2004 ALCS Revisited with Ryan Collins 

When the Boston Red Sox fell behind 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS to the New York Yankees, many fans thought the series was over.  

However, Ryan Collins, the Founder, and Owner of Cruel Fan Sports, relied on a “gut feeling” to keep his hope of witnessing history alive. What happened next led Collins to declare that series his favorite moment in the rivalry between Boston and New York. 

The last time the Red Sox had won a World Series title before 2004 was in 1918. They have suffered a series of heartbreaking playoff defeats, including a walk-off home run by Yankees’ third baseman Aaron Boone in the 11th inning of game seven of the ALCS one year earlier. 

“My best friend and I would call each other during big games and just stay on speakerphone throughout big playoff games,” said Collins. “Thinking every year was our year. I think when that happened, we both just went completely silent and one of us hung up the phone. But the worst part was walking into school the next day and knowing that happened and dealing with all the ‘Yankee fans.’” 

Fast-forwarding to game four of the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox had just come off being blown out 19-8 at Fenway Park and being pushed to the brink of elimination and now were facing the task of coming back against Yankees closer Marino Rivera down 4-3 in the 9th inning. 

During the game four broadcast, Play-by-Play Announcer Joe Buck stated that Rivera was 6 for 6 in save opportunities against the Red Sox in the postseason entering game four.

First baseman Kevin Millar led off the 9th inning with a five-pitch walk and was promptly lifted for pinch hitter Dave Roberts. After three pickoff attempts by Rivera, Roberts barely swiped second base to put the tying run in scoring position. Three pitches later, Bill Mueller grounded a game-tying RBI single into center field, scoring Roberts without a throw.  

“I think everybody knew why he was in the game, but It somehow still felt surprising,” said Collins. “It was an amazing moment and probably one of the most influential base steals of all time.” 

The game would head to extra innings before DH David Ortiz ended the game with a walk-off home run in the 12th inning to keep the Red Sox season alive. He would follow it up with a walk-off bloop RBI single one night later to send the series back to New York.  

“Ortiz’s pop off the bat and swing was always just so fun to watch. Always clutch and always powerful,” said Collins. “The list of his clutch performances are unmatched in baseball history.” 

The Red Sox would proceed to outscore the Yankees 14-5 in the final two games, to become the only team in MLB history to win a series after falling into a 3-0 hole. Ortiz won ALCS MVP honors with a .387 batting average, three home runs, and 11 RBIs. 

The Red Sox would end their 86-year World Series drought by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Since 2004, the Red Sox have won four World Series titles (2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018) to the Yankees one (2009).  

The two teams are set to renew their rivalry, as the Red Sox open their season at Yankee Stadium with a three-game series starting April 7th. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 pm EST. 

You can relive the Red Sox 2004, 2007, and 2013 World Series titles in Bob Halloran’s Count the Rings!: Inside Boston’s Wicked Awesome Reign as the City of Champions book available on Amazon and Barnes Nobles.  

Additionally, you can learn more about Halloran’s sports journalism by reading the Documenting an NFL Dynasty with Bob Halloran story located on the EMASS Sports homepage.

Solomon’s Rock-Solid Pitching Evens MSBL Masters Championship Series

After losing game one of the MSBL Masters 38+ Championship series on a walk-off grand slam, the Avi Nelson Rockies were immediately faced with a 1-0 deficit in the top of the first. However, that would prove to be the only run allowed by Rockies’ starter Ethan Solomon in the Rockies’ 5-1 victory over the Bistro 781 Bulls on Friday night.

“Well for most of the year, Ethan has just really been a bulldog,” said Rockies’ first baseman Mike Barthel. “His bread-and-butter pitch is his slider, which everyone in the league talks about. It’s got unbelievable movement. It looks like a fastball coming out of his hand and my guess is that a lot of hitters have trouble just picking up that pitch and that’s why it’s been his go-to pitch.”

Soloman fired his third straight complete game, surrendering just two hits, walking two and collecting a season-high 13 strikeouts in the process. This marked his second consecutive postseason outing with 10+ strikeouts. First baseman Steve Busby was the only Bulls’ hitter to reach base twice against Solomon with an RBI single and walk.

“My focus is always to just go out there and get ahead of hitters and trust what I have in the tank and go out and try to execute one pitch at a time,” said Solomon.  

Soloman was awarded his second consecutive MSBL Masters 38+ division Cy Young Award, finishing the regular season with a 3-1 record with a 1.20 ERA, walking five, and striking out 53 hitters for the Rockies. 

During his first Cy Young campaign in 2020, Solomon finished the season with just three walks and 18 strikeouts.

“He has a good mix of pitches (slider and changeup) and this is why he is the best pitcher in the league and won the CY Young,” said Bulls’ catcher Kevin Lyons. “[You] have to tip your cap to him.”

In the bottom of the third inning, his offense broke through with a four-run rally. First baseman Mike Barthel’s bases-loaded 2-run single started the scoring for the Rockies, putting the Rockies up 2-1. Barthel leads the team in RBIs (6) this postseason. 

“The table setters as usual were able to draw walks, get on base and really put the middle of the order hitters, like myself, in a position where I can deliver,” said Barthel. “Thinking about that inning, their pitcher fell behind in some counts and it was just one of those situations where I came up to the plate, I got a good pitch to hit, hit it hard and was able to turn things around for the team.”

The third run of the inning came across thanks to a throwing error by Bulls’ starter Robert Austin, who attempted a pickoff play at second base. Steve Miller scored from second on the error and Nate Knowles added an RBI single six pitches later to extend the lead to 4-1. Two innings later, Mike Tufo added an insurance run with an RBI fielder’s choice to officially cap the scoring. The Rockies have scored five runs or more thirteen times this postseason. 

Both Ethan Solomon and Mike Barthel agree that their team’s key to success moving forward is their pitching. The Rockies’ pitching staff has struck out 60 hitters and have combined for a 1.96 ERA this postseason ranking first in both categories in the MSBL Masters 38+ division. 

“It’s about doing the same stuff that’s gotten us here,” said Solomon. “Pitch to contact, fill out the strike zone on the mound, make the routine plays and then compete at the plate.” 

“Ethan is obviously our leader on the mound, but we have several guys who throw the ball very well,” said Barthel. “We have the luxury of throwing a number of arms at them and we do feel like we have the advantage in that sense.” 

The Bulls won game three of the series tonight, 4-2, securing a 2-1 series lead. They now sit one win away from being crowned the 2021 MSBL Masters Division champions of the Boston Men’s Baseball League. Visit bostonmabl.com to view this week’s complete Boston Men’s Baseball League postseason schedule.

In the meantime, click the video below to relive the Bulls’ walk off grand slam from game one with the call coming from Boston Men’s Baseball League broadcasters Dan Field and Brett Rudy during a Facebook live stream of the contest.

The Mocka Rays Secure Game 1 with Chilly Shutout 

For the second straight season, the Middleboro Mocka Rays (19-2-1) and Boston Havoc (14-6-2) face off for the right to be crowned MABL 18+ champions. With temperatures dropping to 55 degrees on Thursday night in game one, the Mocka Rays won their second straight shutout to place themselves two wins away from repeating as champions. 

Center fielder Nick Radcliffe provided all the offense with two hits and two RBIs in the first three innings. Radcliffe was ranked second on the team in RBIs (18), behind DH Mike Knell who finished the season with 26.  

On the mound, starter Justin Sylvia was nearly unhittable, allowing just four baserunners the entire night. He carried a perfect game through three innings, before Havoc center fielder Brendan Pounds reached on a single to start the fourth. However that did not last long, as catcher Derek Pizzaro fired a strike to throw out Pounds attempting to steal second on the next pitch.  

“People need to start reading the scouting report on (Pizzaro),” said Radcliffe. 

Sylvia finished the night striking out 10 hitters, and he now leads the Mocka Rays’ staff with 17 this postseason. This was his first win this postseason and second complete game. 

Justin Sylvia enters game two with 70 career strikeouts (including postseason). Photo by Dan Field

“I’d say my curveball helped shutdown the Havoc,” said Sylvia. “I was able to throw it over the top for a 12:6 curveball, and at times changed my arm angle to make my curveball look like a slider to throw off the batter. It seemed to work well, so I stuck with it.” 

The Mocka Rays’ rotation have allowed two runs or less in eight of their nine postseason contests, while striking out 57 batters along the way. They have complied a 7-2 record in the process. With this 2-0 victory, the Mocka Rays have now outscored the Boston Havoc (formerly the Boston White Sox) 11-0 in their last three postseason matchups.   

“Each of us just need to keep being a team player,” said Sylvia. “Having each other’s backs defensively and offensively, and keep taking it one pitch at a time.” 

Game two of the series is currently in progress at Pierce Playground in Middleboro, MA. 

The Red-Hot Spinners Extend Winning Streak to Nine Games 

The Cambridge Spinners (17-5) have won nine straight games dating back to August 1. They outscored their opponents 78-9 during that stretch. Their last defeat came against the South Shore Spartans (18-3) on July 28.  

On September 14, they closed out the regular season with a 4-0 victory over the Somerville Senators (6-15-1). In that contest, pitching and defense took center stage.  

Spinners’ starter Dan Blomerth fired six shutout innings, surrendering just one hit, walking one, and striking out two, earning his third win this season. Matt Lassard pitched a scoreless seventh adding two more strikeouts to complete the shutout. 

Blomerth is ranked third on the team in wins and Lassard is second on the staff in runs allowed (5) and strikeouts (24). Both pitchers have combined to allow just four runs since the beginning of August. 

This game was a ground ball clinic, as 11 ground ball outs were induced. More importantly for Cambridge, Blomerth managed to escape three bases loaded jams to keep the game scoreless. 

“They played a hell of a game behind me,” said Blomerth.  

Offensively, right fielder Sean Merrigan led the way by reaching base all four times, including two hits and a run scored. Seven Spinners finished with at least one hit. Ricky Salvia, Adam Johnson and Derek Richards were responsible for scoring the other three runs for Cambridge. 

The Spinners knocked in 157 runs this season, second behind the Boston Bombers at 193. Photo by Whitney Dowds

The Spinners are locked into the third seed in the MSBL 28+ division playoff seedings and set to face the Bay State Pirates (12-10) in the first round. 

“I think if we go out there and throw strikes and we don’t make mental mistakes out in the field, I think there is really no reason why we should get to win this whole thing,” said Blomerth. 

Visit http://www.bostonmabl.com/ to view the upcoming postseason schedule for Boston Men’s Baseball League.