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Home » 2008 PostseasonOctober 2008 » Gyakutengachi [逆転勝ち]

Gyakutengachi [逆転勝ち]

ALCS Game 5: October 16, 2008
Rays 7 BS: Dan Wheeler (2)
L: J.P. Howell (0-1)
WinRed Sox 8 W: Justin Masterson (1-0) 2-3
Highlights: Not only does Japanese have a term for “come-from-behind victory” (逆転勝ち, gyakutengachi) but also one for “come-from-behind loss:” gyakutenmake. In fact, if you search the kanji for the latter term (逆転負け) in Google, the first result is an article about the Red Sox team’s stunning victory on Thursday night.

*Pinches self for the thousandth time.* That really wasn’t a dream, then. I woke up Friday morning expecting it to be a delirious hallucination. Saturday morning I double-checked just to be sure: Craig Sager had clothed himself in earth tones rather his preferred palette of audacious shades of cochineal, chartreuse, or cobalt. He did have sequins on his orange and brown tie, but other than that he was garbed in a rather sedate beige jacket gridded with brown lines.

That was just as if not more shocking than the home team overcoming a huge deficit with a mere nine outs remaining.

Terry Francona still thought his team had a shot. He quickly yanked Manny Delcarmen from the mound in the top of the seventh after he walked two batters. Jonathan Papelbon faced the incandescent B.J. Upton. The slim slugger knocked a double off the wall to notch two runs. The hit sent fans to the exits and hopes down the drain.

I was actually frustrated when Jed Lowrie’s double to left didn’t clear the right field wall in the seventh. At that point I was rooting for a non-shutout. Jason Varitek and Mark Kotsay’s fly outs to center stranded Lowrie at second and I thought that wishing for even a single run would be in vain.

Coco Crisp displayed why he was in the lineup instead of Jacoby Ellsbury with a single to advance Lowrie and Dustin Pedroia followed up with a liner to right to plate the first run. I sighed with relief rather than expectation.

David Ortiz had been a shell of himself in the 2008 postseason. To think that he could rekindle the spark his bat once held was pollyannaish at best. How could I forget that Pollyanna Whittier, resident of the (fictional) town of Beldingsville, Vermont is of course a life-long Red Sox fan?

Ortiz’s homer soared deep into that right field stands and I mimicked the 38,437 fans (or those who remained, that is) by standing up in my living room with my arms upraised. 7-4, Rays.

Jason Bay led off the eighth with a walk. The onlookers roared their approval and a woman holding a sign jumped up and down in glee. Her jouncing sign said, “Manny is playing golf today. This is better.”

When the camera followed J.D. Drew’s batted ball into the right field seats you could see a Rays reliever warming. Joe Maddon, who had passed over James Shields in favor of Scott Kazmir to start the game, declined to call off Dan Wheeler. 7-6, Rays.

Maddon would have continued to be hailed as a genius had Upton not misread Kotsay’s fly ball to deep center. The arcing ball sailed over Upton’s glove, but given the center fielder’s speed he could have made the play had he gotten a better jump.

At any time in Crisp’s 10-pitch standoff against Wheeler Maddon could have called on another pitcher. But he allowed an obviously gassed reliever struggle to toss fastballs over the plate. Boston’s center fielder fought off five pitches foul before at last lining a single to Gabe Gross.

Gross’s impetuous throw home was more like a running back spiking the ball after a touchdown rather than an assist attempt. Yet he was granted an assist since his short fling was fielded by cutoff man Carlos Peña and Crisp was attempting to get to the keystone sack. 7-7, tie game.

It took an inning-ending double play to save Justin Masterson’s bacon in the top of the ninth, but he care with which he pitched to Upton was understandable given the threat his bat posed.

With the score frozen at 7-7 and a few outs too late Maddon summoned J.P. Howell. The southpaw lucked out when Pedroia’s batted ball glanced off Evan Longoria to Jason Bartlett, who then secured the first out. Ortiz’s woes against lefties continued: the designated hitter struck out on four pitches. At least this time the “Youk” cheers didn’t sound like boos as they had in the first, third, and fifth innings.

Longoria made a spectacular stop of his counterpart’s scorcher but seemed to seize up on his throw to first. Or maybe he was trying to hit Sager, who was standing unshielded in the photographers’ well. Whatever the cause, Youkilis stood in scoring position with two out.

Pitching around Bay to get to the lefty-on-lefty match-up must have been preordained by the numbers on the sheaves of paper Maddon flips through throughout the course of the game. Drew defied those odds with an RBI single that defied both logic and belief. Like Upton, Gross could have made a key play in the outfield to stifle the home team’s rally but failed to do so. 8-7, Red Sox.

For Maddon’s part, he may have forgotten the adage “No lead is safe at Fenway” when he pulled Kazmir from the game in the sixth. However, Kazmir had thrown 111 pitches, so perhaps Maddon thought he was saving what he could from his starter for his presumed World Series rotation.

Whatever the case, Maddon failed to retrieve his relief arms when they were in peril while Francona was quicker with his pink slips than a failing Wall Street investment bank. Francona’s bailout plan actually works; he gets my vote.

Postscript: In the post-game show, Tom Caron noted that the Red Sox’s win happened on the five-year anniversary, to the minute, of Boston’s defeat at Yankee stadium in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

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