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Chance at immortality swings his way

DENVER - Bobby Kielty had been sitting in the dugout for three games and seven innings, waiting for a moment that might never come.

And then it did. Top of the eighth, pitcher due to lead off, time for a pinch hitter.

"It's your turn," Sox manager Terry Francona told his part-time outfielder. "Go get 'em."

So the California redhead stepped in for Mike Timlin last night and with one swing of the bat made himself an immortal to Red Sox Nation.

"Probably the greatest moment I'll ever have in baseball," said Kielty, after he scored what proved to be the clinching run of the Series with a homer to left off Rockies lefthanded reliever Brian Fuentes. "The game-winning home run in the World Series."

How unlikely was this? The Athletics had released Kielty at the end of July after injuries had undermined his season. At 31, after seven years in the majors with three other clubs, he thought his career might be finished.

But the Red Sox picked him up as a minor league free agent Aug. 7, then called him up Aug. 18 and plugged him into the outfield, where he played 20 games down the stretch. He was added to the postseason roster and ended up playing two games against the Indians in the ALCS.

"It's a weird game," Kielty said. "You don't ever know where you're going to end up."

Once the Series started, though, and right fielder J.D. Drew had come to life at the plate, Kielty began gathering cobwebs on the bench. "I prepared myself to be ready for any situation," he said.

His number never came up in the two games in Boston, nor in the third one here. But with the teams playing under National League rules, bench players frequently find themselves called on to hit for the pitcher.

Francona, who knew he'd be sending in Hideki Okajima for Timlin in the bottom of the eighth, motioned for Kielty, who didn't need to be asked twice.

"I was so excited, I had butterflies," he confessed. Kielty had a sense that Fuentes, who used to be the Rockies' closer, wouldn't be fooling around with off-speed stuff to the lead batter.

So he waited for the fastball. "I was sitting on that like no other," Kielty said.

So he jumped on the first pitch, a cut fastball, and sent it soaring over the fence as his startled teammates leaped out of the dugout to bear witness.

"I felt like I was running on clouds," he said. "You start dreaming about something like that as a little kid."

That increased the Sox' lead to 4-1, just a bit of insurance. But when Okajima served up a two-run homer to Garrett Atkins in the bottom of the inning, it was 4-3. And Kielty's blow suddenly loomed huge.

"Bobby sitting around being a professional like he is," mused Francona. "Knowing what his job is, and putting a beautiful swing and [it] ends up making a difference."

When it was done, Kielty was standing in the raucous Boston clubhouse, wearing a World Series champion T-shirt that was drenched with Domaine Ste. Michelle bubbly, hugging the gilded trophy. "This went from one of the roughest years I've ever had to one of the best years I've ever had," Kielty said. "It's crazy how baseball works."

He may not be with the club next year. He may not ever play in the majors again. But one thing is certain - Bobby "One Swing" Kielty will never pay for a beer, or a glass of champagne, in the Hub for the rest of his life.

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