Heroes always emerge on the grandest stages, and baseball is no different. Over their playoff appearances since 1967, the Red Sox have had their fair share of playoff stars, and they haven’t always been the biggest names or highest-paid players. Some were singular moments, others were more extensive contributions. Here’s a look back at some of the top individual playoff performances the Red Sox have gotten.
The stage was set. Game 6, 2004 ALCS. The Red Sox had been down three games to none to the vaunted New York Yankees, but Boston picked up two of the most dramatic playoff wins in baseball history in Games 4 and 5 at Fenway Park to stay alive.
Enter Schilling. The big righthander, who was hammered at Yankee Stadium in Game 1, took the mound in the Bronx again with his ailing right ankle stitched together and deadened with a painkiller. In one of the gutsiest pitching performances in Red Sox history, Schilling gave up just one run on four hits and no walks in seven innings.
The Red Sox prevailed in the must-win game 4-2, and the American League Championship Series would come down to a Game 7.
You know the rest of the story.
Down three runs in the eighth inning and facing elimination against the vaunted Cincinnati Reds in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Carbo came in to pinch hit and after two horrendous swings, hit a three-run homer to dead center to tie the game, sending Fenway Park into a frenzy and setting up Carlton Fisk’s 12th-inning walkoff home run off the foul pole.
The Globe’s Stan Grossfeld wrote a terrific piece on the wild and crazy life and times of Carbo
in April 2010.
Damon had been a woeful 3 for 29 with three runs scored in the first six games of the series 2004 ALCS, but with one smooth swing of the bat, Damon launched the shot that broke the back of the New York Yankees and sealed the greatest postseason series comeback in baseball history.
Damon belted a second-inning grand slam home run in Game 7 that gave the Red Sox a 6-0 lead. Damon later added a two-run homer as the Sox rolled over New York that night, 10-3, to clinch the pennant in Yankee Stadium.
The Olde Towne team proceeded to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to win its first World Series in 86 years.
In Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS, with the Sox trailing the series 3-2, Drew’s first inning grand slam off Fausto Carmona turned the tide and knocked the wind out of a stacked Cleveland Indians team. Drew finished the game with five RBIs and the Red Sox beat the Indians 12-2.
The Sox would go on to crush Cleveland, 11-2, in Game 7 at Fenway. Next the Sox swept the Rockies to win their second World Series title in four years.
“The pitch . . . To left field, and deep, and (Brian) Downing goes back. And it’s gone! Unbelievable! You’re looking at one for the ages here. Astonishing! Anaheim Stadium was one strike away from turning into Fantasyland! And now the Red Sox lead 6-5! The Red Sox get four runs in the ninth on a pair of two-run homers by Don Baylor and Dave Henderson.” — Al Michaels, ABC-TV describing Hendu’s dramatic home run in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS.
In Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, with the Sox down 4-3 to the Yankees in the ninth inning, Roberts stole second base to keep the Sox alive. It was the most memorable swipe in Red Sox history.
Roberts pinch-ran for Kevin Millar. Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera would keep Roberts close, but he sprinted to second on the first pitch to Bill Mueller and slid head-first into the bag.
Jorge Posada’s throw was just inches to the shortstop side and the quick tag by Derek Jeter was a split-second too late. Mueller followed with a single, scoring Roberts with the tying run.
The Sox went on to win in 12 innings and begin their run of eight straight wins, culminating in a World Series title.
“It has truly impacted my life,” Roberts said in 2005. “People are often remembered for one thing in their career, whether it’s good or bad. Fortunately for me, that stolen base is embedded in people’s minds.”
“Gentleman” Jim Lonborg had 22 wins and 246 strikeouts to lead the AL and win the Cy Young Award in 1967. But he solidified his legacy in Boston when he threw a complete game to clinch the pennant by beating Dean Chance and the Minnesota Twins on the last day of the season at Fenway to send the Red Sox to the World Series for the first time since 1946.
In his first World Series start, Lonborg retired the first 19 batters he faced, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning to beat the powerhouse St. Louis Cardinals with a one-hitter, 5-0. Lonborg next led Boston to a 3-1 win by yielding just three hits in Game 5 to pull the series with three games to two.
Lonborg’s winning ways would come to an end in Game 7 when, on only two days rest, he was outdueled by Cards ace Bob Gibson as St. Louis took the Series.
Pedro Martinez had started Game 1 of the 1999 ALDS against the Indians, but left the game in the fourth inning with back pain. The Sox would lose the first two games of the series, but they came back to tie it in Boston, and headed back to Cleveland for the deciding Game 5.
After Brett Saberhagen and Derek Lowe spotted the Tribe eight runs, a still-sore Pedro entered the game in relief in the fourth inning with the score tied 8-8. With no one really knowing how much help Pedro could provide in relief, the Red Sox ace went out and hurled six innings of no-hit baseball and Troy O’Leary’s grand slam blew the game open.
Boston would win one of the wildest playoff games in history 12-8 and go on to face the Yankees in the ALCS.
“WAAAAAY BAAAACCCK, grand slam Troy O’Leary,” was the famous radio call of Jerry Trupiano during the 1999 ALDS Game 5 in Cleveland, where O’Leary hit two home runs, a three-run shot and a grand slam, in the dramatic 12-8 win that launched the Red Sox into the ALCS to face the Yankees. 1999 was O’Leary’s best season in Boston as he had career highs in homers (28), RBIs (103), and doubles (36).
Two magical nights. Two comeback postseason wins.
On Oct. 17, 2004, Ortiz’s two-run homer in the 12th inning gave the Red Sox the 6-4 victory to stay alive in the American League Championship Series vs. New York.
On Oct. 18, for the second straight night, the Red Sox scored the tying run against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. And for the second straight night (left), Ortiz was the hero in extra innings as the Sox took Game 5 to send the series back to New York.
With two outs in the 14th inning, Ortiz came up against Yankees righthander Esteban Loaiza and after after nine pitches, Big Papi knocked a single into center field that dropped in front of Bernie Williams as Johnny Damon sped home with the winning run.
As you know by now, the Sox went back to New York to take care of business in Yankee Stadium in Games 6 and 7.