CINCINNATI - So, this is what happens when the Red Sox visit here for the first time since 1975 (when Pete Rose Way was a style of play and not the name of a street), the Reds proudly show off their World Series trophy from that season, and Johnny Bench parks out in front of Great American Ball Park, signing autographs.
The stakes were different, of course, the standings and calendar dictating far more ordinary circumstances. But the game was a keeper, the Sox prevailing, 6-4, in 10 innings on consecutive home runs by Kevin Youkilis and Coco Crisp after the Reds, down to their last strike, tied it on Edwin Encarnacion's home run off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.
Was there anything this game didn't have?
"I don't think so," said Sox manager Terry Francona on a day the Sox scored their first two runs on a catcher's overthrow and a wild pitch, had a runner steal a base against them and get caught stealing on the same play, had a 600-home run hitter ground into a rally-killing double play on a 3-and-0 pitch, then won with back-to-back home runs in extra innings, something that had happened just three times before in club history.
"We had heard this ballpark played pretty small, and I agree," added Francona.
Nothing so unforgettable as Zim yelling "No, no, no," while Denny Doyle was hearing "Go, go, go," Dewey's catch in the corner, and Pudge waving the ball fair, but all hugely entertaining and satisfying to the Sox, especially for Youkilis, who grew up a Reds fan, starred for the University of Cincinnati, and was playing here for the first time as a big leaguer.
"Definitely a good thrill to hit one in that situation," said Youki lis, who struck out his first two at-bats in front of a group of 140 family members and friends, then went RBI single, double, and home run with his last three swings. "To hit it in Cincinnati is a great honor and a great thrill, because who knows, after tomorrow I may not have another chance to play here."
The only guy who may have been more surprised than Manny Delcarmen, who induced his childhood hero, Ken Griffey Jr., to ground into a first-and-third, one-out double play by jamming him with a 3-and-0 fastball to end the eighth, was Craig Hansen. He was in the bullpen bathroom when he got the word he would be getting the ball in the bottom of the 10th, Papelbon having expended 26 pitches in ninth-inning labors that resulted in a blown save when Encarnacion drove a 2-and-2 hanging splitter into the left-field seats.
"Encarnacion's at-bat was a good at-bat," Francona said. "Paps threw him everything in that at-bat, but couldn't get his fastball by him. You're down to one strike and you're the visitors in the ballpark and then you have to keep playing, that's tough. The good thing is, we kept playing."
Hansen recorded his first big-league save, though not without some anxious moments, Jolbert Cabrera singling with two outs, then strolling to third against an overshifted defense while Griffey walked. When Hansen went ball one to Brandon Phillips, who already had hit one of the Reds' two home runs off Tim Wakefield (Adam Dunn had the other), pitching coach John Farrell went to the mound.
"We don't usually like to do that in the middle of an at-bat," Francona said, "but Farrell reeled him back in, and it was 'Let's go home.' "
The Sox were playing without David Ortiz and Manny Ramírez for only the second time this season. The first time had not gone well - they lost, 8-0, to the Mariners June 6.
They were down one more bat because they were in a National League park, which means no DH.
"Today our lineup doesn't look like it normally looks," Francona had said before the game, one in which they were facing Reds sensation Edinson Volquez, the former Ranger who had made 10 straight quality starts and would make it 11 yesterday, holding the Sox to three runs (two earned) in seven innings while striking out nine.
"That doesn't mean we can't win, it's just not the team we drew up."
And they did prevail. Jacoby Ellsbury created a run by singling, taking second on a wild pitch, stealing third and scoring when Reds catcher Paul Bako threw the ball into left field.
They scored their next run when J.D. Drew, who just missed two home runs, tripled and scored on a wild pitch, and a third run when they strung together three hits, the first an infield hit by Dustin Pedroia, who has been fighting a slump but had two hits yesterday.
Wakefield, meanwhile, gave the Sox seven strong innings for the fourth straight start, limiting the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those starts. He also showed his court awareness in the second when he alertly covered third when Phillips stole second against an overshifted Sox defense and tried to take what he thought was an unoccupied base. Wakefield tagged Phillips out.
Not bad speed for a 42-year-old, someone said to Wakefield.
"I'm 41," he said. "I'm not 42 yet."
The Sox looked like they had this one safely in hand when they scored a run in the eighth off David Weathers, Drew doubling and scoring on Mike Lowell's single to make it 4-2. The advantage could have been even bigger when Youkilis followed with a double to center, but third base coach DeMarlo Hale gambled and sent Lowell with no outs, and he was cut down at the plate.
That decision looked even more costly when Hideki Okajima gave up a broken-bat single and walk and Javier Valentin hit Delcarmen's first pitch for an RBI single, with Griffey, who hit his 600th home run just five days earlier, coming to the plate.
Delcarmen's first three pitches were wide, but he said he'd been alerted to the possibility that Griffey might not be taking. In 2005, Griffey had put three balls in play on a 3-and-0 count, and all three went for hits, two for home runs. Since then, he's 1 for 9 when swinging on 3-and-0, including the ground ball that Pedroia turned for a double play, then ran into the dugout, pumping his fist.
"It's always good to have a heads-up on guys like that in the lineup," Delcarmen said. "A guy with 600 home runs, and my favorite player growing up as a kid - [I was a] center fielder, skinnier back in the day when I wasn't pitching - lucky I got the ball in, and low enough where he wanted to get at it, and I saw Petey turn it.
"He doesn't get down the line like he used to. Pretty good feeling."
An even better one when the Sox recovered from the shock of Encarnacion taking Papelbon deep, Youkilis hitting his 11th home run of the season, and Crisp following with his first homer in more than a month (May 11), both off reliever Mike Lincoln and both landing almost in the same spot in the center-field bleachers.
"These are a lot of fun," Francona said.
"We didn't play it the way we envisioned, but everybody's involved, which is a fun way to play. But that's not the way we drew up our team."