Okay, that one hurt.
I was ready to let it go. Let it just walk away like a girl who’d wronged me too many times. The bats just weren’t there. Leiter was just too pumped up in his Yankees re-debut. Johnny extended his hit streak so it’s not a total loss. We’ll suck it up, move along, and hope to build on the slimmest of leads in the AL East, ‘specially with that nut-ass Lou and his D-Rays coming to town.
But then the ninth inning arrived. And Manny tears one out of the park. And I say “Feh.” Too little too late. But something in the back of my mind says there’ll be more. And when Millar gets a pass, I put down the Cookie Crisp. Because shit could get nuts. And as Mo Rivera jogs in to replace Tom Gordon, I start envisioning the comeback. And the very fact that Mo Rivera is coming into the game and I’m thinking comeback speaks volumes. And then it starts to unfold, before my eyes. Nixon grounding into a double play becomes Nixon safe at first and Millar safe at third when Cano throws it away. Then Tek busts with a single. And Mueller bloops one as well. And even as Morgan and Miller race to get their lips to Mo’s ass, the wheels are falling off the machine. The Red Sox have closed the gap to two runs, with the bases loaded and nobody out.
It’s over, right? Bases loaded and nobody out. The Comeback Kids at home against the Yankees? On ESPN? No way we don’t take this one.
Then I see Alex Cora stroll to the plate. And my stomach sinks a bit. What, was John Olerud engaged in a heated game of Battleship? Why even send a guy barely hitting .200 to the plate in this instance? I start thinking about a double play. But that can’t happen, because even Miller and Morgan, who at this point are having Yankee logos tattooed behind their respective nutsacks, admit that Cora’s a fast little f–ker. That any play will have to be to the plate. So I concede perhaps the one out. Then we’ll have Damon and the top of the order, bases still loaded.
But then the unthinkable. Only it wasn’t unthinkable, because I was thinking it. I was just praying to God and Sonny Jesus that it wouldn’t happen. But it does, and when Cora is called out at first to complete the double play — even though replays showed he may have been safe — I feel my knees buckle. It’s the penthouse to the shithouse again — a brilliant encapsulation of pre-2004 life of a Boston Red Sox fan. In an instant, something beautiful is flushed away. One second, the bags are full of Red Sox and the Faithful are shooting lightning from their fingertips. The next, Rivera and Martinez are embracing, slamming chests and “hoo-hah”-ing in the thick, steamy, quiet Fenway air.
It was, without question, the worst loss of the season. Forget the others; this is the one you’re gonna come back to time and time again with that sick, greasy feeling in the pit of your stomach.
But this one won’t break me. Man, I’ve been on the chasm. Stared into the mouth of the beast. And I’m not talking about my Aunt Freida. I mean the 2004 ALCS. We were on the mat, bleeding profusely, with R. Lee Ermey kicking us squarely in the jimmy. And we know how that one ended.
It’s a lesson I carry with me today. Never count ’em out. Because it truly isn’t over ’til it’s over.
That said, Cora, you’re off the f–king island, man.