Fans of the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots had a day to remember yesterday, as both teams pulled out last minute victories in dramatic fashion, the latest in a series of spoils lavished on fans in America’s top sports city.
In Game 2 of the ALCS, the Red Sox fought their way through a battle against the presumptive AL Cy Young winner, Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer. Scherzer was once again dazzling as he struck out 13-batters and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, where the Tigers built a 5-1 lead. But after 108 pitches, Scherzer was pulled prior to the eighth inning, setting the table for one of the most dramatic innings in the Red Sox’s long history.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought in his fourth reliever of the inning, closer Joaquin Benoit. One the first pitch he saw, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz smashed a home run into the Boston bullpen, tying the game on the grand slam and sending the fans at Fenway Park into a delirium. Thanks to Torii Hunter’s ill-timed attempt to catch the ball in the bullpen, it also resulted in one of the greatest sports pictures mankind has ever seen.
"The guy's an actor at work," Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino said of Ortiz. "It's fun to watch. It's great to see. He's always upbeat and always positive. He always likes to go up and swing the bat. That's what he always wants to do."
Boston’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to secure the improbable 6-5 win.
As nutty as it was, the baseball game wasn't even the most unlikely win of the day for Boston-area teams, as the Patriots also pulled out an astonishing last-minute victory against the unbeaten New Orleans Saints in front of about 200 fans who hadn’t left the game early.
After Drew Brees connected with rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills for a 34-yard touchdown to take a 24-23 lead with 3:39 left, things looked bleak for the Pats. When New Orleans added an insurance field goal to push the lead to 27-23 with 2:24 to play, it looked over. When Tom Brady’s next pass, a deep ball to Julian Edelman, was picked off by Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis, fans headed for the exits.
But the fat lady had not yet sung. New Orleans was unable to convert a what would have been a game-ending first down on their next possession and punted the ball back to New England, who took over at their own 30 yard line with 1:13 to play. In two plays, Brady got the Patriots to the New Orleans 32-yard line, but a short gain on first down was followed by two straight incompletions, bringing up fourth down. Brady converted it with a short pass to Austin Collie to the 17 yard line, where he spiked the ball to stop the clock with :10 seconds left. The final pass is something New England fans will not soon forget, as Brady found rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins in the far corner of the end zone for the game winning score.
The win was so surprising, it even brought out Bill Belichick’s never-before-seen sense of humor.
"Sorry if you have to rewrite some your stories there at the end," Belichick joked about the ending. "What a football game. That took about five years off my life."
Many sports fans in New England would no doubt make a similar tradeoff if it meant winning in the fashion they experienced yesterday.
Red Sox and Patriots fans are encouraged to send positive thoughts to the Cleveland area in lieu of flowers.