We all remember the huge moments of the Red Sox 2004 playoff run, from The Steal to the walk off hits to the bloody sock. Waiting for Spring Training to start is rough, so I decided to watch my 2004 playoff dvds, and found five underrated moments or performances that were crucial to the team’s success.
5. Jason Varitek, home run off Bartolo Colon, Game 2 ALDS, 6th inning
Jason Varitek’s true moment of awesome was earlier in the season, as he gave ARod a glove to the face, touching off a brawl that seemed to ignite the Sox. Still, this home run in the ALDS was a nice clutch moment. The Sox were trailing at the time and hadn’t managed much off of Bartolo Colon. A loss would tie the series at one game each, and leave the Sox needing to win two games at home. Instead, Tek took Colon deep, a two run shot to tie the game. The Sox rallied for the victory, and they headed back to Fenway up two games to nothing.
4. Orlando Cabrera, defensive play at shortstop, Game 3 ALDS, 10th inning
Orlando Cabrera never seemed to feel the pressure in 2004 of replacing a Sox legend and icon at shortstop. He came to the Sox in the deadline deal for Nomar Garciaparra, and made an immediate impact. I loved the intricate handshakes he invented for each teammate and the energy he brought to the game. In Game 3, the Sox had taken an early lead, only to see the Angels tie the score late in the game. With two outs and a runner on third in the tenth inning, the speedy Chone Figgins hit a slow dribbler to short. Cabrera charged, barehanded the ball and threw out Figgins at first by a half step, ensuring the game stayed tied and giving David Ortiz (more on him later) the chance for some dramatics of his own.
3. Keith Foulke, strikeout of Tony Clark, Game 6 ALCS, 9th inning
Some postseason statistics for Keith Foulke from 2004 for you to admire: 14 innings pitched, one earned run, 19 strikeouts.
What’s even more remarkable is that he threw five scoreless innings over three straight games in the ALCS, practically willing the Sox to victory.
Pitching on a third consecutive day, his save in Game 6 was of the white knuckle variety, as he put two runners on with two outs. Tony Clark stepped to the plate as the potential series-winning run. Every Red Sox fan was thinking how cruel it would be if a former Red Sox player got a big hit. Instead, Foulke came through with the huge strikeout and the Sox moved on to the winner take all Game 7.
The other big offseason acquisition besides Curt Schilling, Foulke was never the same after all the miles put on his arm in the 2004 postseason. I like to picture him retired on a ranch somewhere, drinking a beer and admiring his World Series ring.
2. Mark Bellhorn home runs, Game 6ALCS 4th inning, Game 1 World Series 8th inning:
I’m bending the rules on this one, as Mark Bellhorn had two great postseason moments. Bellhorn had 17 home runs and a .373 OBP in 2004, really solid production for a second baseman. He was an underrated performer all year, a three true outcomes guy who took a walk, struck out, or hit it deep. He struggled in the postseason, but managed to answer the bell with homers in two clutch situations. The first was in Game 6 of the ALCS, when he managed to take Jon Lieber deep for a three run shot that provided the winning margin.
The second was even more meaningful, as his eighth inning home run gave the Sox Game 1 of the World Series. Bellhorn couldn’t repeat his production the next season, but his 2004 performance gave Sox fans plenty to remember.
I couldn’t write this list without honoring perhaps the greatest postseason performer in Red Sox history. David Ortiz‘ home runs and walk off hits in Games 4 and 5 of the ALCS cemented him as a Red Sox legend. His home run in this game, however, was equally important.
*Quick digression here: what on earth was the third base coach thinking sending Johnny Damon from third with less than 2 outs and David Freakin’ Ortiz coming up?
Instead of a quick lead, the Red Sox faced squandering the leadoff hit. Before the Yankee Stadium crowd could truly get going, Ortiz rocketed the very next pitch from Kevin Brown into the right field stands. The Sox were out to a two run lead they would never relinquish, and headed to the World Series.