They're never better than late
Comebacks mount, as does confidence
During the most vociferous days of the Save Fenway campaign, no one considered the ballpark's close proximity to some of the best hospitals in the country as a positive. But with the "Cowboy up" comeback Red Sox preparing for an impending playoff berth, it's good to have cardiologists nearby.
Heartache has been replaced with racing pulses this September. The Fenway faithful better not be faint of heart. That was made clear again Tuesday night when Boston rallied to beat Baltimore on the strength of a game-tying three-run home run by Todd Walker in the ninth and a walkoff home run by David Ortiz in the 10th.
The win brought back memories of late-game rallies against Milwaukee and Philadelphia, just two of the 19 comebacks Boston has logged when trailing after six innings this season. They are precisely the type of wins that can give a team confidence and character. The 2003 Red Sox know they are never out of a game -- even when they are down to their last strike.
"You don't want to start the playoffs down by three in the ninth and say, `Oh, we can do it again,' " said Kevin Millar. "But that gives you the confidence to never, never give up. We're never down enough runs and we understand that. People ask me if [Tuesday night] was the best win that we had. Obviously, it was because it was the most recent. But we did a thing in Milwaukee where we were down [9-3 and 10-4] and Philadelphia [with six runs in the ninth]. Those kind of things and those wins for this team build character. That's what we have: Character.
"Now, when we are down, there's no panic mode. When we're a three-run home run away, we know [six] guys in our lineup have 20-plus home runs. That's the one thing it does. When you have a team like ours that probably has 20-something come-from-behind wins, we know we can do it. We don't like to be in that situation because it's not where you're going to make a living. But we know we can do it because of our lineup."
And Millar contends the lineup is as unselfish as it is productive. Case in point: Bill Mueller advancing Millar from second in the sixth inning Tuesday night. Despite competing for a batting title, Mueller was focused on contributing to the team and intentionally grounded out to second to show it.
"I think this team is about as close a group of guys as you're ever going to find," said Millar. "When we go eat on the road we're 15 deep. You don't find that in the big leagues. They've always got something going on. People are too cool for school. This team, you pick up a cellphone and you can call anybody. That's what the difference is. What you've done is put 25 guys together that are pulling from the same rope, that are team players, that aren't playing for numbers or stats."
Added Walker, "No matter where we are in the lineup, especially in the ninth inning, we've got nine quality hitters. We have an opportunity to do some great things in this lineup as you've seen all year long. We have a lot of confidence right now and that's important."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.