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Filling the (MLB) Void: Who Was The Real Star of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS?

Everyone remembers Dave Roberts’ steal, but was that actually the most impressive event of the 9th inning?

Fenway Park by Connor Turner is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Filling the (MLB) Void: Who Was The Real Star of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS?

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Having a hard time with the Major League Baseball lockout? Yeah – us too. Especially when Spring Training should have started and there are still so many questions left to answer before the season can begin. So, we here at The Turf thought we’d offer a way to help ease that tension. While we may not have any of the current MLB baseball to watch live, there is PLENTY of archive footage available at our fingertips. We’ve scoured the internet and assembled some of the most iconicnoteworthy, and remarkable baseball games we could find. We also found some mundanerun of the mill stories, that seemed banal at first watch. However, at this point, we’ll take anything that resembles an MLB game, right? Until the lockout ends, we’ll feature one of the contests and provide you a link where you can relive the glory, exhilaration, and thrill from the comfort of your couch.

Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS – A Comeback Begins

The 2004 ALCS is one of the most discussed series in MLB history. The story of the Red Sox coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to win in seven games still seems impossible nearly 20 years later. The game that started the comeback was Game 4. The moment from this game most associated with Boston’s comeback is Dave Roberts’ stealing 2nd base in the bottom of the 9th inning.

But is that actually the most impressive play from that inning?

The ninth inning started with the Yankees leading Boston 4-3. New York’s Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera was set to face the Boston’s 7-8-9 hitters. These hitters were the Sox only hope to keep from being swept.

We all know what happened next. Millar walks. Roberts comes in to run. Roberts takes second. Mueller singles home Roberts. Tie game. Ortiz wins it in extra innings.

There were four key matchups in this ninth inning, and while Roberts’ steal was the most exciting, it also might have been the most predictable outcome. Let’s go through each of these matchups to examine which of these four was the most surprising.

Matchup #1 – Kevin Millar vs. Mariano Rivera

Millar led off the inning with a walk in what seemed like an underdog moment. However, that isn’t exactly true. Millar had a .383 OBP in 2004, but when he led off an inning it was .415. Meanwhile Rivera allowed a .280 OBP to batters that season, but allowed a .329 OBP to batters leading off an inning. Millar’s walking on five pitches was still impressive, but the odds were more in his favor than expected.

Matchup #2 – Dave Roberts’ speed vs. Rivera & Jorge Posada’s ability to catch runners

Roberts entered the game immediately for Millar. Everyone in Fenway Park knew Roberts would be going. Roberts was 30 for 32 that season stealing second base. Rivera on the other hand had seen three of four runners safely take second on his watch. First pitch comes, and Roberts is safe at second.

Matchup #3 – Bill Mueller vs. Rivera

Here’s where things get interesting. Mueller would need to get a hit to tie the game with Roberts on second. For the season, Mueller hit .283. But in his 50 plate appearances with a runner on 2nd base, his average plummeted nearly 100 points to .186. Rivera had allowed only a .225 average by hitters on the season. But in 24 plate appearances with a runner on second, Rivera had not allowed a hit. On a 1-1 pitch, Mueller singles to center and Roberts ties the game.

Matchup #4 – David Ortiz vs. Rivera

Ortiz is remembered for his game-winning home run in the 12th inning. He had an opportunity to end the game much sooner though. After Roberts tied the game Boston was able to get runners on first and second with two outs and Manny Ramirez and Ortiz due up. Ramirez walked, setting up Ortiz to end things. Ortiz needed a walk or a hit to score a run and had a .444 OBP that season with the bases loaded and two outs (his full season OBP was .380). Again, Rivera had allowed a .280 OBP in 2004, but it rose to .333 with the bases loaded and two outs. Rivera was able to get Ortiz to pop out to second on a 1-2 pitch and force extras.

So what was the most impressive accomplishment in the 9th inning?

Rivera was almost perfect with a runner on second and Mueller was a significantly weaker hitter in this situation. Being able to get the better of the GOAT closer in this scenario has to be the most impressive feat. Roberts’ play was exciting, but he was successful 93% of the time he tried to steal in 2004. Millar’s walk started everything, but he was also in the best situation to work that outcome.

The most shocking part of looking back on this is the credit due to Rivera for not allowing Ortiz to end the game in the ninth. Rivera was at one of his weakest points with the bases loaded and two outs. Ortiz’s impressive OBP in those situations is one thing, but he also had a 1.159 OPS. Sure, Ortiz’s homer in the 12th is an amazing memory for all Sox fans. Most of them probably would have appreciated a few more hours sleep that night too.

Terry is from Massachusetts and is a passionate fan of the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins. He also will admit he only pays attention to Syracuse basketball when they're good. If there's a Twitter trade rumor even remotely associated with one of his teams, he's likely fallen for it. Finally, he believes 100% that if the Celtics had beaten the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals they would have swept the Thunder in the Finals.

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