The Sox come back to
tie the game in the 9th, and Nomar
July 30, 1997 ... Down five runs to swaggering Seattle with six outs to go, what's a manager to do? If you're Jimy Williams, you dump your DH, use two pinch runners, a new center fielder, a new right fielder, a new first baseman, a new catcher, and three more pitchers, including one as the first Red Sox pitcher in 11 years to pinch hit. Then you sit back and watch while:
- the other team's bullpen blows up again;
- Alex Rodriguez, maybe the best shortstop in baseball, makes a throwing error with two out in the bottom of the ninth as the tying run scores;
- Nomar Garciaparra, your shortstop and the consensus rookie of the year, drives the game-winning hit off the Wall with the bases loaded in the 10th.
Red Sox fans have seen it happen with regularity to the Boston bullpen this summer, including today, when John Wasdin replaced a besieged Butch Henry and promptly gave up a three-run home run to Edgar Martinez, making the score 7-2 in the eighth.
But for sheer flammability, even the Red Sox pen must defer to the Mariners' relief crew, which has an American League-worst 6.14 ERA, 15 blown saves, and is single-handedly keeping Seattle from winning the West in a walk.
Garciaparra, who had reached safely when fellow wunderkind Rodriguez threw away what should have been his game-ending grounder in the ninth, lined a game-winning single off Edwin Hurtado, Seattle's seventh pitcher and the wildest of the bunch.
In the 10th, Hurtado compounded what seemed like a harmless two-out single by Jesus Tavarez, who had entered as a pinch runner in the ninth, by walking Darren Bragg and Jeff Frye.
While Seattle manager Lou Piniella did a slow burn, Hurtado made it nine straight balls on his first pitch to Garciaparra. Second baseman Joey Cora went to the mound to calm the pitcher, who finally threw a strike, temporarily silencing the shrieks of what was left from the crowd of 33,056. Moments later, Garciaparra pumped up the volume again with his line drive off the Wall, Boston's 18th hit of the game on an afternoon when the Red Sox left 18 men on base.