October 20, 2004: The Red Sox–Yankees ALCS

On cue, Mueller then singled Roberts home to tie the score at 4-4. Fenway Park erupted. Rivera had a rare blown save added to his pitching record. Escaping some harrowing situations in extra innings, the Red Sox won the game on David Ortiz’s twelfth-inning walkoff homer. Boston was alive, but they were still down three games to one.

Just 16 hours after Ortiz’s homer had ended Game Four, the two teams put on another epic battle in Game Five. This time the Yankees carried a two-run lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. Again David Ortiz was a hero for the hometown team. He led off the inning with a home run over Fenway Park’s Green Monster to narrow the deficit to 4-3. Kevin Millar walked as he had the night before. Dave Roberts ran for him again. Roberts moved to third base on Trot Nixon’s clutch single. Roberts scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly from Jason Vartiek. Mariano Rivera had again uncharacteristically blown a save opportunity. The Yankees threatened in the ninth, twelfth, and thirteenth innings, but failed to score. This night the game took 14 innings to settle. David Ortiz drove in the game-winning run with a bloop single to center field. The momentum of the series was now clearly a Boston asset. Games Six (and Seven, if necessary) would be at Yankee Stadium.

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Game Six is remembered for two incidents. Curt Schilling, thought to be out for the season with the right foot injury he sustained in Game One, had a bizarre experimental surgery performed on him by the Red Sox team doctor—one that had only previously been done on a cadaver—so he could pitch the critical game. Although he was badly hobbled, pitch he did. With blood seeping onto his sock, Schilling played the role of a wounded hero and gave the Sox a 4-1 leave when he left the game. Tim McCarver, broadcasting the game for FOX-TV, correctly stated that Schilling’s performance that night would “long live in New England baseball lore.”

The second incident was a play in the bottom of the seventh inning that, for Red Sox fans at least, clearly defined the ALCS as a conflict between good and evil. With the Yankees trailing 4-2 and Derek Jeter on first base, Alex Rodriguez hit a slow grounder between the mound and first base that was fielded by Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo. As Arroyo went to apply the tag, Rodriguez slapped the ball out of his glove. The ball flew into right field. Jeter scored on the play and Rodriguez ended up at second base. Horrified Red Sox fans and players looked for an interference call that was apparently not about to come from first base umpire Jeff Nelson. However, a huddle of the men in blue eventually got the call right. Rodriguez was ruled out on the play and Jeter had to return to first base.

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