Red Sox

One night in October

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One night in October

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

If you caught "Four Nights in October" last night on ESPN, then youre happy you did.

If you caught it, you spent an hour fighting off chills, maybe even a few tears, and getting lost in what was without question the strangest, most surreal and unimaginable week in Boston sports history. And before the Randy Moss saga brought us back down to reality it felt fantastic.

Anyway, everyone has a story from that epic run, so I figured now was as good a time as any to share mine . . .

"All right, I can't take it anymore. Im heading home."

My instincts were to put up a fight, but when I saw the look in my Dads eyes, I knew he was done. I knew he'd given up. I knew he didn't have it in him to sit through another Red Sox tragedy.

We were less than 24 hours removed from the most demoralizing, soul-crushing playoff beatdown in team history. Now they were losing (again), three outs from the end of the road, with 7-8-9 due up and Mariano Rivera in to finish the job. The Sox would've had a better shot of getting a hit off Steve Nebraska that night. They were toast.

Throw in the fact that it was already past midnight, my Dad had a long ride home and a meeting first thing in the morning, and . . . yeah, OK, I guess I could see it.

So despite the fact that it was the eighth inning of Game Four of the ALCS, the Sox season was on the brink, and they were only down by a run, I let my Dad get up and leave our seats in the upper deck of Section 24.

Of course, I wanted him to stay, but I understood why he wanted, or more likely, needed to leave. He's not quite as masochistic as I am.

And really, that's what being a Sox fan was all about back then. It was an exercise in masochism. Every year, we invested ungodly levels of time, energy and emotion into a source that always let us down. Actually, "let us down" doesn't work. They spiked us into the ground like we were a touchdown ball. Every year. But we kept coming back, just asking them to hurt us.

At the time, as the eighth inning came to an end and I watched my Dad sleek off into the crowd, I honestly don't remember even having faith that the Sox would win. In fact, I'm pretty sure I had already conceded defeat. But I knew I had to stay until the end. I knew I had to sit there and suffer; to watch another promising season slip down the crapper, and then wallow in the familiar emptiness that came with it.

That's how we did it. We had to.

The top of the ninth went quickly, and I assumed the bottom half would bring much of the same. I figured Mo would make easy work of things, and wed all be put out of our misery. Or was it thrown into greater misery? Either way, not fun. And certainly not what happened next.

As Kevin Millar walked on five pitches, I reached down for my phone, but stopped short of calling my Dad. I just didnt want to get his hopes up. He left to avoid that torture; he'd earned the right to live free of those mind games. So I waited.

As Dave Roberts stole second base, I took out the phone again, but this time I didn't want to jinx it. If it was meant to be, I thought, it was meant to be like this. If something happens, we'll talk, but until then, nothing matters except for the game; everything must stay as it is.

It killed me that he was missing this. I wondered if he was maybe still walking to the car, or even knew the game was still going on. Not to mention I was now sitting by myself in the upper deck at Fenway during the most tense and dramatic moment of the season. I wanted to share it all with someone! But still, I waited.

As Roberts slid into home after Bill Mueller's single up the middle, I couldn't wait any longer. I immediately whipped out the phone and pressed send:

(Ringing . . . )

Dad: "Hey!"

I can barely hear him over the roar of the crowd. But it's not just coming from my end.

Me: "Did you hear what just happened?!"

We're both screaming into the phone at this point.

Dad: "Yes! I couldnt leave! I started watching a little under the tunnel on my way out . . . (crowd's getting louder) . . . then I moved to the top of one of the tunnels . . . (and louder) . . . I ended up in some random seat in Section 12 on the other end of the park! I was gonna call . . . (at this point the conversations almost entirely drawn out) but I didn't want to jinx it!"

I ran down to Section 12, where we stood in a pair of empty seats for the last two innings; watched an improbable late-inning duel between Gordon and Leskanic, then saw Quantrill leave one over the plate, Ortiz crush it into the bullpen and the Sox live to see another day.

At the time, I'm not sure if we believed they now actually had a chance. We certainly had no idea that wed just witnessed the most famous stolen base in baseball history, or that after that game nothing would ever be the same. But it didnt matter.

We walked out of Fenway that night like we'd just won the World Series whatever that felt like. And we never looked back.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

ALCS: Judge, Sabathia lead Yankees past Astros, 8-1

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ALCS: Judge, Sabathia lead Yankees past Astros, 8-1

NEW YORK -- Back in the Bronx, the big guys delivered.

Greeted by an array of "All Rise" signs in a ballpark that fits their style, Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer and made a pair of sparkling catches, leading CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 8-1 Monday night and cutting their deficit to 2-1 in the AL Championship Series.

Todd Frazier hit a go-ahead, three-run homer into the short porch in right field in the second inning against Charlie Morton.

The 6-foot-7 Judge entered in a 4-for-31 (.129) postseason slump that included one home run, four RBIs and 19 strikeouts. The slugger capped a five-run fourth with a laser of a drive to left field off Will Harris and robbed Yuli Gurrieland Cameron Maybin of extra-base hits.

"You see a guy put his head basically through the wall and then dive," Frazier said. "The ground is going to shake when he hits the ground."

Sabathia, almost as big at 6-foot-6, allowed three hits over six scoreless innings for his first postseason win in five years. The Yankees stopped a seven-game ALCS losing streak dating to Sabathia's victory over Texas in 2010 - when Judge had just started his freshman year at Fresno State.

After a pair of 2-1 losses in Houston, the Yankees led 8-0 after four innings.

"Just the energy, the fans," Sabathia said. "We can kind of feed off their energy."

New York improved to 4-0 at home this postseason. The Yankees were an AL-best 51-30 at home this season.

"We're somewhat built for this ballpark," manager Joe Girardi said.

Houston scored on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth before postseason star Jose Altuve grounded into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.

Sonny Gray starts Game 4 for New York in the best-of-seven series on 11 days' rest Wednesday against Lance McCullers Jr.

Frazier got the Yankees rolling, taking an awkward hack at a low, outside fastball and slicing an opposite-field drive over the right-field scoreboard.

"You don't think it's going, just because how unorthodox the swing was," Frazier said.

Judge used his height and long left arm to make a leaping catch with his left shoulder slamming into the right-field wall against Gurriel starting the fourth.

Being a rookie, he politely waited outside the dugout for all the veterans to descend the steps after the third out - as he always does - then capped a five-run bottom half with a laser of a line drive that just cleared the left-field wall.

Then in the fifth, he sprinted into short right for a diving backhand catch on Maybin.

On the first chilly night of the autumn with a game-time temperature of 57, Sabathia relied on the sharp, slow slider that has helped revive the former flamethrower's career.

Pitching with caution to Houston's dangerous lineup, he walked four, struck out five and pitched shutout ball for the first time in 21 career postseason starts. During the regular season, he was 9-0 in 10 starts following Yankees' losses.

"It's weird, me being 37, smoke and mirrors, getting a shutout," Sabathia said.

Adam Warren followed with two hitless innings, Dellin Betances walked his only two batters and Tommy Kahnle finished. Houston had four hits, leaving it with just 15 over the first three games, and is batting .169 in the matchup.

Morton was chased after 3 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs and six hits: three infield singles, a bloop single to center, a double that Maybin allowed to fall in left and Frazier's homer.

'"'If you were to show me a video of the swing, show the pitch speed and the location, I would have never thought that," Morton said. "That was unbelievable."

A New Jersey native who grew up a Yankees fan, Frazier entered 7 for 18 against Morton with two home runs. With Frank Sinatra's version of "Fly Me to the Moon" as his walk-up music, Frazier hit not-quite a moonshot, driving a pitch just 18 1/2 inches above the dirt 365 feet with pretty much just his left arm. That gave the Yankees their first lead of the series.

Frazier motioned to his family in the stands and looked at his left wrist.

"I'm pointing to them and saying: What time is it? It's my time," he said.

He remembers sitting in the seats at old Yankee Stadium watching Jim Leyritz's 15th-inning home beat Seattle in the 1995 playoffs.

"It's such a cool feeling," Frazier said. "I wish everybody could feel basically what I'm going through."

Houston loaded the bases with two outs in the third on a pair of two-out walks around Alex Bregman's single. But Carlos Correa popped out on a fastball in on his fists.

"I know he likes to get his hands extended," Sabathia said.

Sabathia raised both arms and pointed toward Judge after his catch in the fourth.

"I don't know what got hurt worse, the wall or him," plate umpire Gary Cederstrom was heard to say by one of Fox's microphones.

New York broke open the game in the bottom half. Chase Headley hit a run-scoring infield single - ending an 0-for-28 slide by New York designated hitters in the postseason. Brett Gardner was hit on a leg by a pitch, loading the bases, and Harris came in and threw a wild pitch that allowed Frazier to come home from third.

"Judge did what Judge has done 50-plus times, which is hit the ball out of the ballpark when he gets a pitch to hit," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

ALTUVE'S WEB GEMS

Altuve made two fine stops on Did Gregorius, first a backhand stop on his third-inning grounder and then a shuffle pass to Harris covering first for the final out of the fourth after a hard grounder off first baseman Marwin Gonzalez's glove.

APPLAUSE

Girardi, booed by fans after failing to call for a replay in Game 2 of the Division Series, was cheered when introduced.

"It's a reminder of how quickly things can change in your life," he said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Yankees: RHP Luis Severino is on track to pitch a Game 6. He was removed after four innings and 62 pitches in Game 2 because Girardi felt he was "underneath" the ball. Girardi said Severino did not need any tests and is OK.

Asked whether Severino was understanding, Girardi said: "I think two days later, yes, a little bit more."

"I asked him if he still hated me, and he said, `no,'" Girardi added.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know who they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

MORE:

The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE