REVERSING THE CURSE,
& TEK COME TO TOWN
Jason Varitek's singles finish the comeback
July 23, 1998 ... Down,
6-1 in the eighth and 7-5 in the ninth, the Red Sox scored seven runs
in their last three at-bats to overcome the Blue Jays, 8- 7, before a
crowd of 33,011 in Fenway Park that was stirred to life by Damon
Buford's eighth-inning grand slam and sent home happy by Jason
Varitek's soft single over the head of second baseman Tony Fernandez.
two outs and nobody on when Lewis drew a walk from Randy Myers, the Blue Jays
closer who failed to hold a two-run lead in the ninth and was spared a swifter
demise when center fielder Shannon Stewart threw out pinch runner Steve Avery at
the plate on Troy O'Leary's game-tying single. Myers picked off Lewis cleanly,
but when Lewis set out for second, he placed himself directly between first
baseman Carlos Delgado and the second base bag. He also was startled to discover
that no one was covering second.
throwing at an invisible target, launched a throw to the left-field side of
second, which gave Lewis free passage to the bag on what was ruled a stolen
base. With first base open, Myers walked John Valentin, who had doubled home
Lewis in his previous at-bat and scored the tying run on O'Leary's hit.
would have been the next scheduled hitter, but after being hit by a pitch in the
ninth, he'd been lifted for pinch runner Avery. Because Williams also had hit
for his DH, Darren Bragg, the pitcher had to take a spot in the order, so when
Varitek grabbed a bat, he was hitting for closer Tom Gordon. He fought off what
he thought was a back-door slider from Myers that jammed him inside, muscling
the ball over Fernandez's head.
No need to
look where the Red Sox had been since the All-Star break. They were just 5-9 and
looking at their fourth loss in five games when the Blue Jays opened a 4-0 lead
after three innings against Korean rookie Jin Ho Cho. The Blue Jays made short
work of Cho, who can't shake the habit of shaking off signs from his catchers
and gave up a two-run third- inning home run by Mike Stanley that cleared the
left-field screen and was last seen crossing the 38th Parallel.
The home run
by ex-Sox DH Stanley, his 21st of the season, was just one of three long balls
launched by the Blue Jays. But after Williams's reconstituted lineup of
Valentin, Vaughn, and Garciaparra, in that order, loaded the bases on one-out
singles in the eighth, Buford stepped up and delivered the one long ball that
had lasting consequences.
The win gave
the Red Sox an 8 1/2-game lead over the team that came to town as their nearest
American League East rival for a wild-card spot, a team that has three more
cracks to close some ground this weekend but can book its team golf outing if it
blows any more like this. Tonight's fold knocked Toronto into fourth place, a
half-game behind Baltimore.