As with the rest of the articles in this series, I started out intending to list the Top 10 games of the last decade; but then realized I would have to leave too many great games off the list if I limited it to just 10 games. So, as a result, I hereby present you with my Top 20 Sox games of the last 10 years.
This is Part II of the list, it contains Games 1-10:
Games No. 10, No. 9, No. 8, and No. 7 (Tie): No Problems in the 21st Century
Apr. 4, 2001; Apr. 27, 2002; Sept. 1, 2007; and May 19, 2008
No Red Sox pitcher had thrown a no-hitter in more than 35 years, yet in the first ten years of the 21st century four BoSox hurlers accomplished the feat. All of the games were caught by Jason Varitek, who became the first backstop in history to catch that many no-hitters. After Nomo’s gem, he declared that it was “a catcher’s dream” to be behind the plate for a no-hitter.
Amazingly, he did it FOUR times in the just-concluded decade.
In his Red Sox debut on Apr. 4, 2001 , RHP Hideo Nomo shut the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards in a 3-0 victory, striking out 11 hitters and walking 3 in the game.
On Apr. 27, 2002 , sinkerballer Derek Lowe threw the first no-no at Fenway Park since Dave Morehead no-hit the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 16, 1965. Lowe beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 10-0, allowing only one base-runner (a third inning walk).
In his second major league start, Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 1, 2007 , at Fenway Park. He became only the third pitcher since 1900 to throw a no-no in his first or second big league start (Bobo Hollomon threw one in his St Louis Browns debut in 1953 and Wilson Alvarez turned the trick in his second start for the Chicago White Sox in 1991).
On May 19, 2008 , Jon Lester threw the 18th no-hitter in Red Sox history when he beat the Kansas City Royals, 7-0, in a 130-pitch effort at Fenway Park. After the game, the southpaw said: “If you all saw my bullpen today, you would have thought I wouldn’t have gotten out of the first inning.”
He owed some of the credit for the feat to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who made a diving catch to rob Jose Guillen of a base hit in the fourth inning.
Game No. 6: Oh Captain, My Captain!
July 24, 2004
With the Red Sox trailing the NY Yankees by nine-and-a-half games in the standings, the two teams took to the field at Fenway Park. The Sox were losing, 3-0, in the top of the third inning when Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez was hit by a pitch thrown by starter Bronson Arroyo.
When A-Rod started mouthing off to Arroyo, team captain Jason Varitek confronted him in the area around home plate. Profanities were exchanged and a shoving match ensued. Both players were ejected. The Sox eventually fell behind by five runs but rallied to win, 11-10, when Bill Mueller hit a walk-off home run off closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Game No. 5: The Comeback Is Complete!
Oct. 20, 2004
The Sox jumped out to leads of 6-0 and 8-1 over the NY Yankees in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS . The rest of the game was relatively anti-climactic, lacking the drama that was characteristic of the previous three contests. Regardless, it is remembered for the performances of CF Johnny Damon and starting pitcher Derek Lowe.
In the batter’s box, Damon hit a pair of crucial home runs, including the second-inning grand slam that put the Sox ahead, 6-0.
On the mound, Lowe shut down the Yankees over six innings on the Yankee Stadium turf, limiting the Bronx Bombers to one run on one hit and one walk in his outing. David Ortiz and Mark Bellhorn added home runs for the Red Sox, who got to celebrate the greatest comeback in major league history in The House That Ruth Built.
And I was there! It was the first and last time I attended a ballgame at Yankee Stadium; but, what a game to attend!
Game No. 4: It Was A Bloody Good Game
Oct. 19, 2004
Curt Schilling injured the tendon sheath in his right ankle during the 2004 ALDS. He attempted to pitch with the injury in Game One of the ALCS, but was roughed up by the Yankees (surrendering six runs).
Prior to Game Six of the ALCS , the right-hander endured a radical procedure designed to help stabilize the tendon—team doctors used three sutures to connect the skin with ligament and connective tissue to keep the tendon from disrupting his pitching mechanics.
With the tendon sewn in placed, Schilling pitched seven strong innings, allowing only one run (on a Bernie Williams home run). By the end of his performance, Schilling’s white sock was partially soaked in blood...and “the bloody sock” had become a part of American sports folklore.
With the game scoreless in the fourth inning, Jason Varitek singled home Kevin Millar with the game’s first run. Mark Bellhorn then drove a ball into the left field stands...the ball struck a fan and dropped back onto the field. Initially, left field umpire Jim Joyce signaled the ball to be still in play, but the officiating crew huddled and eventually overruled the call. Bellhorn was (correctly) credited with a three-run home run.
The Yankees rallied for a run in the seventh inning and another run in the eighth inning to cut the Red Sox lead in half. In the bottom of the eight, with Derek Jeter at first base, Alex Rodriguez hit a tapper back to the mound. Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo fielded the ball and approached the Yankees 3B along the first base line to apply the tag; but, Rodriguez swatted at the ball and knocked it out of Arroyo’s glove.
As the ball rolled away, Jeter scored all the way from first base and A-Rod advanced to second base. After initially ruling that Arroyo had committed an error, the umpiring crew huddled and for the second time they ruled in the Red Sox favor—in Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez was called out (the umps rules he had interfered with Arroyo). Jeter was returned to first base. Arroyo retired Gary Sheffield on a foul pop to end the inning. Keith Foulke survived two walks in the ninth inning to complete the 4-2 win.
The Sox had survived THREE potential series-ending games to force Game Seven. It was the first time in MLB history a team that lost the first three games of a best-of-seven series had been able to force a seventh game (only twice previously had a Game Six been needed).
Game No. 3: Who’s Your Papi?
Oct. 18, 2004
Just 16 hours after David Ortiz’ walk-off home run beat the New York Yankees in the 14th inning of Game Four of the ’04 ALCS, the teams faced off again in Game Five...little did they know they were about to engage in the longest postseason game in the history of baseball (5:49).
The Red Sox drew first blood in Game Five as David Ortiz singled home a run and Jason Varitek walked with the bases loaded to give the Sox a 2–0 lead in the first inning. Bernie Williams homered in the second inning and Derek Jeter hit a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double in the sixth inning to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead.
But Ortiz led off the eighth inning with a home run to cut the Sox’ deficit to a single run. Kevin Millar followed Big Papi with a walk...he was replaced by pinch runner Dave Roberts, who advanced to third base on a Trot Nixon single. Varitek then hit a sacrifice fly off Mariano Rivera to tie the game at four apiece.
Both teams had scoring opportunities in extra innings but stranded runners in scoring position. Finally, in the bottom of the 14th inning, Johnny Damon and Manny Ramírez walked to bring up Ortiz with two outs...Papi fisted a single into center field on the 10th pitch of the at-bat to drive home Damon with the game-winning run.
It was the second consecutive night Ortiz provided late-inning heroics. Red Sox fans chanted, “Who’s your Papi?” in response to the “Who’s your daddy?” chant that had been employed by Yankees fans to taunt Sox pitcher Pedro Martínez.
Game No. 2: The Curse of the Bambino Comes to an End
Oct. 27, 2004
Eighty-six years of frustration was finally, at long last, brought to an end. The Red Sox beat the St Louis Cardinals, 3-0 in Game Four of the 2004 World Series . The win gave the Red Sox their first world championship since 1918...Red Sox Nation erupted in a collective, euphoric celebration that has seldom been experienced by sports fans in this country.
Sox starter Derek Lowe completed the pitcher’s postseason Triple Crown, having won the deciding game of each of the three playoff series. In Game Four, he shut out the Cards on three hits over seven innings...Bronson Arroyo, Alan Embree, and Keith Foulke closed out the long-awaited, much-anticipated victory.
For the fourth straight game, the Red Sox scored in the first inning to give the club the lead. This time, CF Johnny Damon homered into deep right-center field to give the Sox the lead.
In the third inning, RF Trot Nixon blasted a two-out, bases-loaded double to extend the lead to 3-0. The Red Sox threatened to score again in the eighth inning, but Cards closer Jason Isringhausen—who inherited a no-out, bases-loaded predicament—retired Kevin Millar, Damon and Orlando Cabrera in succession to keep the game close.
Sox manager Terry Francona called on Keith Foulke in the ninth inning to end the Curse...after a leadoff base hit, the closer retired three straight hitters to secure the championship.
Game No. 1: Big Papi Puts The Team On His Back
Oct. 17, 2004
The best ballgame I have ever witnessed was Game Sox of the 1975 World Series. If you were alive and a Red Sox fan in ’75 you can remember every single twist and turn of that ballgame: Fred Lynn’s first inning home run...the Reds six unanswered runs...Bernie Carbo’s pinch-hit, game-tying bomb in the eighth inning...Denny Doyle hearing “go, go, go” instead of “no, no, no” in the bottom of the ninth inning...Dwight Evans’ extraordinary leaping catch-turned-double-play in the 11th inning...and Carlton Fisk’s walk-off home run off the left field fair pole in the 12th inning.
The second-best game I have ever seen may well have been Game Four of the 2004 ALCS , a game eventually won by the Red Sox, 6-4, in 12 innings. The Yankees took an early lead on a two-run home run by Alex Rodriguez in the third inning.
The Red Sox responded with three runs of their own in the fifth inning on run-scoring singles by Orlando Cabrera and David Ortiz. New York immediately answered with two runs in the top of the sixth inning to leapfrog over the Red Sox on the scoreboard, 4-3.
Relief pitching dominated the next three innings, as neither offense managed more than one base-runner in any frame. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Kevin Millar gave the Red Sox life when he drew a leadoff walk off future Hall-of-Famer Mariano Rivera.
The slow-footed Millar was immediately replaced by pinch-runner Dave Roberts, who then executed the most famous stolen base in team history on the closer’s first pitch to move into scoring position.
Two pitches later, Bill Mueller ripped a ground ball single up the middle to drive Roberts home with the game-tying run. The Sox then loaded the bases with two out to set up a showdown between Rivera and slugger David Ortiz...with Fenway Park on the verge of eruption, Rivera induced an infield pop-up from Big Papi and the game went to extra innings.
Two innings later, it was the Yankees turn to squander a bases-loaded opportunity as seldom-used reliever Curtis Leskanic retired CF Bernie Williams (the career leader in post-season RBI) on a fly out to end the threat.
In the 12th inning, leadoff man Manny Ramirez singled off reliever Paul Quantrill, bringing David Ortiz to the plate. Big Papi ran the count to 2-1 before belting the game-winning home run into the right field grandstand.
It was the start of an eight-game winning streak that delivered a World Series title to Boston.