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Tick, tock

Ortiz keeps Red Sox alive with timely home run in Game 4

Posted: Monday October 18, 2004 1:58PM; Updated: Monday October 18, 2004 3:10PM
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Truth & Rumors: Hot seats: Wannstedt, Haslett
Lang Whitaker: One-on-one against Adu
Chris Ballard: Ortiz keeps Red Sox alive
More Blogs: Cannella | Wertheim | Deitsch
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We pick up the sort-of live blogging from Sunday night's ALCS Game 4 at ...

10:12 p.m.: This is it. If the Red Sox are ever going to do something, it's got to be now. It's the bottom of the fifth inning in Game 4. Two outs. Bases loaded. David Ortiz and his Abe Lincoln beard at the plate. El Duque blowing on his hands like it's 10-below. The 0-1 pitch ....

Base hit to center. Holy crap, the Sox actually have taken the lead. Good God, are we going to have a smidgen of drama in this series? The Fenway faithful are standing and clapping to that brain-numbing wohh-ohh-oh-oh-oh synthesizer chant.

10:20: FOX broadcaster Tim McCarver just called Tim Wakefield "Bill." This on the heels of the "Brandon" Arroyo mishaps. It's only a matter of time before he refers to Joe Buck as "Uncle."

10:24: What a surprise, it's the triple crown of overplayed ALCS commercials: Carmen Electra toting a beer gut for DirecTV (thanks for that image, guys), what appear to be Darius Rucker and Bea Arthur look-alikes for Midas (a truly annoying jingle) and a clip from My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss. Can't say I'm one for reality shows -- fellow bloggers Josh Elliott and Albert Chen may rank their "top five" but I would be hard-pressed to rank one -- but this looks pretty funny. Though I suspect I may have just seen every comic moment in that 30 seconds.

10:30: There went the Boston lead and -- just for a change of pace -- Hideki Matsui was involved. This guy is a machine. Which makes one wonder: does anybody care about Jason Giambi right about now? Wasn't he the Yankees best player only a year ago? Wonder where Jason is watching the game, and how painful that is.

10:36: The crowd is chanting "Pokey! Pokey!" after Mark Bellhorn failed to make a play on a Tony Clark bouncer to second. Yankees lead 4-3. Yeah, the answer to all your problems is Pokey Reese. Got a bad feeling that this lead is going to hold. But I will continue to sit here and watch, taunted intermittently by that freaky AOL instant messenger icon Fox has throwing curveballs after replays.

11:01: They're bringing in Keith Foulke with one out in the seventh, down 4-3. This can't be good. McCarver thinks Terry Francona's treating the seventh inning as if it were the ninth (because Mariano Rivera will come in in the eighth). I don't buy it. I think Francona's doing it because every other one of his relievers has been horrendous and, if by some miracle Foulke can pitch two scoreless innings and Boston takes the lead, he'll pull out Curt Schilling to close in the ninth. Of course that won't happen, but how great would it be if it did (shades of classic Randy Johnson)?

11:19: Bernie Williams makes a sliding catch to send it to the eighth still 4-3.

11:24: Humor, McCarver style: "If the double play is a pitcher's best friend, what is a fielder's choice? An acquaintance?"

11:24:30: Awkward silence from Buck and Al Leiter. Leiter makes a half-hearted attempt to play along -- "a distant relative?" -- but he shouldn't feel compelled to save McCarver from himself.

11:28: Foulke was just caught on camera clearing a nostril Kentucky-style. Now that is family viewing.

11:47: Sox still down 4-3. This annual Red Sox heartbreak seems so inevitable, like a movie where you see someone die in the first scene and then, two hours of backstory later, even though you know this person is going to die, you don't want to believe it.

12:05: Pinch runner Dave Roberts steals second base -- barely -- in the ninth inning, with Boston still down 4-3. Gutsy move. If he scores, it validates Boston GM Theo Epstein's acquisition of the speedster.

12:06: Validation. Bill Mueller singles up the middle and Roberts scores. Tie score, 4-4. That was beautiful baseball. I want to believe, but then these are the Red Sox, the agnostics of baseball.

12:11: Fitting. We're back where this blog started: Ortiz at the plate with a chance to make a lot of people very, very happy. Bases loaded. C'mon, big guy.

12:17: Ortiz pops out. We're going to the 10th. Which means another 75 close-ups of Boston fans with hands clasped and hats turned rallyward.

12:33: You got your Pokey, and your Pokey just watched a called third strike. We head to the 11th. This game may never end. There will be some groggy people at the office in the morning. Fortunately, I have an excuse: I am working right now.

12:52: Curtis Leskanic is coming in with the bases loaded. Apparently, the Red Sox want to make sure everyone can go to bed as soon as possible.

1:01: I apologize to Mr. Leskanic and his family. A nice exit from the inning.

1:15: Fox just showed people at Fenway slumped over, apparently sleeping. Which makes me think of a story in today's New York Times about MetroNaps, a business in midtown Manhattan. For $14, you can sit in a "sleep pod" for 20 minutes. Isn't that what the men's room stalls at work are for?

1:23: Ortiz absolutely mashes one to right. It could be ... it is ... gone! Game over. Red Sox win,  6-4. His teammates are skipping toward home plate like a bunch of fourth-graders headed to recess. Fenway's going nuts. You've gotta love Ortiz. He's offense personified: yank-the-head swing, clutch hitter, couldn't outrun a Roomba if he got a 10-yard head start. Game 5 coming up in fewer than 16 hours.

Non-baseball ...

A few weeks back, I spent part of an afternoon with Jazz point guard Carlos Arroyo for SI's NBA preview issue (which comes out this week). For those unfamiliar, the Arroyo story unfolds thusly: kid from Puerto Rico stars at Florida International University, goes undrafted and bounces around NBA and Europe, signs with Utah as its third point guard, is mentored by John Stockton, inherits the starting job, stars at Olympics. Now he's the starter for a revamped Jazz team. Without dwelling on Arroyo's play too much -- as that's covered in the magazine, which you should buy lest we assault you with pop-up ads -- here are a few observations.

1. Sometimes, athletes are just as excited as anyone else to see their photo in the paper. On the day I met Arroyo, the Salt Lake Tribune sports section featured a half-page shot of him in his Puerto Rico jersey as part of a Jazz preview. Upon seeing it, he brightened up like a 12-year-old handed his first wrist rocket and exclaimed, "Now this is very cool." He then held the paper up at arm's length to admire himself from afar, checked the rest of the section for more photos and concluded: "I gotta get one of these." I told him he could have my copy but he shook his head, as if I were offering him my last $5. "This is yours man, I can't take it."

2. It used to be that ballplayers rolled in baggy sweats or windpants or some other Nike-approved wardrobe. Arroyo showed up in a light blue Izod polo shirt, crisp khaki shorts and topsiders. If it weren't for the giant diamond earring, he could have been straight out of James Spader's clique in Pretty in Pink. For those of us who lived through the '80s in America the first time around, it is surreal to see high schoolers today strutting around with their preppy collars up. If fashion is indeed cyclical, I suppose that means that parachute pants are up next. Here's to hoping fashion doesn't hit for the cycle.

3. Gotta love an NBA player who can't wait to go home and play on the outdoor courts with his old buddies. Arroyo says that's the first thing he wanted to do when he returned to Puerto Rico after the Olympics. "I probably shouldn't say this because I'll get in trouble," he confided conspiratorially, "but I still play anywhere." He listed off gyms in Miami, courts in his hometown of Fajardo, Puerto Rico and a number of other places. I could relate to the jones: ever since high school, I've carried a pair of hightops in the trunk of my car, just in case I happen upon a game, and have gone to unhealthy lengths to play ball when on the road (I even wrote a book about pick-up basketball a few years back). More recently, I take them with me when I travel for SI stories. So if you're ever in Denver, I'd recommend the noon run at the health club attached to the Embassy Suites. In Indianapolis, the NIFS. And in New Orleans, last week I played in the afternoon game at the University of New Orleans (nice gym but laid-back games). Got a recommendation? Pass it along.

Quick thoughts

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1. Friday Night Lights -- so close to being a really good sports movie. Differences from the book aside -- and there are a number, including the inevitable schmaltz-ing up -- a few things stopped me. First off, the football is generally good, but there is one tackle late in the movie where a defender comes flying in as if he's jumped off the roof of a one-story building. It's pure Waterboy and actually made me laugh during what's supposed to be a gritty sequence. Second, the actor playing Boobie Miles looks like he's about 25 years old (probably because the actor, Derek Luke, is actually 29), while the entirety of the Dallas Carters team not only look like they're in their 30s but as if they were just released from doing 10-15 at the local clank. Finally, and this is petty but it did pull me out of the movie momentarily: when Tim McGraw appeared with his shirt off, it looked as if he was wearing a wolf pelt on his chest. Slap an undershirt on that man.

2. Nothing to do with sports but click here if you've got 10 minutes and want to see Tucker Carlson eviscerated on his own show. Jon Stewart clearly came in ready to make a statement, which can be summed up as: he will not be Carlson's primate.

In response to songs about athletes, Joseph J. Finn from Chicago wrote in to nominate Belle & Sebastian's Mike Piazza. Michael Loncar from Youngstown, Ohio (by long, long way of Taipei) nominates the Warren Zevon song Boom Boom Mancini, off of the album Sentimental Hygiene. Writes Loncar: "The chorus is brilliant -- Hurry on Home, Boom Boom Mancini's fighting Tommy Chacone -- now that's a great boxing song."

Because, of course, there are so many boxing songs out there.

John Marine from Lake Placid wrote in not to nominate a song but to pass along the following link as a Caption This. It proves, I suppose, that you're never too young to ogle.

The O in Owen stands for 'Ornery'

The e-mails from Owen trickled in this week, as opposed to the usual deluge. The lack of drama, or even a compelling storyline, in the Red Sox-Yankees series probably had something to do with it. On Sunday morning, however, Owen sent along a missive entitled "My New Commitment to Hating." In it, he laid out a credo in the wake of his unsuccessful detesting of the Yankees. "Henceforth, I will try to hate only those who have a reasonable chance of losing already (exception made for George W. Bush). After last night's performance, Boston both qualifies and deserves it."

All there is left to root for in the playoffs, he argued, is "that that [obscene adjective relating to maternal relations] Roger Clemens does not go to the World Series with another pre-fab contender."

As for Boston, he writes, "Since the Sox will be dismantled this year, this is it. They will need another three years to Moneyball together a crop of OPS/OBP machines that, like the model franchise in the bestseller, also fails to succeed in the playoffs. Who is left to challenge the Yankees?"

A good question. Expect an answer, complete with sabermetric analysis, later this week from Danny Habib. Until next Monday.

Chris Ballard is a staff writer for Sports Illustrated and writes a Daily Blog every Monday for SI.com.