One night in October

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One night in October

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

If you caught "Four Nights in October" last night on ESPN, then youre happy you did.

If you caught it, you spent an hour fighting off chills, maybe even a few tears, and getting lost in what was without question the strangest, most surreal and unimaginable week in Boston sports history. And before the Randy Moss saga brought us back down to reality it felt fantastic.

Anyway, everyone has a story from that epic run, so I figured now was as good a time as any to share mine . . .

"All right, I can't take it anymore. Im heading home."

My instincts were to put up a fight, but when I saw the look in my Dads eyes, I knew he was done. I knew he'd given up. I knew he didn't have it in him to sit through another Red Sox tragedy.

We were less than 24 hours removed from the most demoralizing, soul-crushing playoff beatdown in team history. Now they were losing (again), three outs from the end of the road, with 7-8-9 due up and Mariano Rivera in to finish the job. The Sox would've had a better shot of getting a hit off Steve Nebraska that night. They were toast.

Throw in the fact that it was already past midnight, my Dad had a long ride home and a meeting first thing in the morning, and . . . yeah, OK, I guess I could see it.

So despite the fact that it was the eighth inning of Game Four of the ALCS, the Sox season was on the brink, and they were only down by a run, I let my Dad get up and leave our seats in the upper deck of Section 24.

Of course, I wanted him to stay, but I understood why he wanted, or more likely, needed to leave. He's not quite as masochistic as I am.

And really, that's what being a Sox fan was all about back then. It was an exercise in masochism. Every year, we invested ungodly levels of time, energy and emotion into a source that always let us down. Actually, "let us down" doesn't work. They spiked us into the ground like we were a touchdown ball. Every year. But we kept coming back, just asking them to hurt us.

At the time, as the eighth inning came to an end and I watched my Dad sleek off into the crowd, I honestly don't remember even having faith that the Sox would win. In fact, I'm pretty sure I had already conceded defeat. But I knew I had to stay until the end. I knew I had to sit there and suffer; to watch another promising season slip down the crapper, and then wallow in the familiar emptiness that came with it.

That's how we did it. We had to.

The top of the ninth went quickly, and I assumed the bottom half would bring much of the same. I figured Mo would make easy work of things, and wed all be put out of our misery. Or was it thrown into greater misery? Either way, not fun. And certainly not what happened next.

As Kevin Millar walked on five pitches, I reached down for my phone, but stopped short of calling my Dad. I just didnt want to get his hopes up. He left to avoid that torture; he'd earned the right to live free of those mind games. So I waited.

As Dave Roberts stole second base, I took out the phone again, but this time I didn't want to jinx it. If it was meant to be, I thought, it was meant to be like this. If something happens, we'll talk, but until then, nothing matters except for the game; everything must stay as it is.

It killed me that he was missing this. I wondered if he was maybe still walking to the car, or even knew the game was still going on. Not to mention I was now sitting by myself in the upper deck at Fenway during the most tense and dramatic moment of the season. I wanted to share it all with someone! But still, I waited.

As Roberts slid into home after Bill Mueller's single up the middle, I couldn't wait any longer. I immediately whipped out the phone and pressed send:

(Ringing . . . )

Dad: "Hey!"

I can barely hear him over the roar of the crowd. But it's not just coming from my end.

Me: "Did you hear what just happened?!"

We're both screaming into the phone at this point.

Dad: "Yes! I couldnt leave! I started watching a little under the tunnel on my way out . . . (crowd's getting louder) . . . then I moved to the top of one of the tunnels . . . (and louder) . . . I ended up in some random seat in Section 12 on the other end of the park! I was gonna call . . . (at this point the conversations almost entirely drawn out) but I didn't want to jinx it!"

I ran down to Section 12, where we stood in a pair of empty seats for the last two innings; watched an improbable late-inning duel between Gordon and Leskanic, then saw Quantrill leave one over the plate, Ortiz crush it into the bullpen and the Sox live to see another day.

At the time, I'm not sure if we believed they now actually had a chance. We certainly had no idea that wed just witnessed the most famous stolen base in baseball history, or that after that game nothing would ever be the same. But it didnt matter.

We walked out of Fenway that night like we'd just won the World Series whatever that felt like. And we never looked back.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz hopes he's made a case to stay in rotation

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Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz hopes he's made a case to stay in rotation

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 win over Tampa Bay Rays.

 

QUOTES:

"I didn't know I could really do that.'' - Mookie Betts, who marveled at his throw from the right field corner which nailed Kevin Kiermaier -- attempting to stretch a double into a triple -- at third in the eighth inning.

"He's playing a huge role for us right now. He's stepped in, he's built his arm strength and given us almost 13 very strong innings the last two outings.'' - John Farrell on Clay Buchholz.

"I don't know that we ever lost faith in the talent of Clay. He was in a rut for quite some time. . . But the jolt that he's given us from the spot starts he's made, he's kept us rolling.'' - Farrell on Buchholz.

"You'd have to ask John about that. I have no idea. I've tried to make the most of (the opportunity) and if a decision has to be made, make it a hard one.'' - Buchholz, when asked if he's made a case to stay in the rotation.

 

NOTES:

* The Red Sox improved to a season-best 17 games over .500

* The win was just the fourth for the Red Sox this season when scoring two or one runs.

* The win was the first for Clay Buchholz as a starter since May 9.

* David Ortiz moved into sixth place on the Red Sox' all-time hit list, passing Bobby Doerr with 2.043 hits.

* Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games and has reached base in 16 straight.

* Andrew Benintendi recorded his eighth multi-hit game, the first Red Sox player to do so in his first 20 games since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2007

* Mookie Betts recorded his 10th outdield assist, placing him third among major league right fielders.

* Craig Kimbrel has a 1.08 ERA in save situations this year and 6.06 in non-save situations.

* Kimbrel has recorded a save in each of his last five appearances.

 

STARS:

1) Clay Buchholz

To say that this was Buchholz's best start of the season is to damn with faint praise, since there haven't been many good ones. But this was very good: 6 1/3 innings, one run on five hits with a season-high nine strikeouts.

2) Mookie Betts

Betts has only been a pro outfielder for a little more than two years, but that didn't look to be the case when he fired a strike from the right field corner to cut down a baserunner at third with one out in the eighth inning.

3) Craig Kimbrel

Kimbrel was dominant in the ninth, protecting a one-run lead with two strikeouts and a soft lineout to left.

 

First impressions: Buchholz's strong start helps lead Red Sox to 2-1 win

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First impressions: Buchholz's strong start helps lead Red Sox to 2-1 win

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays:

 

1) If this was the last start for Clay Buchholz, it was a good one.

Buchholz was brilliant in 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run while striking out a season high nine hitters.

After contributing little in the first four months of the season, Buchholz has helped out in a big way in the last four weeks -- first out of the bullpen and more recently, in three spot starts.

He's made sone adjustments with his release point, giving him far better command within the strike zone, and unsurprisingly, far better results.

Now, the question is: how will be used going forward?

 

2) Monday night, Andrew Benintendi thwarted the Rays in the late inning. On Tuesday, it was Mookie Betts's turn.

Benintendi's catch to rob Steve Souza Jr. of a two-run homer in the eighth was the highlight seen 'round the world. But it's possible that a throw from Betts was, in its own way, just as important.

Like Benintendi's magic trick Monday, this one took place with one out in the eighth inning. Brad Ziegler retired the leadoff hitter before Kevin Kiermaier chopped a ball into the right field corner. Betts chased down the ball as Kiermaier rounded second and headed to third.

The throw from Betts, from the right field corner, was a strike as Travis Shaw slapped a tag on the runner.

Forget, for a minute, the wisdom of someone already in scoring position attempting to take an extra base while trailing by a run and instead focus on the magic turned in by the Red Sox outfield in successive nights.

 

3) Robbie Ross Jr. has become a significant part of the bullpen.

Ross took over for Buchholz in the seventh, with lefty Corey Dickerson and righthanded-hitting Bobby Wilson due.

Ross overpowered Dickerson and got him swinging at a third strike before retiring Wilson on a routine bouncer to third.

It marked the fourth straight scoreless appearance by Ross in relief and ninth straight on the road.

Ross probably doesn't have the pure stuff to become the main option in the eighth inning. But he has had enough success to be someone that John Farrell trusts in some high leverage situations and matchups.