Who's Your Papi!?

It was not enough to beat the New York Yankees in a 12-inning game that lasted a little over five hours on Sunday night. No sir, especially not for these unpredictable Boston Red Sox. David Ortiz had to outdo himself on Monday evening as he knocked home the winning run for the second consecutive game, propelling the "Rally" Sox to victory, 5-4, and sending the series back to the Bronx to force Game 6.

This time, in the 14th frame of a seemingly never-ending game, which was on the brink of hitting the six-hour mark, "Big Papi," as Ortiz is being playfully called these past 48 hours, blooped a two-out, two-strike pitch just barely over the reach of the middle infielders and into center field to plate Johnny Damon. Ortiz fouled off six pitches in the at-bat off loser Esteban Loaiza and saw 10 total before straightening one out to center.

"I was thinking I'd better get it done right here," Ortiz said. "They've got too many hitters that can change the game with one swing."

All those hitters and not one of them could get that "clutch" hit to put their team ahead in extra innings. Both teams combined to strand 30 baserunners which explained why the game lasted so long. Well that, and the suddenly hittable duo of Mariano Rivera and Tom Gordon.

For the second straight day, Rivera blew another save, and this time in the eighth inning. Gordon started the inning with a 4-2 lead and set the table for disaster by allowing a homerun to Ortiz, then a walk to Kevin Millar, and finally a hit to Trot Nixon. Rivera inherited the first-and-third situation from Gordon, then promptly gave up a sacrifice fly to Jason Varitek, tying the game at 4-4.

The score remained the same for the next six innings as both teams emptied their bullpens yet again, waiting for a key hit from their respective offenses to push their team across the board. Tim Wakefield would have nothing of it as he left it all on the field, pitching three scoreless innings to pick up the win. He had thrown just two days before with a pitch count of 64 and ended Monday's contest with another 43.

"In the last inning, he was on fumes," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He pitched the last inning on heart."

Boston has poured its heart out in this entire series, especially this past weekend at Fenway Park. The last two games totaled 26 innings and almost 11 hours (5 hours, 2 minutes on Sunday and 5 hours, 49 minutes on Monday). Monday' contest topped Sunday's as the longest in postseason history.

"The last two nights shows the depth, the character, the heart, the guts of our ballclub," Wakefield said. "It took every ounce of whatever we had left to win tonight's game and to win last night's game."

Hoping to carry the energy to Game 6 for the Red Sox will be ace pitcher Curt Schilling (1-1, 7.45 ERA this postseason), He will go up against Yankees right-hander Jon Lieber (1-0, 2.63).

Whatever happens in New York, at least the folks in Beantown can appreciate that their team's season did not end in their own backyard after being down three-games-to-none to the dreaded Yankees.

"This whole place was electric," Schilling said. "Every night, every game. I've never seen anything like it."

Houston One Win Away From First-Ever World Series Berth

Less than an hour after Boston was rocking and rolling over a walk-off run, the Houston Astros provided their fans with a thrilling game-ending hit of their own. Jeff Kent crushed a three-run homer to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-0, on Monday night, pulling the Astros within one win from advancing to the World Series.

After starters Brandon Backe and Woody Williams were locked in a classic pitcher's duel for the first eight innings, the Cardinals were relying on their closer, Jason Isringhausen, to get them through the bottom of the ninth of a scoreless ballgame and into extra innings.

In that fateful ninth, Isringhausen fell into trouble early as the red-hot Carlos Beltran lined a single to right field. After one out, Beltran stole second base on a 2-2 count with Lance Berkman at the plate. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa then ordered Isringhausen to intentionally walk Berkman, despite two strikes in the count, to set up a potential double-play from Jeff Kent.

Kent wanted no part of it and made the Redbirds pay dearly. The former Giant slugged the first pitch he saw from Isringhausen deep over the left field bleachers to give the Astros a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series, needing just one more victory to advance to their first-ever World Series appearance.

"We've been struggling to get offense all day, both teams," said Kent. "Both teams know how to hit; the pitching just shut us down all day long. To finally come up with a hit is big."

Speaking of big, the Astros got another huge performance from Sacramento-born Brad Lidge, who picked up the victory by preserving the scoreless game in the top of the ninth, giving his team a chance to win the game in their half of the inning.

After pitching two innings in each of the last two contests, "Lights Out" Lidge needed just nine pitches to get through the ninth. He got Tony Womack to ground out weakly to second base on one pitch, then struck out both Larry Walker and Albert Pujols on 97 mph fastballs.

With dollar signs next to all of the homeruns he has hit in the postseason, Carlos Beltran decided to flash his leather, another one of his "five tools," to impress the hometown crowd. Beltran made a spectacular diving catch in the seventh inning to rob Edgar Renteria of a hit. Then in the eighth, the center fielder hauled in another effortless catch in the deepest part of the ballpark to take away an extra-base hit from Reggie Sanders.

‘It was really a well-played game, well-pitched game," said La Russa. "Brutal ending."

The Cardinals hope to avoid another brutal ending on Wednesday as they try to even the series in Game 6. They will send up right-hander Matt Morris (0-1, 5.25) against whomever the sneaky Astros decide to start. Houston can opt to throw Roger Clemens on three days rest or go with Game 2 starter Pete Munro, who has not pitched since last Thursday.

Notes around the Majors

  • Barry Bonds' 700th homerun ball is available for bidding at Overstock.com, which Pacifica native Steve Williams has put up for auction despite being in the midst of a lawsuit. The online auction runs through Oct. 27.
  • Julian Tavarez broke his left hand during a temper tantrum on Sunday night. It is uncertain as to when he will be available to pitch again. However, La Russa did say that he expects Tavarez to return and pitch at some point during the NLCS. The Astros also apologized for broadcasting Tavarez's tirade on the scoreboard during the game.
  • John Olerud of the Yankees continues to be plagued by a sore left foot and it looks as though Tony Clark will be playing first base for the rest of the series. Steve Kline of the Cardinals is undergoing treatment for gout-like symptoms in his left index finger, but is deemed available to pitch by La Russa.



    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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