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1999. 2003. 2004. 2007. In the last 10 years, the Red Sox have come back from big postseason deficits. They erased a 2-0 deficit to beat the mighty Cleveland Indians in 1999. They erased a 2-0 deficit again to beat the Oakland A’s in 2003. In 2004, they miraculously beat the Yankees after a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS. Finally in 2007, the Red Sox overcame a 3-1 deficit at the hands of the Indians to move on to the World Series. Even in 2008, they faced a 3-1 series deficit and forced Game 7 against the Rays in the ALCS, before falling just short.
Down 2-0 against the Angels this year in the ALDS, the Red Sox seemed poised to pull off another unlikely series win. The Sox took a 5-2 lead into the eighth inning of Game 3 Sunday afternoon. Billy Wagner entered the game, and allowed two baserunners but recorded two outs. Bobby Abreu led the inning off with a double with a line drive down the first base line. Kevin Youkilis had a chance at it, but it hit off the heel of his glove and rolled away. With two outs, Jonathan Papelbon entered the game, and on the first pitch, he allowed a two-run single to Juan Rivera. Reggie Willits pinch-ran for Rivera, and was picked off to end the eighth.
Mike Lowell gave the Red Sox a big insurance run with an RBI single that scored Joey Gathright, who was pinch-running for David Ortiz after he singled. The run gave the Red Sox a 6-4 lead, which seemed huge at the time. With a clean slate in the ninth inning, Papelbon was looking to deliver a pivotal Game 3 win. After getting two quick outs, the Red Sox were one out away from staving off elimination.
Then, Erick Aybar singled. Then, Chone Figgins walked. Then, Bobby Abreu doubled home Aybar to make it a 6-5 game. Then, Papelbon intentionally walked Torii Hunter. Then…Vladimir Guerrero hit a go-ahead two-run single to give the Angels a 7-6 lead (the game’s final score). Papelbon was pulled (perhaps two batters too late), and the Fenway Park fans were stunned. I was there; I would know.
The Sox still had a chance in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Terry Francona sent Jed Lowrie to the plate to hit for Alex Gonzalez. Lowrie nearly blooped a single to center field, but Hunter caught it for the first out. Jacoby Ellsbury fouled out to the catcher for the second out. With the team facing elimination, Dustin Pedroia flied out to left center field. The Angels celebrated on the mound at Fenway Park, and officially, the seemingly impossible happened: the Red Sox were swept out of the ALDS by the Angels.
Early in the game, the Sox bats temporarily woke up. Dustin Pedroia banged in a two-run double in the third inning, and Victor Martinez followed with an RBI single to give the Sox a 3-0 lead off former Rays hurler Scott Kazmir. The team took a 5-1 lead on J.D. Drew’s HR in the fifth inning, but all in all, the Sox bats were awful in the ALDS. They scored just one run in the first two games, which is absolutely unacceptable. They scored six runs on just seven hits in Game 3, which is better, but it appears that Theo Epstein and the Sox brain trust will be looking to reform the offense.
Lowell finished 2-3 and hit a clutch RBI single to give the Red Sox a huge insurance run heading into the ninth inning. It turns out the effort didn’t matter, as the game was blown by…
Papelbon allowed three runs in just one inning, and he allowed both of his inherited runners to score in the eighth inning. He chose a bad time to have one of the worst outings of his career.
“The season doesn’t wind down. It just comes to a crashing halt,” Terry Francona said. “You go into the top of the inning excited because you think you’re going to keep playing. Half an inning later, you’re going home. So it’s disappointing.”
W: Darren Oliver (1-0)
L: Jonathan Papelbon (0-1)