AL East race at season's end.
2. May 26
Red Sox 6, Indians 5
In a preview that probably added some degree of belief as the Sox began the bottom of the ninth on Thursday, they were down three to Cleveland and closer Chris Perez. They scored twice quickly, but still faced a 5-4 deficit with two outs and the bases empty when a walk, a single, and another walk brought up to bat the .245-hitting Jacoby Ellsbury, who laced a double to center. Gomes and Drew scored -- and since then Ellsbury is hitting .356.
1. Aug 1
Red Sox 8, Mariners 7
The Sox were down 7-1 in the eighth, and 7-2 in the ninth, then won the game on a rally started and ended by the guy who has recently begun to look like their third option in left field, and keyed by a variety of heroes. They could celebrate five more walkoffs, and it'd be tough to top that.
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||2-for-4, 2 R, BB, 2 K, 2B: Added a walk to the ninth-inning rally, and at .363 his OBP ranks third among AL outfielders, behind only Mike Trout and Nava.|
|Shane Victorino, RF||2-for-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, HR: Hit his sixth homer of the year in the eighth, then made Seattle interim manager Robby Thompson pay for bringing in the wrong reliever by delivering a single from the right side in the ninth.|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||1-for-4, R, RBI, BB, K: Drove home Ellsbury with a single in the ninth, then scored the winning run for the second straight night -- and third time in the 11 walkoffs.|
|David Ortiz, DH||1-for-4, RBI, 2 K: He made the only out in the ninth, weakly waving at a sequence of pitches against Oliver Perez, though he'd already extended a humble hit streak to five games (and 12 of 13) before then.|
|Mike Carp, 1B||0-for-3, 2 K: It was a quiet night for Carp against his former team before giving way to Gomes -- who made a tough catch, threw out a runner at third, and tied the game with a single. All in an inning and a half's work.|
|Stephen Drew, SS||1-for-3, 2 BB, K: For the second straight night, he came up with Pedroia on second, Gomes on first and the game tied. This time he didn't get the winning hit, but he did draw a walk after falling behind 0-2, and thus set the stage for Nava.|
|Daniel Nava, LF/1B||2-for-4, R, RBI, 2B, BB: He got the start for just the third time since July 20 and made the most of it, doubling off Felix Hernandez early, walking to start the ninth, and ending it with the shot that skipped off the warning track in center. Carp and Gomes are appealing, but Nava is still plenty respectable at .285 with a .372 OBP and .424 slugging.|
|Ryan Lavarnway, C||2-for-4, R, 2 K: His misplay on a popup cost the Sox a run, but two hits suggest his bat might be coming to life -- might being an important word, given that a 30-point hike in his average is the result of going 3-for his last-7.|
|Brock Holt, 3B||1-for-4, R, RBI, 2B: His ninth-inning double made the first dent in Seattle's lead, scoring Nava as it rolled into the left-field corner.|
|Ryan Dempster, SP||6 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 5 BB, 6 K: It wasn't pretty, but it was just the second time since May 23 that he'd allowed more than three earned runs. He's the Sox' fifth -- maybe even sixth -- starter. That's plenty good enough.|
|Steven Wright, RP||3 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 K: Dempster's personal mop-up man, the knuckleballer has followed Dempster in two of his three major-league appearances -- and won both of them, both against the Mariners. Ahh. Baseball.|
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