Red Sox win more than a bit exciting
Role players do job as NY falls in series finale
Consider the mismatch. Facing the undefeated ace of the defending American League champions, the Red Sox yesterday had little choice but to send out their third-string first baseman (David McCarty), their third-string second baseman (Cesar Crespo), their backup shortstop (Pokey Reese), their reserve right fielder (Gabe Kapler), and the projected sixth starter in their five-man rotation (Bronson Arroyo).
Consider the odds, especially after the Yankees spotted their ace, Kevin Brown, a 4-1 lead while the shorthanded Sox looked like Keystone Kops amid an early rash of pitching, fielding, and base running gaffes.
Then consider the outcome. In a memorable comeback that unfolded with thick black smoke from a nearby fire swirling above -- a scene so dramatic general manager Theo Epstein momentarily feared the crowd of 35,027 at Fort
Kapler, who appeared clueless when he twice lost track of how many outs there were in the second inning, ultimately helped propel the Sox to their third victory of the four-game showdown by singling home McCarty with the decisive run with two out in the eighth. Kapler smacked a 94-mile-an-hour fastball from former Sox closer Tom Gordon for his slice of redemption as Terry Francona's crew prepared to depart for a six-game swing through Toronto and the Bronx.
"Taking three out of four from the Yankees is a tough thing to do in any venue," Kapler said. "This was important for us to do from a momentum standpoint. To be able to go on the road and sit on the plane with smiles on our faces, it's a nice thing."
Kapler was far from alone among the bit players making a difference. McCarty, who strode to the plate hitless in nine at-bats this season as he tries to prolong the day until he trades his cleats for a front office job, cleared the way for Kapler's star turn by taking a mighty cut against Gordon.
"I knew I just missed [the pitch]," McCarty said, "so I figured it was a popup."
Sure enough. But Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez sensed something good coming of it as his Yankee counterpart, Hideki Matsui, began to track the ball.
"I knew he was going to drop the ball because the wind was so bad," Ramirez said.
So did many of Ramirez's teammates.
"You could tell right away," said catcher Jason Varitek, who slugged a solo homer off Brown in the sixth inning. "Everybody in the dugout was screaming [to McCarty], `Run, run, run.' "
First, Matsui said, he lost the ball in the sun as McCarty began running. And by the time Matsui spotted the ball, the wind began to carry it away from him, leaving him only to lunge without touching it as it dropped for a double.
That was fine with McCarty.
"It's better to be lucky than good any day," he said with a smile.
The Sox also needed to be good to hold the lead. And closer Keith Foulke was better than good as he faced the top of the Yankee order in the ninth, even if he needed a little help from Ramirez. After Foulke fanned Derek Jeter for the first out, Bernie Williams scorched a shot toward the scoreboard in left. Ramirez, who had committed an embarrassing error in the first game of the series by flubbing a routine fly ball by Jason Giambi, ran down the shot by Williams just as he crashed into the Monster, banging his head, shoulder, and elbow against the scoreboard.
"I knew I was going to hit [the Wall] pretty hard, but I just don't want to drop the ball in that situation," Ramirez said. "It's so hard when I make an error. For me, I can take it more easy when I go 0 for 4 than when I go out there and make an error."
Still, the Sox seemed in peril, at least to Epstein as Alex Rodriguez approached the plate. Never mind that Rodriguez was hitless in his previous 16 at-bats.
"I turned to the guy next to me," Epstein recalled, "and said, `The apocalypse is upon us. The tying run is coming to the plate in the form of A-Rod, who hasn't had a hit all series. Foulke's facing him. Right field's on fire. Apparently, we're all going to die. This is the end of the world.' "
Wrong. Rodriguez singled, which made Ramirez's catch seem even more crucial. Then Foulke caught the next batter, Giambi, looking at a third strike to end the game.
"This was a great win for our ballclub," Foulke said. "I'm happy for the fans. It's good for them to see us go out and beat the Yankees."
They can thank a few other key contributors, including Alan Embree and Mike Timlin, who combined for 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. David Ortiz went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs, including the tying run in the seventh. Reese mustered two hits and scored the tying run, and Varitek scored twice.
But almost everyone in the Sox clubhouse afterward saved some praise for Arroyo, who overcame a shaky start to ration the Yankees only the four runs. Epstein said Arroyo epitomized the Sox in their second come-from-behind win of the season.
"Bronson didn't really have good stuff at all early," the GM said. "He looked a little bit lost out there, but he kept battling and battling until he completely found it. Just like him, we stayed in the game long enough to find our stride."