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Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Ortiz does it again, Sox force Game 6.
BOSTON (AP) -- David Ortiz lifted the ball into center field on the 471st pitch of the night, and for the second time in 22 1/2 hours, the Boston Red Sox poured out of their dugout to celebrate an improbable ending.

With another game that seemed it would never end, Boston's season just won't end.

Ortiz's RBI single off Esteban Loaiza with two outs in the 14th inning Monday night gave the Red Sox a 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees and pulled them to 3-2 in an AL championship series that is testing the endurance of players and fans alike.

The Red Sox, one inning away from elimination Sunday night, now are one game away from climbing out of a 3-0 deficit and forcing an anything-can-happen Game 7.

Red Sox, since 1999, when facing elimination from the postseason:
1999 ALDS vs. Cleveland, Game 3: W
1999 ALDS vs. Cleveland, Game 4: W
1999 ALDS vs. Cleveland, Game 5: W
1999 ALCS vs. New York, Game 5: L
2003 ALDS vs. Oakland, Game 3: W
2003 ALDS vs. Oakland, Game 4: W
2003 ALDS vs. Oakland, Game 5: W
2003 ALCS vs. New York, Game 6: W
2003 ALCS vs. New York, Game 7: L
2004 ALCS vs. New York, Game 4: W
2004 ALCS vs. New York, Game 5: W
Total: 9 wins, 2 losses.

Wow! Joe Sheehan on last night's games.
What's most interesting about the last two nights is how the events don't fit the storyline. Were it the Red Sox--or the A's or Twins--who had blown two late leads and lost games in extra innings to the Yankees, it would be easy for the media: use the words "clutch," "experience" and "veteran leadership" as many times as possible. After all, it's the Yankees who have the reputation of being the team that wins these types of games, getting there on heart and desire and all the other October clichés.

The fact is, the Yankees have played their worst in the most critical parts of the past two games. After taking a lead in the sixth innings both nights, they haven't scored a run in any of the frames that followed. Last night, they didn't even hit a ball hard after the sixth, save perhaps the Miguel Cairo double in the eighth. Their relievers, not good outside of Mariano Rivera and Tom Gordon anyway, have been shaky, and the defense has been exposed as rangeless. There's been little talk of the Yankees' poor performance, though, and less of the 18 runners they left on base last night.
(Baseball Prospectus)

Kent blasts Astros to 3-2 lead on Cards.
HOUSTON (AP) -- Only when Brandon Backe and Woody Williams were done did the hitters have any chance.

That's when Jeff Kent stepped up and put the Houston Astros only one win away from the World Series.

Pitching suddenly took over these playoffs Monday night, when Backe and Williams hooked up in one of the greatest October duels -- only four hits in all, the fewest ever in a postseason game. Kent ended it, launching a three-run homer in the ninth inning to lift the Astros over St. Louis 3-0 for a 3-2 edge in the NL championship series.

Each team had only one single until Houston came to bat in the bottom of the ninth.

A World of Pain.
How did it all happen? Well, of course, Kent's dramatics wouldn't have been possible without the staggering performances of Brandon Backe and Woody Williams, who locked horns in one of the greatest pitching duels in postseason history. Seriously. It was up there with Morris-Smoltz in '91, Blue-Palmer in '74, Gooden-Scott in '86. Heading into the ninth inning, both teams had only one hit each. One hit! And these are offensive juggernauts we're talking about.

The shame of it is that the Cards wasted their second-best pitching performance of the entire year (the best was Morris against the Dodgers in early September). If you had told me that Woody would give up only one hit, and only one baserunner that made it to second base, I wouldn't have even bothered watching tonight's game. 99 times out of 100 that's a win, right? Nope. Not last night. Not with young Brandon Backe, Houston's version of Johnny Podres, on the mound.
(The Hardball Times)

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