EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 4, 2013

Boston Strong: Sox' first April 20 comeback tops list of best games

By Christopher Smith

---- — You want excitement? Then you should have been inside rocking Fenway Park — arguably the loudest it has ever been — when the Boston Red Sox clinched the World Series title Wednesday.

Another loud (and extremely shocking) moment at the Fens during the playoffs was when David Ortiz smashed his eighth-inning grand slam that tied Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers when Boston was on the verge of trailing 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

Want one more postseason memory? How about when Shane Victorino stroked his seventh-inning grand slam over the Green Monster in Game 6 of the ALCS?

But that drama certainly wasn’t anything new. Red Sox fans received equal excitement during the 162-game regular season.

Here are my picks for the top six games from the improbable regular season:

6. “Lackey! Lackey! Lackey!”

Sept. 19

Summary: John Lackey hurled a complete-game two-hitter to clinch the Red Sox a playoff berth Sept. 19 with a 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

After a three-year playoff drought, the Red Sox secured a spot with 9.0 strong innings from Lackey and Stephen Drew, who tripled, homered and drove in two runs.

“Lackey! Lackey! Lackey!” the Fenway Faithful chanted as Lackey mowed down the Orioles 1-2-3 in the ninth inning.

Little did anyone know back then, that the Lackey magic and chant would happen again in clinching Game 6 of the 2013 World Series over the Cardinals.

5. Lester’s Near No-No

May 10

Summary: Jon Lester flirted with a no-hitter May 10, hurling a complete game one-hit shutout in Boston’s 5-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The lefty walked nobody and struck out five batters.

The lone Toronto hit was a two-out double by Maicer Izturis in the top of the sixth inning.

Lester then retired the final 10 batters in order.

He threw 118 pitches (56 four-seam fastballs, 24 cutters, 18 changeups, 10 sinkers and 10 curveballs).

Little did anyone know at the time this same Lester dominance would appear in the postseason as the lefty posted a 4-1 record and 1.56 ERA in five playoff starts.

4. Grand Comeback in the Bronx

Sept. 6

Summary: The Red Sox trailed 8-3 heading into the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 6, but then their bats woke up.

David Ross singled to begin the inning. Will Middlebrooks flied out. Shane Victorino singled and Ross moved to second.

Mike Carp walked to load the bases. Dustin Pedroia singled on a ground ball to third base to scored Ross and Boston cut the deficit to 8-4.

David Ortiz struck out looking with the bases loaded for the second out of the inning, but then Mike Napoli stepped to the plate.

Napoli stroked a grand slam just over the right field wall to tie it 8-8.

Shane Victorino’s two-run homer with one out in the eighth to make it 10-8. The Red Sox won 12-8.

3. Cleveland Collapses at the Fens

May 26

Summary: The Red Sox trailed Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians 5-1 at Fenway Park heading into the bottom of the eighth and scored once that inning to make it 5-2.

Down three runs in the ninth inning, Dustin Pedroia walked to begin the frame. David Ortiz then doubled.

With two runners in scoring position, Mike Napoli grounded to shortstop and Pedroia scored to cut the deficit to 5-3.

Ortiz stole third (yes, you read that correctly) with one out and Jarrod Saltalamacchia grounded out to first base, scoring Ortiz to make it 5-4.

The Red Sox had the bases empty and two outs. It looked over. But not so quick ...

Jonny Gomes walked. Stephen Drew singled and Gomes moved to third.

Jose Iglesias then walked and with the bases juiced, Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to center field. Gomes scored. Drew scored. The Red Sox were 6-5 winners.

2. The Seven-Run Slaughter

Aug. 1

Summary: The Red Sox were down 7-1 heading into eighth and 7-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth against the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 1 at Fenway Park.

Daniel Nava walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth and Ryan Lavarnway singled to center. Brock Holt then doubled, scoring Nava to cut the deficit to 7-3 and sending Lavarnway to third.

Jacoby Ellsbury walked, and Shane Victorino singled, scoring Lavarnway and Holt to make it 7-5.

Dustin Pedroia then singled home Ellsbury to make it 7-6.

After David Ortiz struck out swinging, Jonny Gomes singled to score Victorino to tie it 7-7 and send Pedroia to second.

Daniel Nava then capped off the comeback with a single center-fielder to score Pedroia.

Red Sox were 8-7 winners.

1. Boston Strong at Fenway

April 20

Summary: The first Red Sox game in Boston after the Boston Marathon bombings on April 20 against the Kansas City Royals was extremely memorable because of the pre-game ceremony, which included victims and first-responders. And the national anthem was sung by the Fenway Faithful.

The day became even more memorable when Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava combined to win one for all of Boston.

With the Sox down 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Gomes, pinch-hitting, doubled to start the frame. As he stood on second, he flexed his arms.

Daniel Nava then flexed his muscles with two outs in the inning, delivering a three-run homer to right-center to make it 4-2 Red Sox. Boston went on to win 4-3.