Jed Lowrie's walk-off single
ON THIS DATE (October 6, 2008) ... With the score tied in the ninth inning, Jason Bay had hit a ground-rule double, then slid home as rookie Jed Lowrie singled into right field.
Instead of taking their already-packed bags and equipment with them on a plane, the Sox crowded the Fenway field, celebrating their 3-2 win that clinched this series and their fourth trip in six years to the American League Championship Series.
Jon Lesterís seven scoreless innings brought the Sox six outs from claiming victory. But Los Angeles tied it in the eighth against the Boston bullpen and nearly took the lead on a squeeze bunt in the ninth. But the game was still tied in the ninth.
So it came down to that, to the double by Bay that bounced into the stands in right field. Had it not, Bay was likely at third base at least. But it curved, it found the crowd, and Bay was on second. But only until Lowrie singled to right off Scot Shields, bringing Bay home with a hand tag, bringing on the champagne and bringing on the ALCS and the Rays.
Lester continued an incredible postseason streak. With seven scoreless, he has not given up an earned run in his last 22 2/3 postseason innings, and he has never given one up as a starter. The 24-year-old ace, and now he truly is, lowered his postseason ERA to 0.77. He had come up the biggest in the biggest spot, finishing off his outing with a 96-mile-per-hour fastball to get Erick Aybar to fly out to center field on his 109th pitch. He had allowed just four hits, just two walks, and had shut down his final eight batters. He was just what the Sox needed, just what would remedy any disappointments from the night before.
But then, it was all gone in an instant. The jubilant feeling in the stands, and in the dugout, as Torii Hunter sent a single out to right field in the eighth inning. Mark Teixeira and Vladimir Guerrero, both on base on walks, advancing on a passed ball by Jason Varitek, came home to tie the score at 2-2. So while Lester might not have been scored upon, the Red Sox bullpen wasn't quite so lucky or so good.
The Angels almost did it, a squeeze attempt in the ninth with Reggie Willits on third, was snuffed out when Varitek ran down one of the fastest players in the league. Aybar had whiffed on the bunt try, and Willits was caught off third.
And the Sox, at that point, knew they weren't going to lose.
It would almost seem that this should be rote by now, as the Red Sox have been back to the playoffs, and won in the playoffs, over the last six seasons. But it has not, as evidenced by the bounding, bouncing, joyous celebration that wound itself from the dugout to home plate to first base where Lowrie was engulfed.
The celebration continued past the midnight hour, as players and team executives toasted one another and took photos with their children on the infield while fans lingered by the dugout. It was still going at 12:24 when the ballpark organist broke into "The Impossible Dream." The Fenway lawn and home clubhouse should be dry by the time the ALCS comes to Boston. Bring on the Rays. Bring on the Dodgers or Phillies if you like. There is plenty of champagne left in New England and Mayor Menino has sent the duck boats to have their tires rotated.