BOSTON, Oct. 8 -- Considering the agony-inducing track record of the Boston Red Sox, it was all unfolding too easily.
Making his first playoff start with his team leading the American League Division Series over Anaheim 2-0, Bronson Arroyo had mastered the Angels' lineup through six innings. His lone mistake led to a tape-measure solo blast in the fourth inning by the Angels' Troy Glaus.
David Ortiz, left, celebrates after hitting a two-run home run in the 10th inning to give Boston an 8-6 victory and the three-game sweep of Anaheim.
(Charles Krupa - AP)
Cruising into the seventh with a 6-1 lead, Arroyo walked Jeff DaVanon to start the inning. Boston Manager Terry Francona pulled the right-hander, and six batters later Vladimir Guerrero belted an 0-1 pitch for a grand slam that tied the game and silenced a Fenway Park crowd already in celebration mode. It would stay 6-6 into extra innings, with nerves wreaking havoc on the Fenway Faithful.
But rather than add to their litany of playoff meltdowns, the Red Sox swept aside the Angels and roared into the AL Championship Series for the second straight year on the strength of David Ortiz's two-run home run on the first pitch he saw from Jarrod Washburn in the 10th, lifting Boston to an 8-6 victory.
"In that situation, let me tell you, I wasn't really thinking about hitting a home run. I want to have a good at-bat. I want to at least get on base," said Ortiz, who batted .545 in the series.
He circled the bases with his thick right arm raised and bounded into a mosh pit of teammates at home plate, touching off a celebration that spilled out of the clubhouse and back into the stadium with players embracing fans behind the dugout.
October heroics were expected of the strapping designated hitter, an MVP hopeful who finished second in the American League in home runs (41) and RBI (139).
But as crucial to the Red Sox' fortunes moving forward was the performance of Arroyo, who while taking a no-decision, actually improved on the performances of Boston's vaunted twin aces, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, who won Games 1 and 2, respectively.
"I'll take a no decision over a 'W,' if we get the win every night," said the 27-year-old right-hander.
Just who would start Game 3 was a matter of much public speculation in Boston as the regular season ended, with struggling veteran starters Derek Lowe and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield each earning consideration.
But Arroyo, who early in the season was considered the number five starter, leapfrogged the two veterans with a strong September. He breezed through the early innings Friday, sending the Angels down 1-2-3 in the first, and striking out the side after a leadoff single to center by center fielder Garret Anderson in the second.
Angels starter Kelvim Escobar, meantime, struggled with his command, walking the leadoff batter in the first three innings.
The first two times Escobar worked out of jams, but in the top of the third, the Red Sox opened the scoring when second baseman Mark Bellhorn walked, Ortiz (4 for 6) smashed a double off the top of the left field wall and Trot Nixon lined to right, scoring Bellhorn. The next batter, Kevin Millar, squibbed a 97-mph heater past the mound that scored Ortiz, and Boston had a 2-0 lead.
The Angels got one back in the fourth, when Glaus launched his second home run of the series, as Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez slowly turned to watch it soar over his head and into the street.