10/13/2004 2:00 AM ET
No quit in resilient Red Sox
Boston proves itself with late comeback on Yanks
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
NEW YORK - Say this for the Red Sox: they're never dull.
|Mark Bellhorn's double was the first chink in Mike Mussina's pitching armor. (Bill Kostroun/AP)
Wild hair, motorcycle-gang looks, self-assessed 'idiots.'
But there's something else, too.
As manager Terry Francona put it before this American League Championship Series began: "These guys just like to play ball. I don't think they really care where it is."
Remember back on July 24? The Red Sox were down 9-4 and then brawled with the Yankees at Fenway Park. Ka-boom! The Sox roared to life and won, 11-10, on Bill Mueller's ninth-inning homer off Mariano Rivera.
They're lively guys, all right.
Looking ghastly for six-plus innings on Tuesday -- 19 up, 19 down against Mike Mussina -- they suddenly acted as if somebody had given them a collective hot foot. The Red Sox caught fire.
It wasn't quite enough, it turned out, but, for a time at Yankee Stadium, the Sox burned brightly. The 8-0 Yankees lead melted to 8-7 before the Red Sox were finally blown out by Rivera, who got Mueller this time around, forcing him to rap into a double play .
"It was great to hear the fans out there get quiet a little bit,'' center fielder Johnny Damon said. "We definitely gave them a scare. Even in that ninth inning, getting two guys on with Billy Mueller coming up, we felt pretty good about our chances."
Mussina, in his dramatic display, had eight strikeouts during his run of perfection. He got Damon three of the four times he fanned.
"He was throwing the ball pretty good," Damon said. "That's about the second time for me in 10 years, about 1,600 games. So, you know, this is definitely not the way I wanted to start the series. But I'll be fine."
Switch-hitter Mark Bellhorn, who followed Damon to the plate in the seventh, reached out from the left side and swatted an 0-2 pitch to the base of the left-center-field wall. This is the same guy who struck out 177 times this year to set a Red Sox club record.
"We kept going up there and we still needed to get a hit, for the most part," Damon said. "And when we did, more and more guys started to hit. We weren't down at all. We were relaxed. We definitely didn't think we'd come back that far and to do that was something special."
Mussina got the second out of the inning, but never the third.
|Jason Varitek's two-run
home run during the seventh inning of Game 1 was his fourth in an LCS, a Red
Sox record, but still five homers shy of the ALCS record:||League
David Ortiz singled, Kevin Millar hit a two-run double, Trot Nixon singled -- and Mussina was out of the game.
And just the same, the Red Sox were back in the game. Jason Varitek welcomed reliever Tanyon Sturtze into the smoldering situation with a two-run homer. All of a sudden it was 8-5.
"It just shows you the fight and the determination we have in this clubhouse," Millar said.
And that surge meant a lot to the Red Sox.
"Yeah, it does. We got Mussina out of the game there and it was a dogfight," Millar said. "This guy was throwing a great game. We'll come out tomorrow and try to even this series back up."
Even when Mussina was retiring batter after batter, Francona didn't notice any undue stress.
"The vibe in the dugout was actually pretty good even when we were down, which is not surprising," Francona said. "Even when we got down 6-0, 8-0, they just kept saying we'd peck away, and we did."
The final pecks came in the eighth inning when Ortiz just missed clearing the fence, settling for a two-run triple.
"We showed a lot of fight when we came back in this game," Varitek said. "We didn't quit and that's a good sign."
Quit? Perish the thought.
"There's no quit in these guys," Damon said. "We can swing the bats better than anybody or just as good as anybody. It was just a little too late for us. They got off to a nice lead and, knowing the Yankees, that's a tough hill to climb."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.