Closing the deal
Red Sox again get to Rivera, but this time they walk off with win
NEW YORK -- It felt manufactured, made for TV, an exploitation of baseball's best feud, the idea of the Red Sox beginning the 2005 season in Yankee Stadium.
But if something meaningful is to happen to this team, as it did yet again yesterday afternoon, should it occur anywhere else?
With their manager hospitalized because of chest pains, and the Yankees ahead, 3-2, after eight innings, the Sox sent 10 men to the plate in the ninth, batting around against Mariano Rivera. By the time he exited, after 38 pitches, the Sox had scored four times.
Rivera's replacement, Felix Rodriguez, entered with the bases loaded and uncorked a wild pitch, allowing David McCarty to touch home with the final run in a 7-3 Sox win.
Not only a win, but win No. 1 of the year 1 A.D. (After Deliverance).
No sign of the new world order was more telling than the reception the 35-year-old Rivera received as he walked off the Stadium mound, having blown his fourth consecutive save to the Sox, and second in as many days.
"I never in my lifetime ever thought that man would get booed walking off that mound," said Sox pitcher David Wells, a two-time Yankee (1997-98, 2002-03). "I was shocked. I felt bad for him.
"They ought to shake themselves and think about what they did. Shame on New York fans for booing him."
Had this been any other opponent, Rivera would have been spared the verbal abuse. But this was the Sox, and at this moment they simply can score against the most dominant closer baseball has known.
Since the beginning of 2001, postseason included, Rivera has coughed up just 27 saves. Eleven of those have come against the Sox.
"We wouldn't be here today if it weren't for him," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "That's the one thing we tried to remind him of."
The Sox left here last night without their manager, bound for Toronto just 1-2 in the embryonic stages of this season. But they achieved something special the last two games, in the ninth-inning loss Tuesday and the ninth-inning win yesterday. They tunneled into Rivera's head.
"There's no way," Wells said. "He's too smart for that. He knows what it takes. He just had bad days."
At the least, then, they've established a level of comfort facing him.
"[His velocity's] still good, 95, 96," Mark Bellhorn said. "I don't think it's his velocity. I think this team has that confidence. You know you've beaten him. There's always the chance.
"It's not, `He's coming into the game, we have no chance.' Like he said, he's human. He can't be perfect all the time."
Bill Mueller led off the ninth with a five-pitch walk that rattled Rivera. Following the last pitch to Mueller, Rivera tossed the ball back to catcher Jorge Posada in disgust, asking for a new one. At that, first baseman Tino Martinez ran over to settle his closer.
It didn't help. Bellhorn singled to right, and so did Johnny Damon, on the eighth pitch of his at-bat. Rivera struck out Trot Nixon on a cut fastball, bringing up Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez grounded a hard two-hopper to Alex Rodriguez at third. Ramirez was just two steps out of the box when the ball reached A-Rod.
"If he fielded the ball clean I think he would have had two [outs]," Damon said.
That would have been the ballgame. Yankees 3, Red Sox 2.
Instead, the ball hit Rodriguez's palm and stomach and fell. He failed twice to pick up the ball before finally clasping it. By that point the game was tied. David Ortiz (6 for 13, 1 HR, 2 RBIs in the series) followed with an RBI ground out to Rivera, plating Bellhorn for the go-ahead run.
Rivera then lost it, walking McCarty on four pitches. Edgar Renteria, up next and just 1 for 11 in the series, lined a ball past shortstop Rey Sanchez, scoring two more. Further unglued, Rivera walked Doug Mirabelli.
With that, the proud Panamanian was lifted for Felix Rodriguez, though the Yankees might as well have pitched Alex Rodriguez, given that the game was out of hand and his blunder led to four unearned runs.
When Mueller whiffed to end the inning, Keith Foulke, Tuesday's loser, made his way to the mound. It was a sweet moment for Foulke, who, just before the Sox' comeback took shape, had stood alone in the middle of the bullpen, looking in at the field. Watching, wondering whether he'd pitch.
Was he thinking about the walkoff blast he'd surrendered to Derek Jeter a day earlier? No, he said.
"I was thinking, `It takes a lot of guts to wear a Boston jersey to Yankee Stadium,' " Foulke said.
He was talking about the citizens of Red Sox Nation in attendance, but he might as well have been talking about himself. Following Jeter's walkoff shot Tuesday, he'd said it was "hard to walk in the clubhouse after that."
By the time he entered yesterday the Sox had done so much damage that there was no save situation. Just an inning of relief.
The win? That went to Mike Timlin, who pitched a rocky two-thirds of an inning. He entered with one out in the eighth and the game tied, 2-2. He had inherited a runner from Alan Embree, and then hit Jeter. The pitch, Timlin's initial offering, was a 92-mile-per-hour heater that sent Jeter's helmet spinning to the ground and the Yankee captain to a local hospital for a precautionary CAT scan. Results were normal.
With two on, Timlin walked A-Rod, loading the bases. Gary Sheffield's sacrifice fly put the Yankees ahead, 3-2, setting the stage for the ninth. Up came the Sox, who since the beginning of 2003 were 27-27 against the Yankees, with 292 runs to the Yankees' 290.
Make that 28-27, and 297-290.
"I know what they can do," Wells said of the Yankees. "I wanted to see what these guys can do. And today it was good old Boston fashion. If the game's close late in the game, they're going to come back."
"Mo, he's the best in the game, the best I've ever seen, in my time," Wells said. "He's not going to let this get him down."