King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

The Red Sox have done the impossible. Now they'll try to do the unthinkable. Plus: The Astros can sneak into the World Series.


King Kaufman's Sports Daily

So I’ve been out of touch for a week. I see the Yankees and Red Sox are going to a seventh game. I miss anything good?

I kid!

The Red Sox are just making everybody look like monkeys, not least the Yankees, but also all of those fools who wrote the Bostons off over the weekend when they fell behind 3-0 in the American League Championship Series. “The Red Sox, down 2-0, lost a disaster of a game to the Yankees Saturday, 19-8,” wrote one maroon, “effectively ending that series and handing the Yankees their 40th A.L. pennant.”

On Tuesday the Sox did something no other major league team has ever done, winning their third straight and forcing a Game 7 after falling into a 3-0 hole. They won the first two Sunday and Monday in Boston by erasing a late deficit against Mariano Rivera and winning in extra innings.

They did it Tuesday in New York behind seven strong innings from Curt Schilling, whose ankle was bleeding through his sock because it was sewn together before the game. The ankle, not the sock. And I don’t mean that in some sort of figurative sense. I’m talking needle and thread, skin and bone, go ahead, Doc, I’m ready.

Boston got the winning runs on a three-run homer from Mark Bellhorn, who’d been looking to that point like he couldn’t hit a beach ball off a tee.

For their next trick, the Red Sox will win a game while juggling flaming bicycles.

You’re going to want to skip ahead two paragraphs now if you’re squeamish. Schilling, the Red Sox ace, has a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle, which allows the tendon to move around freely and painfully, which prevents him from pushing off his back foot as he pitches.

The injury led to a Game 1 disaster in which he gave up six runs in three innings on the way to a 10-7 Yankees win. All week the Sox medical staff had been talking about custom-made boot devices, high-top shoes, things like that, but ended up — last chance to skip ahead! — sewing the skin of Schilling’s ankle to the bone, so it could hold the tendon in place.

Schilling gave all the credit to God afterward, and that’s as good a theory as any. But if there are higher powers, they usually seem to be working against the Red Sox, so something might be afoot.

Tuesday night there were not one but two bizarre plays that went in the Yankees’ favor, the kind of crazy events that fit right into that mental file every Sox fan carries around labeled “Curse.” Both times, the umpires confabulated, cogitated, roller skated and debated. And both times they overturned the call, favoring the Red Sox. And both times they were right.

Bellhorn’s fourth-inning homer was originally ruled in play. The ball had hit a fan in the front row and dropped back onto the warning track, but this was missed by left-field umpire Jim Joyce. And then Red Sox manager Terry Francona asked Jim with his eyes to ask again yes and then he asked the other umpires would they yes to say yes and first the umpires put their arms around each other yes and fans’ hearts were going like mad and yes they said yes it was a home run yes.

Four-nothing, Red Sox, and they’d scored four more runs against starter Jon Lieber than they managed in the first seven innings of Game 2.

In the eighth, the Yankees seemed to be in the process of the late rally that you just knew had to be coming. They’d picked up a run off of Schilling in the seventh on a Bernie Williams homer. Now, against Bronson Arroyo, who’d been shelled as the Game 3 starter, the Yanks had closed to 4-2 on a Miguel Cairo double and a Derek Jeter single, and the big sluggers were coming up.

Alex Rodriguez hit a dribbler up the first-base line. Arroyo fielded it and, after a moment’s hesitation with first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who had also gone for the ball and was now out of position, Arroyo reached out to tag Rodriguez. The ball squirted loose and rolled up the right-field line. Jeter raced all the way around to score. A-Rod ended up at second.

Here it was! The moment. The one that Red Sox fans would relive for decades to come, worrying it like an old scar. One run scoring and the tying run moving into scoring position as the ball rolls away behind first base. Ring any bells? The ball rolls away behind first base!

But here came Francona again. Into the huddle went the umpires again. Rodriguez was out! Jeter back to first! As the Sox had calmly claimed, Rodriguez had slapped the ball out of Arroyo’s glove, which is interference. You can bull into a fielder who’s standing in the baseline with the ball, but you can’t punch, kick, slap or otherwise unsportsmanlikishly dislodge the ball. Out was the proper call, and the proper call was made.

Not according to Yankees fans, who bombarded the field with all matter of detritus, causing the rest of the eighth and the top of the ninth to be played with squads of riot-gear-clad cops crouching along the box-seat rail on each side of the field.

Only in New York! Yankee Stadium probably even has ground rules for this: “A ball striking a police officer or any part of his equipment shall be in play, excepting that any ball mistaken for an apple and picked up by a police horse with his mouth shall be declared dead, with all runners returning to the last legally touched base and the horse getting to keep the ball …”

Arroyo got Gary Sheffield to foul out to end the inning, and then Keith Foulke walked the tying runs aboard before striking out Tony Clark to end it. “Gotta make it interesting,” Foulke laughed as he shook hands with his mates, but: Tony Clark?

With an epic game in an epic series on the line the Yankees had Tony Clark up? Isn’t Derek Jeter always coming to bat in these situations? Where’d Reggie Jackson go? The Mick?

When it’s Tony Clark attempting to hold the ax over the Red Sox’s necks, something is definitely afoot.

So it’s Game 7 Wednesday night. The Red Sox have already done the improbable and the impossible, and now they’ll take a swing at the unthinkable. Kevin Brown and Derek Lowe are the starting pitchers, but don’t worry about that. This one’s all arms in. Francona and Joe Torre will have quicker hooks than a Prince record played at 78.

The World Series doesn’t start till Saturday, so there’s time to restore some semblance of order to the pitching staffs. All that matters now is getting there.

These teams will sew a pitcher together from spare parts if they have to.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Astros vs. Cards: Hello? Is this thing on? [PERMALINK]

What if a wild-team lost the first two games of the National League Championship Series to the best team in the league, then took four straight to win the pennant, and nobody noticed?

We might find out Wednesday afternoon when the Astros, winners of three straight over the Cardinals at home, try to finish the stunning upset in Game 6 at Busch Stadium.

I just hate to join the chattering and typing classes in relegating the NLCS to oh-by-the-way status, but these teams need a better booking agent. They’re doing streetcorner improv across town from a Beatles reunion. It’s great stuff, but it’s like, “Yoo-hoo! Over here!”

Pete Munro, knocked out in the fifth inning of Game 2, starts for Houston, with Matt Morris, only slightly better in that same game, taking the ball for St. Louis. There was talk of Roger Clemens starting on short rest for the Astros, but I think manager Phil Garner made the right call by holding him back a day.

With a game in hand, a fully rested Clemens ready for a possible Game 7 is a huge asset. The Astros probably have a better chance of winning one out of two with Munro and a rested Clemens than with Clemens and Roy Oswalt both going on three days’ rest.

A generation ago the Cardinals were the victims of extreme home-field advantage, winning all three home games in the 1987 World Series but losing all four road games to the Minnesota Twins. If they’re going to get back to the Series for the first time since then, they’ll have to exactly reverse that by winning two to complete a home sweep. It’s a big order, but the Cardinals have some big bats.

Prediction: Are you kidding? Not on your life.

Previous column: Two games for the ages

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