No need to watch the out-of-town scoreboard anymore. What the Yankees and White Sox and Twins and everybody else in sanitary hose are doing will be irrelevant if the town team keeps losing life-and-death games with last-place ball clubs.
This time it was a harrowing 10-9 defeat to Kansas City after the Red Sox had come from five runs down to bang in six in the eighth inning, only to have the Royals score two off closer Mike Timlin with two outs in the ninth before a stunned Fenway crowd of 36,531.
``It would have been an outstanding win," mused manager Terry Francona, whose club came up with its biggest rally of the year to turn an 8-3 deficit into a 9-8 lead. ``Ends up being a real difficult loss."
If you're still counting, that makes 10 in 14 games and 11 of their last 16 at home. But this one was particularly gnawing, because the euphoria was snuffed out so quickly.
``We fought back from such a deficit," said Francona, whose men lost for only the fourth time all season after taking a lead into the ninth. ``The place was jumping after the eighth inning."
It was the inning that the Sox, who'd managed only seven runs in their previous five games, had been craving for weeks and it was created by the men with the two biggest hearts in the clubhouse. Jason Varitek, who earlier doubled for his first hit since coming off the disabled list last Sunday, crashed a two-run shot into the Sox bullpen off reliever Scott Dohmann. And David Ortiz, who'd already hit a ground-rule double in the first and a two-run, stand-up triple in the third, knocked in the tying and lead runs off Jimmy Gobble with a two-out single.
After an 0-for-7 slump following his eight-game absence, it was an imposing breakout for Big Papi, who was 3 for 5 with four RBIs and was only a home run short of the cycle. ``I told David before the game, `You had heart problems, not amnesia,' " Francona said.
The eighth inning was a welcome dose of amnesia for a groaning audience that watched the Sox turn a 3-0 lead into a 5-3 hole, with designated hitter Mike Sweeney launching a soaring three-run shot into the Monster seats off journeyman starter Kevin Jarvis ( 5 innings, 5 runs, 10 hits), who hasn't won a game as a starter in three years.
After Bryan Corey and Craig Hansen kept the Royals at bay, they teed off on Manny Delcarmen (triple, double, two singles) for three more in the eighth, and the fans began heading for the trolleys.
``When you get to the bullpen early and there's a deficit, if anybody has a hiccup, that's what happens," said Francona, who used a half-dozen pitchers.
But by the time the fans came rushing back down Brookline Avenue in the wake of the six-run explosion, Kansas City had grabbed the lead for good and Keith Foulke, who'd come in to mop up, had lost his chance for his first victory since April 29.
``We got to Mike with a clean inning and we felt pretty good about it," said Francona. But Emil Brown rapped a leadoff single and Timlin hit Ryan Shealy with a pitch. When first baseman Kevin Youkilis couldn't handle pinch hitter Andres Blanco's sacrifice bunt in time to get the lead runner, Kansas City had men on second and third with one out.
But Timlin caught Shane Costa looking and the Sox were one out away from their most improbable victory of the year. Up came lefthanded-hitting Joey Gathright, the No. 9 batter who's notorious for being unable to pull the ball. ``We were pitching to jam him," said Timlin. ``He's an out-across-the-plate slap hitter."
This time, though, Gathright ripped the ball just inside first base, off Youkilis's glove, and into right field for the tying and go-ahead runs. ``I made the right pitch," Timlin said. ``It just didn't fall the right way."
Not much has fallen right for Timlin and his mates. The bats finally came alive last night and pitching help is on the way next week with the return of starters Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling. But Boston dropped another game to both Minnesota and Chicago in the wild-card race and September is already dwindling.
``We're running out of time," said Ortiz, who clearly intends to be around until the clock runs down. ``There's not too much you can do about it but come back the next day and throw your best out there."