Waiting Game


Red Sox set another record but have to wait another day to advance;
Erick Aybar keeps Angels alive with 5-4 win

(October 5, 2008) – The Red Sox set another record for the longest Division Series game played. After five hours and 19 minutes the verdict is: the Angels are still alive.

All season, and series, the Achilles Heel of the Angels has been the failure of driving in runners in scoring position, but was able to come through when their backs were against the wall and facing elimination at Fenway Park. It may have taken them 12 innings but the Sox did nothing when they got the chance to close it out.

After leaving a game-high 23 men on base, Los Angeles started off the 12th inning by getting catcher Mike Napoli on base to lead off the inning. Napoli, who played a great game, led off with single before being moved up by a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Howie Kendrick setting the table for Erick Aybar. Looking for his first hit of the series, the Angels shortstop lined a single just past the reach of Alex Cora and the dive of Dustin Pedroia to score Napoli.

With the heart of their line up due in the bottom of the inning, the Sox had a great opportunity to make a comeback and move on to the ALCS for the second consecutive year. David Ortiz led off the inning with a walk but that was all she wrote. In his second inning of work, Angels reliever Jered Weaver got Kevin Youkilis to fly out to center field for the first out. The cousin of Patriots Tight End, Jed Weaver, caught Jason Bay looking at strike three and got Cora to ground out to third which Chone Figgins made a nice play on to end the game.

For the first time in the series the Angels got to a Red Sox starting pitcher in the first inning for just their second lead of the entire series. Los Angeles made Josh Beckett throw 30 pitches just to get the first three outs of the game which began five hours before the end of the of the game.

Figgins led off the inning with a line drive to right that bounced into the stands for a double. It was just the second extra base hit for the Angels in the best of five series. The Sox ace appeared to have settled down and not let the lead-off double effect him by striking out Garret Anderson and Mark Teixeira, but had difficulty getting the elusive third out.

What plagued Daisuke Matsuzaka in Game Two, Friday night, apparently was contagious as Beckett has contracted the same disease. After getting two easy outs, he walked one the hardest players in baseball to walk: Vladimir Guerrero and gave up a base hit to Torii Hunter to load the bases. With the bases jammed, Angels right fielder Juan Rivera waited out the Texas fire-baller for a five pitch walk to walk in the first run of the game and the Angels first lead of the series.

It was a short lived lead as the Sox worked their two-out magic once again. After Jason Bay grounded out to third and Mike Lowell struck out swinging, Angels left hander Joe Saunders walked short stop Jed Lowrie to set the table. Jason Varitek followed the walk with a base hit to left before Coco Crisp walked to load the bases, bringing Jacoby Ellsbury to the dish.

What looked like it was the third and final out of the inning, Ellsbury hit a weak pop-up that landed in no-man’s land in shallow center field. Kendrick, Aybar looked at each like the defensive backfield looks at a tipped ball by the defensive line in football. Nobody wanted it. The tide shifted, the Sox had the 3-1 lead and it you could read the minds in the Los Angeles dugout “oh no here we go again.”

Beckett returned to the mound in the top of the third inning only to give up a wall ball double to Guerrero to begin the inning. With no outs and a runner on second, this was the perfect opportunity to snap out of the funk Angels batters were in.

After Hunter became Beckett’s third strike out victim and Rivera hit a foul pop up to Youkilis, it appeared as if Los Angeles would squander yet another opportunity. Napoli approached the dish. In his previous at-bat, the Angels catcher hit a ground ball to Lowell at third to end the first inning threat. History was not on the Angels’s side, but with one swing of the bat Napoli deposited the Beckett offering in the first row of the Monster seats to tie the game at three a piece.

In the top of the fifth, Napoli struck again. This time it was solo shot. It was Déjà vu for Beckett. Napoli’s second homerun of the night landed in nearly the same place in the Monster seats as his two-run shot. Beckett would finish the inning but the book was closed on the Sox Ace. In five innings, Beckett allowed four runs on nine hits while walking four and striking out six but labored the entire way, throwing 106 pitches in total.

The Sox would get the run back in the last half of the fifth. Ellsbury led of the inning with a line drive shot just out of the reach of Anderson’s out-stretched glove in left. The struggling Dustin Pedroia popped out Napoli behind the plate for the first out while Ortiz struck out swinging, sending Youkilis to the dish with two-outs. Could the Sox find the same two-out magic they had three innings earlier?

Youkilis lined a 2-2 Joe Saunders offering over Hunter’s head in center for double driving in Ellsbury with the game’s tying run. The Angels’ left hander’s night would be over when walked Bay after being up in the count 0-2. Jose Arredondo came on in relief of Saunders and caught Lowell looking on six pitches. And that is the way the game would stay until extra frames.

All game the Red Sox had so many opportunities to slam the door on Los Angeles but they did not capitalize on it. The Sox had the best opportunity to close the door on the Angels and send them home for the winter in the bottom of the tenth. With the bases loaded against Los Angeles closer Francisco Rodriguez, K-Rod struck out Jed Lowrie to end the threat. Could this be a momentum shifter?

The Sox will look to close the door on Los Angeles when they send Jon Lester to the hill tomorrow night in Game Four against John Lackey in a re-match of Game One. Lester won Game One of the series with a seven inning one run, six hit and seven strike out performance while walking just one. On the other side, Lackey went 6.2 innings allowing two earned runs on four hits while walking three and striking out five. The Sox do not want to return to Orange County so it is imperative they get this win tomorrow.


WIN: Jered Weaver

LOSS: Javier Lopez


The 3 Stars of the Game:

  1. Mike Napoli, LOS ANGELES --- 3-5 3 RBI, 2 Homeruns, 3 Runs-scored
  1. Erick Aybar --- 1-6 RBI
  1. Kevin Youkilis, BOSTON --- 2-5, RBI

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