Gordon EdesAt 12:44 a.m., 34 minutes after the last train was supposed to stop running in Kenmore Square, Manny Ramírez stood transfixed at home plate, his arms raised overhead, watching as his ninth-inning home run, on a night as warm and clear as an Angel's teardrop, disappeared over the Green Monster and into the mists of Red Sox history.
"My train doesn't stop," said Ramírez, who at long last stole Big Papi's signature line - a walkoff home run, his first in a Boston uniform - to give the Sox a 6-3 win and a commanding two-games-to-none lead in the Division Series.
Jonathan Papelbon got the last four outs on a night when the Sox bullpen was almost as fabulous as Ramírez, holding the Angels hitless over the last 4 1/3 innings.
Daisuke Matsuzaka may have been an unsatisfying first course - he failed to make it through five innings, the familiar bugaboo being his nibbling, which drove his pitch count to 96 by the time he was lifted for Javier Lopez with the Sox down, 3-2.
The nightcap, however, was epic: Ramírez driving a 1-and-0 pitch from Francisco Rodriguez over the wall after the Angels elected to walk David Ortiz intentionally for the second time in the game and the fourth time in the series.
"Well, you really pick your poison," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Both those guys are terrific. I just think in that situation and the situation before, we're going to take some chances with some matchups. It just made sense not to go after David, and it didn't work tonight."
Julio Lugo, who led off the ninth with a single to left off Justin Speier, was on the move when Dustin Pedroia, playing with a shoulder he'd jammed earlier in the game, grounded to short. Rodriguez entered and struck out Kevin Youkilis, then walked Ortiz, who ended the Angels' October three years earlier with a walkoff home run.
Ramírez took one pitch, then unloaded, as a crowd of 37,706 erupted with joy that evoked memories of the back-to-back walkoff wins in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. Both crafted, naturally, by Ortiz.
Ramírez may have been so overcome with the magnitude of Manny in the moment that he forgot to maintain media silence, granting an on-field interview to Jose Mota on TBS, then making an unprecedented appearance in the postgame interview room.
"I remember when I came to the clubhouse today," Ramírez told Mota, "[Jason] Varitek told me, 'Hey, you can't leave Boston without a home run.' I said, 'You know it.' "
The Angels, who have lost eight straight games to the Sox in the postseason since Donnie Moore's meltdown in Game 5 of the '86 playoffs, return home uncertain whether they will have their one bona fide slugger, Vladimir Guerrero, who came out of the game in the eighth after being hit by a fastball from Manny Delcarmen an inning earlier.
Dan ShaughnessyIt felt like summer all day, but the Red Sox brought back some of the autumnal magic after midnight, beating the Angels on Manny Ramírez's monstrous walkoff, three-run homer. The game lasted 4 hours 5 minutes and ended at 12:44 this morning. Shades of 2004.
With two on and two out, Ramírez crushed a 1-and-0 pitch from closer Francisco Rodriguez, driving the ball over the Coke bottles and into history. A motorist heading eastbound on the Mass. Pike would have been threatened by the sight of Ramírez's blast cutting through the October sky.
"In that moment, I am just trying to see the ball and trust myself," Ramirez said in a rare appearance in the postgame interview room. "I ain't trying to do too much. You know, I got a lot of confidence in myself. He's one of the greatest closers in the game and I am one of the best hitters in the game. You know, he missed his spot, and I got good timing on the ball and that's it.
"It feels great, man. It's been a long time I don't do something special like that. But I haven't been right all year round. But I guess, you know, when you don't feel good and you still get hits, that's when you know you are a bad man."
This was a night when Daisuke Matsuzaka looked like a $100 million bust, and a teenage Red Sox fan - sitting in front of Stephen King - kept a rally alive with a barehanded catch of a Ramírez foul popup. It was a night when Boston's bolstered bullpen flexed its muscles. But the 37,706 witnesses will remember only Manny, arms raised at home plate as the ball soared over the plastic bottles toward the Charles River.
"We accomplished what we set out to do today," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It wasn't very easy."
With two on and one out in the fifth, Ramírez hit a popup that should have been the second out, but 17-year-old Danny Vinik - son of a Sox limited partner and now Boston's anti-Steve Bartman - saved Manny by barehanding the pop just before it was about to plop into the outstretched mitt of catcher Jeff Mathis. Ramírez wound up walking, then Mike Lowell tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
The Red Sox bullpen took over from there, as Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon smothered the anemic Angels lineup.
After "Sweet Caroline," the Sox went out in order in the eighth and Papelbon returned to get the Angels 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Then came the bottom of the ninth, when it finally started to feel like October again.