Tyler Maher | Beantown Beat
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 02:10
Sunday was a pretty good day to be a Boston sports fan.
First in Foxborough, the New England Patriots brought an end to the New Orleans Saints’ undefeated season. The highly anticipated matchup pitted two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history against each other, and neither one disappointed. What resulted was a shootout in which both teams exchanged blows like heavyweight prizefighters. New England led 17-7 at the half, only to let Drew Brees and the Saints come storming back to go up 27-23 late in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans appeared to have the game in hand after intercepting Tom Brady with 2:16 to go. But the Patriots’ defense forced a quick three-and-out to hand the ball back over to Brady on the New England 30 with 1:13 remaining. That proved to be just enough time for Brady to lead a game-winning drive that culminated with a 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds remaining.
The Patriots’ comeback would soon be overshadowed by the one that unfolded at Fenway Park later that evening. The Detroit Tigers were in town for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, and the Red Sox were in trouble. They trailed the Tigers 5-1 in the eighth inning, and at that very moment their magical season was on the verge of unraveling. Boston’s bats had gone ice-cold at the worst possible time. They had been held to one hit in Game 1 (a ninth inning single) and zero hits through the first 5 and 2/3 innings in Game 2. It was painful to watch. The Red Sox were going to leave Boston in a 0-2 hole, with Justin Verlander waiting to mow them down in Game 3.
Down four runs with five outs to go, Boston’s win probability was a measly 2.8 percent. The Red Sox had never won a playoff game in which they trailed by so much, so late. Fans began trickling out of the ballpark. If they had known what was about to transpire, then surely they would have stayed, but nobody could have predicted what happened next.
With their backs to the wall, the Red Sox rallied. They loaded the bases with two outs, bringing David Ortiz to the plate. If anyone was capable of turning this game around with one swing of the bat, it was Ortiz — one of the best postseason hitters of all time. It didn’t matter that he had never hit a home run off Joaquin Benoit, the Tigers’ closer brought in to exhaust the flames. It didn’t matter that he had never hit a bases-loaded home run in the playoffs before. Ortiz was going to come through.
Sure enough, Big Papi delivered. He turned on Benoit’s first pitch and belted it into the Boston bullpen, just beyond the reach of a leaping Torii Hunter. The crowd, silent for much of the night, erupted. Benoit was stunned. The game, which only moments before had looked like a certain win for Detroit, was tied. Ortiz’s momentum-shifting grand slam breathed new life into the Red Sox.
After that, there was no doubt about who was going to win. The shell-shocked Tigers went down 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth, setting the stage for Boston’s dramatic walk-off victory. Jonny Gomes got things started with an infield single and soon reached third after a throwing error and wild pitch. The next batter, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, poked a groundball single through the left side of the infield to bring Gomes home and knot the ALCS at one game apiece. After coming so close to defeat, the Red Sox were charging out of the dugout to mob Saltalamacchia while “Dirty Water” echoed throughout the century-old ballpark.
Incredible. Absolutely incredible.
Tyler Maher is a junior who is majoring in economics. He can be reached at Tyler.Maher@tufts.edu.