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David Ortiz 2004 ALCS Game Four walk-off home run

Book Review – Don’t Let Us Win Tonight

Don't Let Us Win Tonight

Don’t Let Us Win Tonight, written by Allan Wood and Bill Nowlin

If you are going to recap one of the greatest seasons in Boston Red Sox history and one of the most improbable comebacks in baseball history, why rehash box scores and the play-by-play that are easily found through an Internet search? Why not get the story straight from the people who experienced it firsthand?

This is the heart of Don’t Let Us Win Tonight, authored by Allan Wood and Bill Nowlin. While the authors set the stage in bringing us back ten years to that magical 2004 postseason, the story unfolds through the words of the players, the manager, the front office, the medical staff, the opposition, and even the bat boy. Nearly every moment is captured, beginning with a quick summary of the season, followed by a recap of each postseason game, and finally to the championship parade that wove through the streets of Boston at the end.

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Did You Know? – Red Sox Cy Young Winners

Baseball’s Cy Young Award was first introduced by MLB Commissioner Ford Frick in 1956 following the death of former Red Sox player and Hall of Fame pitcher Denton True “Cy” Young, who amassed 511 wins during his 22-year career, in 1955. Initially, it was given to a single pitcher chosen from the major leagues; in 1967, the new commissioner of baseball, William Eckert, announced that winners from each league, the American and the National, would be chosen.

In 53 years, three Red Sox pitchers have won a total of six awards; Jim Lonborg, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez. Lonborg was not only the first Boston pitcher to receive the honor, but he was the first pitcher honored by American league voters when the award was split between the leagues in 1967. Clemens won the first of seven total awards in 1986 and repeated as the honoree in 1987, the first since Baltimore’s Jim Palmer won back-to-back awards in 1975 and 1976. Clemens would win one more with the club in 1991 before winning four more as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays (1997 and 1998), New York Yankees (2001), and Houston Astros (2004). Martinez is the only other pitcher in franchise history to win the honor; he won in 1999 and 2000, considered two of the best seasons by a pitcher in modern baseball history, after winning the award with Montreal in 1997.

Red Sox pitchers have also finished twice in five separate votes. In 1990, Clemens finished with a 22-7 record, a 1.93 ERA, and 209 strikeouts, but lost to Oakland’s Bob Welch, who despite winning 27 games finished with an ERA+ nearly half that of Clemens. Martinez also finished twice in the vote during his Red Sox tenure, once in 1998 when he finished second to Clemens, then playing in Toronto, and again in 2002 when Oakland’s Barry Zito won the award. In 2004, Curt Schilling finished his first season in Boston with 21 wins, but was easily bested by Minnesota’s Johan Santana, who finished with a lower ERA and a higher strikeout total.

Most recently, Cleveland’s CC Sabathia finished 2007 with near-identical numbers (19-7, 3.21 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 209 SO, 143 ERA+) to Boston’s Josh Beckett (20-7, 3.27 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 194 SO, 145 ERA+); the latter then went 4-0 in four starts during the 2007 postseason, while the former went 1-2 in the playoffs, with both loses coming against the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. However, as voting takes place before the postseason starts, Sabathia was named the winner with 19 first-place votes to eight for Beckett.

Former Red Sox Pitcher Curt Schilling Officially Retires

With “zero regrets,” former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling announced his retirement Monday morning on his official blog hosted by sports radio station WEEI Boston (MA). The 42-year-old Schilling, who signed with Boston after being drafted in the second round of the 1986 amateur draft, spent sixteen seasons away from the Red Sox following a mid-season trade in 1998 before an off-season trade with Arizona in November 2003 brought him back into the fold with the self-imposed expectation that he would help the team win its first championship since 1918.

In four seasons with Boston between 2004 and 2007, Schilling went 53-29 with a 3.95 ERA, an average of 143 strikeouts per season, and an ERA+ of 121. He was also signed to play a fifth season but missed all of 2008 due to a shoulder injury. In total, he finished with 216 career wins, a 3.46 ERA, and 3,116 strikeouts. More importantly for the Red Sox, Schilling delivered as promised during the postseason. In 2004, Schilling went 3-1 during Boston’s march to its elusive championship, winning both Game Six of the ALCS and Game Two of the World Series with the tendon in his right ankle stabilized by an advanced surgical procedure and blood seeping through his sock in both games. Schilling would also finish second that season in the Cy Young vote to Minnesota’s Johan Santana.

Schilling also figured prominently in the 2007 postseason, going 3-0 in four starts, with a win in each series for Boston. In all, Schilling finished 11-2 in 19 starts and 133-1/3 innings pitched in his post-season career, making him one of the most successful pitchers in post-season history. His other highlights with the Red Sox include a one-hitter in 2007 in which he went 8-2/3 innings against the Athletics in Oakland before yielding a hit, the closest he came to pitching a no-hitter in his career, as well as career win number 200 in May of 2006, the 104th pitcher in major league history to reach that mark.

Boston Red Sox Head To 2007 ALCS

Thanks to a strong performance by starter Josh Beckett in Game 1, a game-winning walk-off home run by Manny Ramirez in Game 2, and back-to-back shots by David Ortiz and Ramirez coupled with a strong start by Curt Schilling in Game 3, the Boston Red Sox swept the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in three games in their divisional series match-up and will now face either the Cleveland Indians or the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. This marks the third time in five years that Boston has punched its ticket for a chance to win a pennant and Boston will begin its quest Friday at home at Fenway Park. Boston has also now won nine straight games against the Angels franchise in post-season history, going back to Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS.

Boston got off to a strong start in the series with Beckett pitching a complete game shutout, his second consecutive post-season shutout after blanking the New York Yankees in the deciding game of the 2003 World Series, while Kevin Youkilis and Ortiz each hit home runs to pace the offense. In the second game, despite a shaky start by Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox and Angels were tied 3-3 in the ninth when Angels manager Mike Scioscia elected to intentionally walk Ortiz with two outs and a runner on second to get to Ramirez, but Scioscia’s move backfired when the Boston slugger drove a pitch high and deep over the Green Monster to give Boston a 2-0 series advantage heading to Anaheim. Then, in Game 3, Schilling pitched seven strong, yielding just six hits and one walk while striking out four to further build his reputation as a big-game pitcher in the post-season. Meanwhile, Ortiz and Ramirez went back-to-back in the fourth inning to give Boston all the cushion it would need, and a seven-run eighth by the visitors sealed the win and the series for Boston.

Boston’s last ALCS appearance was in 2004 against New York when the Red Sox came back from an 0-3 series deficit to win in seven games, the last two wins coming at Yankee Stadium; the team then went on to capture its first World Series championship in 86 years, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in four games. In franchise history, Boston has won 10 American League pennants and has won three American League Championship Series in five tries.

Designated MVP

Six years ago in 1999, former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez pitched the first of two great seasons, perhaps one of the most dominant seasons ever in the history of baseball. On the way to his second Cy Young award, his first with Boston, he won 23 games in 29 starts, threw five complete, struck out a franchise record 313 batters, and led the staff as well as the American League with a 2.07 ERA. After the departure of slugger Mo Vaughn following the 1998 season, the sole reason that the Boston managed, against all odds, to return to the playoffs for the second year in a row was because of the 27-year-old Dominican native who made the opposition look foolish in almost every start.

However, when it came time to award the Most Valuable Player honor, Ivan Rodriguez, then of the Texas Rangers, won it with his .335 average, 35 home runs, and 113 RBI, arguably the best season of his career as his team won the AL West Division. Martinez, who earned one more first-place vote than “Pudge,” finished second by a margin of just 13 points.

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