THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bob Ryan

Clutch, to their credit

J.D. Drew produced a lot of smiles with his late-inning heroics (two-run homer and winning walkoff single) in Game 5 Thursday night. J.D. Drew produced a lot of smiles with his late-inning heroics (two-run homer and winning walkoff single) in Game 5 Thursday night. (STEVE NESIUS/Associated Press)
By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / October 18, 2008
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Fans saw Coco's line drive. The manager saw what got him there.

Fans saw Papelbon's strikeouts. The manager felt he'd stolen an inning.

A writer wanted to know if he thought about Dave Roberts. The manager was already thinking about the lineup for St. Pete.

Point of view, you know?

But there was one thing the fans, the writers, and the manager could agree on.

"So we get to keep playing," said Terry Francona, "and that's really thrilling."

We now have another Game 5 to savor, another elimination game in which the Boston Red Sox did the Houdini thing. This time there was no one guy hoggin' the headlines, the way Dave Henderson did in 1986 with his unforgettable game-tying homer off Donnie Moore, or David Ortiz did in 2004 when he fouled off five consecutive Esteban Loaiza two-strike pitches before he dumped that game-winner into center.

Yes, J.D. Drew brought home the winning run in the Thursday night 8-7 masterpiece comeback with a smash over the head of Gabe Gross in the bottom of the ninth, but this will always be remembered as a group effort. This was no One-Man Show. This was "A Chorus Line."

Roll the credits, please:

  • Step forward, Mr. Jed Lowrie. Your team was glub-glubbing, held to a pair of hits during the six scoreless innings thrown by Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir when you awoke the dozing crowd with a double to start the seventh.

  • Step forward, Mr. Dustin Pedroia. You delivered a two-out single to drive Lowrie home with the first Boston run and keep the inning alive.

  • Step forward, Mr. David Ortiz. You broke a 15-game, 61-at-bat home run drought with a three-run shot off Grant Balfour to make it 7-4.

  • Step forward, Mr. Jonathan Papelbon. You gave up a two-run double to the first man you faced (B.J. Upton), and you didn't have your best stuff to start, but you huffed and puffed through 38 pitches and six valuable outs in a desperately needed two-inning outing. For this your manager thanks you. "Pap went out and threw another inning," said Francona. "He was gassed from the first inning."

  • Step forward, Mr. J.D. Drew. No one was sure we'd even see you in this series, but you followed Jason Bay's leadoff walk in the eighth with a two-run homer off Dan Wheeler to make it 7-6.

  • Step forward, Mr. Mark Kotsay. You were well on your way to setting a record for most well-struck long outs until you nailed one to deep left-center (more center than left, actually) with two outs and no one on in the eighth that Upton, who is still learning how to play center, couldn't quite track. Hey, you deserved a break.

  • Step forward, Mr. Coco Crisp. You fought and battled and scrapped against Wheeler with four consecutive 3-and-2 foul balls before drilling his 10th pitch on a line to right to score Kotsay with the tying run. "Coco's at-bat was probably the best at-bat he's had as a Red Sox, again because of the situation," said Francona.

  • Step forward, Mr. Justin Masterson. You have a way of making things interesting, putting men on first and second with one out in the Tampa Bay ninth. But you and your bowling-ball sinker got Carlos Peña on a sweet 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and keep the score tied at 7.

  • Step forward, Mr. Kevin Youkilis. You put on one of your customary 10-pitch at-bats with two away and nobody on in the ninth, chopping one toward third, where a charging Evan Longoria made a nice short-hop pickup before throwing it away and allowing you to reach second base.

  • Step forward one more time, Mr. Drew. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon walked Bay to get you up there against Rays lefthander J.P. Howell. You got the count to 3 and 1 before ripping one over the head of right fielder Gross to bring home Youkilis with the winning run.

    In the first half of the game, Red Sox public relations director John Blake must have made 79 announcements commemorating a Tampa Bay offensive achievement.

    "That's homers in four straight games for Evan Longoria."

    "Thirteen Tampa Bay home runs is a new ALCS record for series of any length."

    "B.J. Upton has just become the seventh player in LCS history to drive in 10 runs."

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think we got the point.

    Meanwhile, Maddon's decision to flip-flop James Shields and Kazmir to give the lefty a start in Fenway was looking pretty good when Kazmir stifled the Red Sox for six innings. Of course, being Scott Kazmir, he needed 109 pitches to do it, so he was finished after six. Hey, but not to worry. It was 7-0, and this year the Rays have a great bullpen.

    Usually.

    Nine hits and two walks (one intentional) later, the Red Sox were hopping on the bus and heading to Logan, while Balfour, Wheeler, and Howell were being booked by Tampa police on arson charges.

    "Listen," said Maddon. "It is what it is. I don't dwell on it. Nobody feels worse than the guys out of our bullpen right now. They've done a tremendous job all year.

    "Of course, we're upset. Of course, we don't like losing that game. Of course. But to dwell on it does no good whatsoever. We'll lose heart for about a half-hour or so, get on that plane, go home, and then we'll come back out for Game 6 and roll it out there again."

    Unlike Francona, he left out the "thrilling" part.

    Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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