"King B" Swarms Cards, Boston Still Alive

Carlos Beltran spent the first six and a half seasons of his career with the Kansas City Royals and given their annual displays of mediocrity, he could only dream of playing in a big stage like the postseason. Now that Beltran has finally made it to the playoffs, he is setting the stage ablaze and campaigning hard for the title of "Mr. October."

"I wasn't expecting this at all, I was just expecting to do my job," Beltran said after hitting a seemingly unhittable pitch over the right-center field wall to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-5, at Minute Maid Park on Sunday afternoon. "Right now, everything is going my way. God is really blessing me right now."

With the game-winning and series-tying homerun, Beltran is making the most of his God-given abilities by matching Barry Bonds' 2002 mark of most homeruns in a postseason with eight. The Astros slugger also set the record for most homers in an LCS by hitting his fourth dinger of the series.

The game was tied at 5-5, heading into the seventh inning when Beltran stepped in against Julian Tavarez. The lanky right-hander threw Beltran a 2-2 slider that looked as though it would hit the dirt, but Beltran reached down and golfed it into the Astros bullpen for the go-ahead run.

"Barry Bonds is the best hitter in baseball," Tavarez said. "But I don't think Barry would have hit that pitch."

Though unbelievable as Beltran's homerun seemed, the Astros captured the lead at that moment and closer Brad Lidge knew he would be summoned to pitch.

"As soon as it sailed into our bullpen, I had to start getting going, because they told me if we got the lead, I was in the game," said Lidge. "Everybody kind of exploded, and I wanted to jump up. But at the same time, I kind of had to gather my focus there, because I was going in the game."

Lidge indeed came in for the last two innings of the game, and like Saturday's contest, he shut the door on the Cardinals to notch his second save of the series. He did, however, make the ninth inning rather interesting when he walked Larry Walker on four pitches with only one out.

The next batter, Albert Pujols, who got the scoring started in the game with a two-run homer in the first frame, took a first-pitch fastball high. The bout with wildness prompted Astros catcher Brad Ausmus to visit Lidge on the mound, then advised him: "Your stuff is fine. Still be aggressive."

Lidge took his batterymate's advice and got Pujols to hit a flyball that landed just in front of the warning track in left field. The Astros closer then reached back to strike out Scott Rolen to end the game on a 96 mph heater, sending the hometown crowd of 42,760 into an absolute frenzy. According to Astros officials, the decibel level registered at 116 on the last pitch of the game.

Dan Wheeler picked up the win in relief with a scoreless inning in the seventh, while Tavarez, who served up the homer to Beltran, was tagged with the loss.

Houstonians can expect to catch another thrilling game on Monday as the same two teams square off for the last game of the series at the "Juicebox," before heading to St. Louis for Game 6 on Wednesday.

"We knew playing in front of our home crowd was going to be a little bit easier for us, and we really play well in this ballpark," Beltran said. "Just being able to get back and tie this series, I think the pressure is on them."

The Redbirds hope to handle the pressure well to take the advantage in the series by sending up Game 1 winner Woody Williams (2-0, 4.50 ERA during this postseason) against Astros right-hander Brandon Backe (1-0, 5.06) on Monday evening.

Red Sox Still Alive and Kicking

It took the 12th inning in Game 4 of the ALCS for the Boston Red Sox to finally join the party, but they showed up in grand fashion on a David Ortiz walk-off homerun to beat the New York Yankees, 6-4, on Sunday evening.

Make that early Monday "morning" as the game took 5 hours and 2 minutes to complete. When it finally came to an end, the Boston faithful of 34,826 stuck around until 1:22 a.m. EDT to see their Red Sox win their first game in this much-ballyhooed ALCS.

Curtis Leskanic, who picked up the win in relief, pitched a scoreless 12th frame to give the Red Sox yet another chance to send the worn-out crowd home happy. Manny Ramirez led the bottom of the 12th off with a single to left off loser Paul Quantrill, which Ortiz followed with a majestic shot of "instant classic" proportions into the visitor's bullpen to win the game.

"Had I not given up the hit to Manny, I would have gone further inside," said Quantrill. "Ortiz is just a great hitter and he beat me."

Of course, Ortiz would not have been in a position to win it had it not been for a heroic Red Sox comeback off Yankees' ironclad closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth inning. Down 4-3, Kevin Millar led off the inning with a walk and was immediately replaced by pinch-runner Dave Roberts.

With former Giant Bill Mueller at the plate, the speedy Roberts took second on the first pitch. Mueller then hit a line-drive up the middle, scoring Roberts and tying the game at 4-4. It was the third time this season that Rivera blew a save against Boston and the second time Mueller has been the catalyst. The San Francisco fan favorite also beat Rivera on July 24 with a walk-off homerun.

"It certainly is disappointing," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We're so used to Mo going out there and getting people out, which he did tonight. The walk and stolen base was the difference in that ninth inning."

With their home teams' backs against the proverbial wall, Red Sox Nation certainly hopes this epic battle with the hated rivals could make a difference and inspire them to do the unthinkable. No MLB team has won a best-of-seven series after inheriting a 3-0 deficit.

The Red Sox hope to set the unprecedented and unimaginable task of winning four straight by running the table for the rest of the series. To do so, they will need Pedro Martinez (0-1, 4.50) to answer back to his "Daddy" to carry out Part II of this four-part task. The Yankees will counter with Mike Mussina (1-0, 5.40) on Monday at 5:10 p.m. EDT.

"Everybody's going to have trouble sleeping, except maybe from exhaustion," said Torre, who still had his spirits up after a draining defeat.

Notes around the Majors

  • A report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel indicated that the Marlins may be willing to take less in a trade for Mike Lowell if Juan Encarnacion can be jettisoned in the same deal. The right fielder is coming off left shoulder surgery and is slated to make $4.45 million in 2005.
  • Two-time All-Star Ray Boone died at the age of 81 on Sunday. Boone was the father of Bob Boone and the grandfather of current players Aaron Boone and Bret Boone. They are the first three-generation family of All-Stars and are one of three families to have three generations of major leaguers, joining the Bells and the Hairstons.
  • According to Hartford Courant, Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson is interested in heading a group of investors to purchase the Washington franchise set to begin play in 2005.

    Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at phildelacruz@aol.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.

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