The Boston Red Sox from 2004 inspired a library’s value of books, special editions and documentaries that tell their miraculous run to world series champions. This team, affectionately known as the “Idiots”, ended the franchise’s 86-year drought in the World Series. Breaking the curse made them one of the most famous and beloved teams in baseball history.
Now, in 2020, the Houston Astros are trying to match one of Boston’s historic accomplishments: the Red Sox are the only team in the major leagues after season history to win a best-of-7 series after losing the first three games. The Astros forced Saturday’s game 7 with a 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Petco Park in San Diego.
Astros, of course, do not have a sweet nickname. Baseball fans across the country may have a different name for them, but it̵
Astros are aware of the story they are chasing. Alex Bregman got his teammates to watch the documentary “Four Days in October” about the Red Sox before Game 5. Well, some of his teammates anyway; Michael Brantley said he had not heard of it. Still, with the Astros on the verge of matching Boston’s achievement, let’s see what kind of comparisons we can find between what happened in 2004 and what the Astros do in 2020.
The first three games
Think of all the mental baggage the Red Sox had to deal with: They struggled with the curse; they had lost a heartbreaking 2003 American League Championship Series to the Yankees in seven games; and then the Yankees threw them in the first three games of 2004 with scores of 10-7, 3-1 and 19-8. On top of that, staff Curt Schilling was battling an ankle injury and had been bombed in Game 1. The Red Sox did not know if he would strike again in the series.
The Astros have their own baggage with the offseason cheating revelation that made them the most hated team in the majors (and their own ace, Justin Verlander, has been out since August after Tommy John surgery). A big difference here is that they had been close in the first three games. Jose Altuve made two crucial throwing errors and the Rays played excellent defense, especially in Game 3; but the Astros hit well and they not only overtook the Rays 26-18, but hit the ball more often more often.
The Red Sox had a carefree attitude and maybe he was down 3-0 less pressure on them. They also knew they were as good as the Yankees, after going 11-8 against them in the regular season.
The Astros knew they needed a few breaks to start going their way, and that while luck did not always even go out in a short series if they continued to hit the ball hard, there were good results.
“So far, things have really not gone our way,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said after game 3. “We really have our backs up against the wall. It’s a steep mountain to climb, but it’s not impossible. We just have to to tighten our belts, put on our big boy pants and get out and fight tomorrow. “
In Game 4 of ALCS, Dave Roberts shifts second base to the Red Sox, who created the game-binding run and remarkable comeback in the series.
Despite the positive stance heading into the game, the Red Sox found themselves 4-3 at the bottom of the ninth with the invincible Mariano Rivera in the game. You know what happened. Kevin Millar started with a five-pitch walk. Pinch runner Dave Roberts stole second – barely – and Bill Mueller pointed him home. Forgotten: David Ortiz jumped out with the bases loaded to end the round. Ortiz delivered three innings later, though with a walk-off, two-run home run from Paul Quantrill.
Most teams do not even get to a game 5. Of the 39 best of seven series that were 3-0, 28 ended in sweeps. Most teams are physically tired and mentally exhausted after a long season, and winning four in a row against a good team can feel useless.
The Astros took an early 2-0 lead, the Rays tied it, but then George Springer hit a two-run home run from Tyler Glasnow in the fifth inning – the winning blow in the final 4-3 victory. In fact, Houston’s luck eventually turned in the ninth, when Willy Adames’ RBI double from the wall in the center left missed being a game-binding home run by a few yards.
Springer went 3-for-4 in the game, while Altuve went 2-for-4 with a home run and double. The Red Sox had Ortiz, one of the most clutch postseason hitters ever, but the Astros have Springer and Altuve. Check out the career post-season lines for the three (into Game 6 for Springer and Altuve):
Springer: .274 / .353 / .560, 19 HRs in 252 ABs
Altuve: .298 / .368 / .560, 18 HRs in 248 ABs
Ortiz: .289 / .404 / .543, 17 HRs in 304 ABs
Astros players held a prelude meeting, but Baker even laughed a bit of it after the game. “I think of us as a society, we meet sometimes too much. All we do is state the obvious,” Baker said. “We’re about to be eliminated if we lose this game tonight, nobody’s ready to go home, we’m ready to go to Dallas.” In other words, it’s about talking to your bats, and it was no surprise that Houston’s versions of David Ortiz came through with the big hits.
Only three of the 39 teams that were down 3-0 had pushed it to six games before the Astros. The Red Sox pulled off another dramatic win, winning 5-4 on 14 innings on Ortiz’s two-out, walk-off single. The Yankees actually led 4-2 into the bottom of the eighth, but Ortiz homer Tom Gordon, Millar went and Trot Nixon singled. Only then did Rivera enter the game and give up the tie-in on a sacrificial fly. Maybe if Joe Torre brought Rivera in for a two-in-save – as the manager often did – things would have been different. However, Rivera had thrown 40 spots in Game 4, and Gordon had been excellent that year.
The big difference between the Red Sox and the Astros? The Red Sox had a pretty good No. 2 starter in Game 5: Pedro Martinez. Dusty Baker had to improvise and go with a bullpen play, choosing to avoid starting Framber Valdez in short rest and holding No. 5 starter Cristian Javier in relief. The first five pitchers that Baker used were rookies. The Rays hit three home runs, but all were solo shots. Springer met at first, and then Correa came up at the bottom of the ninth with the game tied.
Correa called his shot: “When I got into that bat, I told Altuve to get off the field. [that] ‘I’m finishing it.’ I could feel like my swing was in sync, I could feel like my rhythm was good, I could feel like I wanted to run the ball, and I felt like I could do it. “
He did. And just like that, the whole momentum was now in Houston’s favor. They were still alive, they had their top starters ready for Game 6, the hits were falling, and the pressure was now on Tampa Bay.
As it turned out, Schilling was able to throw again. An important – and often forgotten – note about the 2004 series is that Game 3 was originally calculated so that the last five games were played over five days without a day off before Game 6. Due to rainfall, Martinez was able to start games 5 with regular rest so Schilling can be pushed back another day. Schilling had a temporary procedure performed on his ankle, so this was the famous Bloody Sock game. He allowed a run over seven innings, Mark Bellhorn hit a three-run home run and the Red Sox won 4-2.
Refusing to panic in Game 5 meant Baker was able to start Valdez at full rest. Again, there was some luck here. If game 5 had gone to the 10th inning, Baker said Valdez would join. Correa’s home run not only won Game 5, but it probably also won Game 6. Valdez allowed a six-innings run, and Kevin Cash’s quick hook by starter Blake Snell in the fifth inning after a walk and base hit hit back when the Astros scored four runs. to take a 4-1 lead.
Both leaders in 2004 were in a bind. Terry Francona had no clear option. His rotation had gone Schilling, Martinez, Bronson Arroyo, Derek Lowe, Martinez and Schilling. Arroyo had thrown an inning of relief in Game 6. Francona went with Lowe for two days of rest. Torres rotation had gone Mike Mussina, Jon Lieber, Kevin Brown, Orlando Hernandez, Mussina and Lieber. Javier Vazquez was the solid fifth starter, but he had thrown 96 lanes to relieve Brown in Game 3 after Brown only lasted two innings. The game eventually turned into a blowout, but Torre ended up burning two starting pitchers. Brown had only thrown 57 spots, so Torre went with him for three days of rest. Bad choice. Ortiz — yes again – hit a two-run homer in the first; and with the bases loaded in the second, Vazquez replaced Brown, and Johnny Damon met him with a grand slam. The Red Sox won 10-3.
For the Astros and Rays, neither Baker nor Cash are in the same scramble state with their pitching staffs. Play 2-starters Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton will rest regularly. Because Game 6 turned into a decisive loss, the Rays were able to save all of their best relievers, with the exception of Diego Castillo, who threw 14 lanes. Manuel Margot’s two-run home run in the eighth forced Baker to use closer Ryan Pressly for the third straight day, so that’s a minor issue; but Pressly had a fast, nine-pitch inning, and he has thrown 39 lanes over those three games. He’s ready.
But like the game at Yankee Stadium in 2004, you wonder if it comes to the first two innings and not the ninth. You could see the dichotomy in emotion at a game in the sixth inning of Game 6. It was 5-1 at the time, but the Rays put two on with one out against Valdez who had just passed Yandy Diaz, where the two exchanged words after that Diaz barked at Valdez after ball four. Valdez now approached 100 seats and was tiring but he got Brandon Lowe to hit a double play, Lowe slammed his helmet down on the ground as he crossed over first base. Valdez pumped his first and celebrated with Correa and Altuve as he walked off the field. After this game, I texted a friend to “This series is over.”
I know. Baseball should not be like that. Momentum is a word used by writers and experts, not players. But the frustration of the rays is there. We can see that.
“They are frustrated. We are all frustrated,” Cash said. “I do not think they are tightening up. I think they recognize that we now have the opportunity for the fourth time to do something special. And have confidence that we can find ways to really compete and get the bats going. , score some runs for Charlie and find a way to win. “
Diaz’s action of hubris reminded me of the infamous Alex Rodriguez-Bronson Arroyo incident from Game 6 in 2004, when Rodriguez swatted the ball out of Arroyo’s glove and was called out for interference. As with Diaz, the thought was, “What was he thinking? Why are you yelling at your opponent after taking a turn?” Similarly, when Snell was removed, he uttered the words, “What f — are we doing?” Mike Zunino snapped his bat after a strike. That lead in the 3-0 series feels like a long time ago.
“We are relentless and when we say we do not want to go home, we really meant it. We will continue to play baseball and we do not want this to be the end of our season,” Correa said. “We took care of those three games and now we have to take care of one more. If we don’t win that game, it all means nothing. We have to go out there tomorrow and get that win.”