Not, of course, that David Ortiz and Jim Thome would trade homers in the fifth, something FOX had been hyping since this series began. Or that Josh Beckett would pump his fist and yell after Trot Nixon made an enormous diving, sliding catch to bail him out of an inning. (Or, for that matter, that Beckett, starting a road game vs. the American League, would fall in love with his fastball and give up three homers for his trouble.)
No, the far-fetched portion of this game--which in turn was the portion on which it all hinged--was the bottom of the seventh inning, when, incredibly, Josh Beckett was sent out and then allowed to load the bases with nobody out. With Jim Thome coming to the plate representing the tying run, Beckett was chased from the game.
Now let's be honest, Red Sox fans. When Thome strode to the plate in that moment with only Javier "The Other" Lopez* between him and a gut-busting grand slam, didn't you wet your pants just a little?
I know I did. Especially when Lopez didn't exactly blow the guy away on three straight pitches, either. But somehow, eventually, Lopez got Thome to swing and miss for strike three. I just sat there and flat-out gaped at the TV screen. What had just happened was so far beyond my conception of likelihood that I had trouble getting a grasp on it at first. Javier Lopez had struck out Jim Thome. Will wonders never cease?
Lopez was then switched out for Hansen, and the ol' blood pressure was back up into the red zone in my household. Hansen has settled nicely into a middle relief role of late, but he has not been exactly a dream with inherited runners. Now he had three, with no wiggle room.
But with the count even he got Paul Konerko to send a foul ball down the right-field line, where it was fielded by an enthusiastic combination of Trot Nixon, Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta. Nixon managed to squeeze the ball despite the fact that Loretta, diving for it, full-body checked him.
And then Jermaine Dye, the owner of two home runs this game, hit a soft liner to short, where Alex Cora fielded it almost effortlessly. Inning over. Baserunners: 3. LOB: 3. Runs scored: 0.
What are the odds a journeyman like Lopez would strike out a powerhouse like Thome in such a crucial situation? What are the odds our middle relief solidifies just when we need it most? What are the odds this Red Sox team wins a game like this?
Like I said before I got caught up in the streak, and like I said afterwards when the streak came to a rude ending in Tampa Bay, it still feels like this team could go either way. They could be utterly great, or they could fizzle and die by the time the dog days roll around. But what a valuable win this was for them--what a step in the direction of greatness.
*Technically speaking, this is the real Javy Lopez, since the Baltimore catcher is actually Javier Lopez Torres, whereas the the LHP for the Sox is Javier Alfonso Lopez.