Sweet Caroline. Good times never seemed so good.
The Red Sox last night won their 12th consecutive game, which ties for the third-longest winning streak in the 106-year history of the franchise. They beat the NL East-leading Mets, 4-2, improving their record to 14-1 against the National League. The Sox have not made an error since the Nixon Administration (actually it's June 11, 16 games, which ties a major league record) and they lead the Yankees by four games. It's almost beginning to look like Secretariat in the Belmont around here, but we'd better not say that.
Still, it's hard to argue with a 9-0 homestand that ends with Curt Schilling earning his 202d career victory while David Ortiz hits his 200th career homer and Coco Crisp makes a catch worthy of the best of Yaz, Fred Lynn, or Jimmy Piersall.
As the late, great Ned Martin used to say . . . ``Mercy."
``You can tell this team feeds off the home crowd," said Mark Loretta (home run, two hits, one defensive gem), who toiled in mundane major league outposts in Milwaukee, Houston, and San Diego before coming to Hardball's Happiest Place On Earth. ``There isn't an atmosphere like this anywhere else in baseball. It gives us a distinct home-field advantage."
The Red Sox are 27-10 at Fenway, where they have sold out 263 consecutive games.
``Guys were upset losing three games in a row in Minnesota," recalled Kevin Youkilis (game-winning RBI, one defensive gem). ``We sort of got mad in Atlanta, but that's where we got our fans back. Then coming home was great. It was a long homestand and we got to enjoy the good times in Fenway Park."
No good time was better than the moment Crisp made his catch-for-the-ages, snagging a heat-seeking missile off the bat of David Wright in the eighth. Running to his right, Crisp dived and while fully extended gloved the ball, which appeared to have already screeched past his outstretched body.
Youkilis said Crisp's catch was ESPY worthy. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he'd never seen a better play under those circumstances. Schilling said it might have been the best catch he'd seen. And a wooden actor in a NESN promo said, (for the millionth time) ``Did you see the catch that Coco made?"
``It was one of the most exciting moments I've ever had on a baseball field," said Loretta. ``Everybody in the infield just raised their hands on instinct."
Crisp's catch made Schilling a winner on a night when 487 wins took the mound at Fenway (probably the most victories on a Boston pitching mound since old Cy Young stood alone on the hill over at the South End Grounds in 1911). The marquee matchup featured 40-year-old Tom Glavine vs. 39-year-old Schilling (and how often is Schill the ``kid" in any matchup these days?). Not an everyday occurrence. Not even an every-decade happening. It was the first matchup of 200-game winners at Fenway since Baltimore's Jim Palmer went mano-a-mano with Luis Tiant Sept. 11, 1978.
Schilling came into the night with 201 victories, compared with 286 for Billerica's Glavine. Their combined record this season was 20-4. They'd faced one another multiple times in the National League, but never in front of a crowd like this.
Fans hoped to see a memorable duel, something like the Schilling-Johan Santana joust at the Metrodome a couple of weeks ago. Let the record show Schilling was the last 200-game winner standing. Glavine was in the showers before getting a man out in the sixth, while Big Schill worked seven before turning a 3-2 lead over to Mike Timlin.
Schilling gave up seven hits and two runs, walking one, and striking out six. He threw 103 pitches, 70 for strikes. Glavine worked five-plus, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks. He had zero strikeouts and threw 102 pitches, 64 for strikes. It wasn't Smoky Joe Wood vs. Walter Johnson, circa 1912, but for 2006 it wasn't bad.
``We ran into a hot ball club at the wrong time," said Mets manager Willie Randolph.
The Sox hit the road after the game and play three in Florida this weekend. A win tonight would give these Sox a tie for the second-longest winning streak in franchise history. If the Sox sweep an NL East team for the fifth consecutive time, they tie the franchise's all-time record of 15 straight, which was set when Ted Williams and Friends won a pennant in 1946. Still, it's a shame they had to leave town. The way they played on this homestand, it looked like they could continue indefinitely, making every catch, getting every crucial out, and driving home every important run.
Say it again, Ned.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.