Boston Gets Its Hopes Up

Times Staff Writer

The Boston Red Sox are an eminently likable team, one Boston folks really, really believe in, a setup that for approaching a century has ended in terrible heartbreak and calamity, along with a table-full of gloomy tomes at every corner book store.

But they celebrated David Ortiz’s 10th-inning home run and their 8-6 victory here on Friday night, and their reservation in the American League championship series, by calling out the New York Yankees, by falling over each other with jubilation, the vanquished Angels not yet out of the ballpark.

“We want Yankees!” they shouted from Fenway Park’s Green Monster seats, from the narrow wooden chairs pointed oddly away from home plate, from the concourses slung low overhead. They pushed through Yawkey Way, red paint smearing the belt-lines of their khaki shorts, 86 years without a World Series, now wanting to do it the hard way with the Yankees.


A carefree bunch -- “Idiots,” center fielder Johnny Damon has lovingly described them -- even before the champagne ran out, Red Sox players waved from the field, cigars smoldering in their mouths, happy to see the people happy. They party as well as they play, evidently, these mid-October revelries become more common; late Octobers have been dry since 1918.

Going on three years since he purchased the team for about $700 million, John Henry, a dainty man in a white Oxford shirt, stood near the door of the Red Sox’s clubhouse, wary of the sticky spray and soggy floors.

His Red Sox won 98 games in the regular season, then swept the Angels in a division series that spoke to their end-to-end talent. On the final pitch, a slider from Angel starter-turned-reliever Jarrod Washburn, Ortiz sent his loopy teammates dancing from their dugout, and his wary town to its feet, ready to believe again.

The reason, Henry said, “Every year is different.” And maybe he hasn’t been around long enough to know better.

Asked about the chants to bring on the Yankees, echoing from a hallway that led to the dugout that led to a warm New England night, Henry smiled and said, “The only thing I’m really looking forward to is playing a National League team.”

Inside, the Red Sox turned to buckets of water when the champagne ran out. Ortiz wore swimmers’ goggles. He’d had three hits in five at-bats when he came to bat in the 10th inning, when Angel Manager Mike Scioscia summoned Washburn for his first pitch in relief in more than five years, replacing Francisco Rodriguez after 2 2/3 dominant innings. Pokey Reese was at first base. Washburn tried to get ahead with his first pitch. Moments later, in the chartered jet that waited at Logan Airport in case of Angel defeat, a pilot filed his flight plan.


“Slider,” Ortiz said. “It was a slider up, kind of high.”

He rode it to his opposite field, lifted it over the green monster, wiped away the Angels’ five-run seventh inning, Vladimir Guerrero’s grand slam, the doubt that gripped the people here. He raised his right hand as he turned at first base, grinned in spite of himself at second, passed behind Washburn at third and hoisted himself into the pile of idiots at home plate.

“Thanks to this guy here, I mean, it could have been totally different, but now we get to relax for a couple of days,” Damon said, nodding his head to Ortiz.

Ortiz nodded back and, to the long-haired, bearded Damon, said, “Thanks to you, Jesus.”

They’d given the baseball to Bronson Arroyo, he’d pitched into the seventh inning, and still they’d blown a five-run lead, then survived. The Angels misplayed balls in their middle infield, and had dozens of bad swings against Arroyo, who pitched like a corn-rowed Pedro Martinez, and the Red Sox used it to win. Their bullpen killed an Angel rally in the ninth, when closer Keith Foulke struck out Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus with the bases loaded, and eventually they just flat convinced the Angels.

“Those boys are winning the World Series, by the way,” Darin Erstad said. “That’s the deepest team I’ve ever seen. They have every piece of the puzzle. I don’t see anyone beating them.”

The best-of-seven ALCS starts Tuesday in New York or Minnesota. The Yankees lead their division series, two games to one. A Yankee win in the next two games would bring another series between the rivals, last year’s ALCS ending in the 11th inning of Game 7, Aaron Boone homering off Tim Wakefield.

In the demure Boston Herald on Friday, the back page gushed, “Go Yanks! We want to kick your butts on our way to the series!” Wait. Sorry. That’s the front page.


It’s a new year, a fresh October, an inspirational team. They’ll never see it coming.