The A's blew another golden opportunity to polish off the Red Sox yesterday, but Boston's bats did the job against Oakland's bullpen, scoring two runs in the eighth inning and forcing a Game 5 tonight in the Bay Area. It was the eighth time in four years that Oakland has failed to clinch a playoff series.
The A's had the bases loaded in both the first and second innings against John Burkett and came away with one run. They eventually caught up to him and held a 4-2 lead in the middle innings. But the Sox fought back. Todd Walker hit another homer, and David Ortiz came through with the game winning hit--his first of the series. Manny Ramirez, who spent more time predicting home runs than hitting them, scored the go-ahead run.
It was a gorgeous day in Boston. The clouds were out early, but the sun was brilliant late in the game, creating an array of memorable pictures. At one point, every shot of the field looked like it was composed by Orson Welles. When the Sox were still behind in the eighth, I noticed smiling faces in the first couple of rows behind the plate. Later, during Manny or Ortiz's at bat---I can't remember which---half of the fans behind home plate were standing, cheering, while the other half remained seated.
I won't lie. The A's performance made me sick. There is nothing I enjoy more than watching the Sox lose in Boston, yet at the same time, I'm not surprised by what transpired. Not so much from Oakland's pernt of view, but from Boston's. This Sox team has refused to be buried all season. The bigger the hole they've been in, the stronger they come back. Make no mistake, Oakland's ineptitude has allowed Boston back into the serious, but Boston took advantage of the opportunity, and here they are, on the verge of moving on. It doesn't matter if they are winning ugly; like Al Davis said, "Just win, baby."
Tonight gives Game 5 in Oakland. Pedro Martinez, the man Sox fans want most in a one-game-take-all scenerio, will face last year's Cy Young winner, Barry Zito. Zito will pitch on three days rest for the first time in his career; Martinez goes on four days rest. The Sox have the momentum, they are rolling, and I fully expect them to win tonight, and then roll back east to face the Bombers on Wednesday.
Having said that, I'll be pulling for Zito and the A's.
For more on Saturday's wild game, check out Joe Sheehan's free column over at Baseball Prospectus. Sheehan is one of the best baseball commentators going, so check it out.