What a totally satisfying series. What truly made it great, and will indeed define it down the road as memorable, is that there was a moment of absolute despair. Just like the 2004 ALCS, there was a moment where I couldn’t think of a way out. That was in game four, after Jhonny Peralta’s three-run home run off Manny Delcarmen made it a six-run game. We were on our way to a 3-1 deficit, and just how many miracle turnarounds can one team produce? Well, obviously one more. And we did it with contributions all across the board. With the exception of just Doug Mirabelli and Tim Wakefield, who each only had one chance each, every player put a positive stamp (in terms of BRAA) in at least one of the seven games. Let’s run down the whole roster, from greatest total contribution on down:
Kevin Youkilis, 1B (9.32 BRAA)
Youk truly put his stamp on every game, hitting .500 over the course of the seven games. Perhaps the most lasting image of Youk’s series will be his icing-on-the-cake home run off the Coke bottles in game seven, but his best offensive performance was in game six (2.9 BRAA). He was flawless early, hitting singles in his first three at bats, and scored on J.D. Drew’s grand slam. His only blemish was a groundout to end the fifth. He actually posted a BRAA above two in each of the last three games, and while Josh Beckett certainly deserves the series MVP a serious case can be made for Youk as well.
Manny Ramirez, LF (6.23 BRAA)
Manny was Manny all throughout the series. I will certainly remember his moonshots, the longest single in history, and his outfield assist to snipe Kenny Lofton at second base in game seven. Manny’s biggest game was game one (4 BRAA), though, when he continued his blistering pace from the Angels series. He reached base every plate appearance: his RBI single in the first accounted for the first Boston run, he drew a bases-loaded walk in the third, he singled in the fifth and scored, he again walked with the bases loaded in the sixth, then he walked harmlessly in the eighth inning. The return of Manny has been one of the most joyful aspects of this postseason. I certainly hope he continues his torrid pace into the World Series.
Josh Beckett, SP (4.73 BRAA)
Beckett might not bring home the Cy Young trophy this winter (which I don’t think would bother him if he heads home with a ring on his finger), but he proved once again that he is the best big-game pitcher in the world in this series. While his game one performance set a winning tone for this team, his lion-hearted game five performance (3.42 BRAA) with our backs against the wall did much more to build his legend. His line says it all: in a win-or-go-home game, 8.0 IP, 5 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks, 109 pitches, 74 for strikes.
Jonathan Papelbon, RP (3.77 BRAA)
Anyone who identifies something other than Riverdance as Paps’ most memorable moment of October is lying, but he has pitched pretty darn well also. His sterling efforts in game two were wasted, and his scoreless inning in game five was simply the nail in the coffin. When he entered game seven (2.12 BRAA), though, the game, the series, the season were in his hands. And he struck out Hafner, coaxed a double play that was just too sticky for Pedroia and Lugo to handle, then ended the threat with a long fly out by Garko. He won the Delivery Man of the Year award, in this case delivering a World Series berth.
J.D. Drew, RF (3.39 BRAA)
I loved J.D. Drew’s press conference after game six (4.01 BRAA). He identified his season long struggles, expressed that he was as frustrated with himself as we were with him. But he could have hit .110 with two home runs all season long, and his game six grand slam would still exonerate him. Probably the single biggest swing of the series. He gave Schilling a cushion, one that Curt would never even use up. Drew earned his Sox in game six.
Mike Lowell, 3B (2.31 BRAA)
Lost in everything else to be applauded in this series was the Sox’ big defense throughout. Little moments, like Ellsbury’s diving catch in game seven and countless Pedroia diving stops, but also big moments like the 5-4-3 double play to get out of the first and third jam last night and (of course) Crisp’s running catch to record the final out. Lowell was a rock at third base, consistently making great plays on short hops and never really challenging Youk with an errant throw. His bat was equally steady, as it has been all season. His best game at the plate was a wasted effort in game two (2.09 BRAA): his two RBI single in the third inning put the Sox ahead, and his moonshot home run broke a 5-5 tie in the fifth inning.
Side note: While I keep referring to game two as a wasted effort, though, the mileage on the Indians’ bullpen arms doubtless contributed to Rafael Perez’ and Rafael Betancourt’s breakdowns later on in the series.
Mike Timlin, RP (2.12 BRAA)
Mike Timlin didn’t appear after game three, but he pitched in the first three games and didn’t allow a run in 3.1 innings of work. Standing out among these efforts was work in game three (1.02 BRAA), in which he kept the game close by retiring all four batters he faced, including striking out two of them.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B (2.02 BRAA)
Sure, he started slowly. He also started slowly in April, but he seemed to find his groove pretty darn well as the season went on. The exact same thing happened here. He made several key contributions to games five and six, such as leading off game five’s seventh inning with a double to spark the Sox’ insurance rally and jumpstarting the rally in game six that would lead to J.D. Drew’s grand slam, but all that was prelude to game seven. Dustin just came alive like a firecracker in game seven (2.89 BRAA). He was all over the box score: he led off the first with a run and scored the Sox’ first run. After innings of sterling defensive work, he blasted an immeasurably important and instant classic two-run home run over the monster and even added some Manny swagger with his bat flip and stare. His bases-clearing double to push the lead to 9-1 was so final a statement that Fox showed Papi wearing his goggles in the dugout in preparation for the champagne shower he was about to receive. Pedroia was as important a part of our comeback from down 3 games to 1 as anyone on the team.
Hideki Okajima, RP (1.9 BRAA)
Okie’s shining moment came, of course, with his two complete innings of scoreless relief in the crucial innings of game seven (0.09 BRAA) before it had been broken open when every Red Sox fan was pacing madly, the game too close to sit down. Save for his hiccup due, no doubt, to fatigue towards the end of the season, he was lights-out all year long. That included game seven.
David Ortiz, DH (1.4 BRAA)
Papi didn’t put up gaudy stat lines towards the end of the series, but his presence in the middle of the lineup kept pitchers honest throughout. In game one (2.32 BRAA), though, he did put up a monster line. He reached on every plate appearance, and while he didn’t have any RBI he had several important contributions. His first-inning single moved Youk into scoring position so Manny could drive him home for the Sox’ first run of the game. His HBP and subsequent run scored were part of the Sox’ big third run rally to go ahead 5 to 1. He walked to lead off the fifth, and would score on Bobby Kielty’s single. He walked in the sixth. He doubled to lead off the eighth. He never really saw a pitch to hit for the rest of the series, and because he’s Big Papi and he wants to carry the team he swung at a couple of bad pitches. That’s fine. He’s the team’s heart and soul and the most clutch hitter of our generation.
Jason Varitek, C (0.7 BRAA)
I keep saying to any of Tek’s detractors that what he brings to the table in terms of managing a pitching staff would balance out virtually any offensive shortcomings. We’ll never know where this team’s pitching staff’s ability ends and Tek’s leadership begins. That’s the point. He’s no slouch with a bat, either. He picked an especially good time to bring his heaviest lumber to the ballpark, also. He went three for four with two runs in game seven (1.81 BRAA), including a double off the monster to start the second inning rally.
Eric Gagne, RP (0.69 BRAA)
Gagne has clearly had some sort of issue in Boston, either mechanical or psychological or some combination of factors. He can still bring it, though, and he had two perfect outings in this series. Sox fans will remember him for being the last-resort option in game two who took the loss, but he was lights-out in games one and six (0.55 BRAA in each).
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (0.61 BRAA)
“The Other Rookie.” That’s what highlight jockeys hav
e been calling him, but we know what a unique identity Jacoby brings to the team. He was brought out in games six and seven to put a spark in the lineup, and he did just that. Game seven in particular (1.14 BRAA), in which he reached base two out of four plate appearances and score two runs, was a solid effort. There’s clearly more to come from this kid.
Bobby Kielty, RF (-0.44 BRAA)
The first time around he completely worked as a C.C. Sabathia specialist. His two-run single in game one (0.23 BRAA) scored David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to further fortify Boston’s lead. For somebody with so few at bats, that one key hit shows what he’s capable of.
Doug Mirabelli, C (-.52 BRAA)
Dougie was not going deep tonight. What we have learned about Mirabelli throughout the years is that he is streaky, occasionally going for multiple extra-base hits in a game and sometimes dropping an ofer. He gave Varitek half a game off, and that was a great contribution in and of itself.
Tim Wakefield, SP (-0.7 BRAA)
Wake looked sharp for the first few innings of his start, but then something happened so the knucklers just weren’t dancing the same way. This could be related to his injury problems. Either way, he will have a chance to work his magic against the Rockies next week.
Curt Schilling, SP (-.84 BRAA)
As one of the smartest pitchers in the league, Schill always learns from his mistakes. After his stuff wasn’t quite working in game two, he clearly went back to the drawing board and cooked up a new approach for game six. Second time around, it worked. His great start in game six (1.86 BRAA) was as throwback as it was timely.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP (-.94 BRAA)
See the same as above, almost exactly. With one key difference: this is a longer season and one with more frequent use than any season Dice has ever pitched. Add onto that that his 109 pitchers per start were the highest of any pitcher in the American League, and it’s no wonder his shoulder is beginning to feel like jelly. The five innings pitched he gave us in game seven (0.76 BRAA), though, were the difference between the World Series and plane fare back to Tokyo. I’m still rolling with Dice.
Jon Lester, RP (-1.38 BRAA)
This is misrepresentative, as Lester was left to ride the dying horse of game two to the ground. He offset that subpar performance with an absolute gem of a relief job in game four (1.66 BRAA), though: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks.
Javier Lopez, RP (-2.9 BRAA)
Again, ran into (and was responsible for) the buzzsaw of game two. But he did work a perfect inning in game six (0.55 BRAA).
Manny Delcarmen, RP (-3.68 BRAA)
The above BRAA number is greatly hurt by his home run allowed to Jhonny Peralta in game four. He is still a trustworthy arm, though, as referenced by his lights-out game two performance (0.57 BRAA): two batters, two strikeouts.
Coco Crisp, CF (-4.07 BRAA)
Coco struggled with the bat this series. He is a streak hitter, and that kind of thing happens. He’ll be a major part of the World Series. And his sparkling center field defense makes up for it if he can’t find the ball with his bat on a given day. His best day at the plate was game two (0.33 BRAA), in which he went 2 for 5 and stole a base.
Julio Lugo, SS (-4.19 BRAA)
Julio Lugo bats ninth because he is the weakest hitter on the team. He turns a mean double play though, and he burns up the base paths when he’s on them. He was in game six (1.12 BRAA), when he hit a double down the left field line to score two runs and push the lead up to 8 to 1.