By Flint Wheeler
After 108 wins, including four in the World Series and 11 in the postseason overall, choosing one that captures the essence of the 2013 Red Sox is akin to locating the proverbial needle in a haystack.
In rallying from an early one-run deficit and beating the Cardinals, 4-2, in Game 4 of the World Series at Busch Stadium, the Sox exhibited their trademark resilience, shrugging off an unprecedented and potentially crushing obstruction call that doomed them in the ninth inning only one night earlier. They also showed off their invaluable depth, as manager John Farrell used 17 players, including six pitchers, to nail down the first of three straight victories to clinch the championship.
Indeed, it was quintessential Red Sox.
Think about it: Was there anyone in any corner of the clubhouse who didn’t play a role in the Sox’ third title in 10 years? Since the beginning of September, when they pulled away from the pack in the AL East, even the most obscure players who wound up on the postseason roster had at least one meaningful contribution that merits a spot in the highlight video of a season that was as satisfying as any ever played in the 101-year history of Fenway Park.
And so, as the streets were lined up for another rolling rally this past Saturday, here’s a look at the signature moment of each of the 25 Red Sox who appeared in the postseason:
When it comes to the new Mr. October, it’s impossible to narrow it down to just one. But if we must, does it get any bigger than the game-tying grand slam against Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS? Good luck finding a bigger hit all season.
Leave it to Yale-educated reliever Craig Breslow to ask the only relevant question remaining about the redeemed Red Sox ace: “How many times can you throw the game of your life?” Lester did it five times, posting a 1.56 postseason ERA. And he saved his best for last, 72⁄3 solid innings in Game 5 in St. Louis.
After the Red Sox’ accidental closer had the kind of season that would make even the great Mariano Rivera blush, there was only one way it could end — with one last hellacious splitter for a strikeout and Uehara leaping into catcher David Ross’ arms.
The de facto captain was so consistently good that you almost took him for granted, at least until he made the uncharacteristic mistake of bobbling a potential double play in ALCS Game 4. True to form, he picked up two hits in Game 5 and everything was back to normal.
If this was it for Ellsbury with the Red Sox, he went out the way he came in — with another stellar postseason that led to another World Series ring. Ellsbury was at his very best in the Division Series, going 9-for-18 with four stolen bases to help beat the Tampa Bay Rays.
Through the words of Bob Marley, his walkup music assured us that “every little thing gonna be all right.” And then, Victorino made it so. Cementing his reputation as a clutch postseason performer, he won the ALCS with a grand slam then hit a three-run double in Game 6 against the Cardinals.
The personification of redemption: After 62⁄3 innings in Game 6, Lackey walked off the mound and tipped his cap to 38,447 fans who were chanting his name nearly two years after wishing to never see him again once he emerged from Tommy John elbow surgery.
Who cares if he was mostly along for the ride in the playoffs? After 16 seasons, he finally won a World Series then celebrated on the Fenway mound at 2:45 a.m. by pitching to friends and family.
As big hits go, it doesn’t get much bigger than a seventh-inning homer against Justin Verlander to push the Red Sox to a 1-0 victory in Game 3 vs. the Tigers. Napoli went 6-for-12 with two homers during the three games in Detroit. It’s a wonder he wasn’t named ALCS MVP.
One last Congratulations… Bo Sox Nation. No longer should you be called the little engine that could. As your underdog years are now distinctly in the rear view mirror. You are now a borderline team of the century behind the Yankees and a post season favorite of Vegas for years to come.