BOSTON — With two down in the top of the ninth in a 3-3 game and Paul Molitor on second, Cecil Cooper at the plate, and Ned Yost on deck, Red Sox manager Ralph Houk made the reasonable move: He had Mark Clear intentionally walk Cooper to face Yost.
Sigh. Like many Brewers fans, Uecker’s announcement of the intentional walk for the far-from-fearsome Yost nearly drove me back to the kitchen to grab another drink. The inning was over.
You see, typically Ted Simmons would be up in this spot. In that case, Houk would have been less willing to put a second runner on base in a tie game and an extra-base threat at the plate. But Marshall Edwards pinch ran for Simmons when Coach Kuenn went for the win in the eighth, so Yost was then needed to finish the game behind the plate.
Yost hadn’t seen action at the dish since September 11, more than two weeks ago. The back-up catcher, known for his defensive abilities, had nine extra base hits and five RBI on the season. Sure, it’s been Yost’s best offensive season yet in his three-year career, but without a home run he was not seen as a threat to bring home the go-ahead run.
Yost lofted a fly ball to left field that, in any other park, may have been a fly out to end the threat.
Could it be high enough?
“Get outta here!”
Could it be deep enough?
“GONE FOR YOST!”
Ned Yost! Oh my GOD, NED YOST! Though it came in a tie game, this may have been the least probable ending of a game all season.
“(Sal) Bando had told me to be ready when Robin was up, that I was going to win the game for us,” Yost explained. “I was running around like a crazy man because I didn’t bring any bats. I figured we were in a pennant race and that Teddy would do all the catching. I was in my full catcher gear when I ran down to the clubhouse to find a bat. I didn’t find any there so I came running back to the dugout. After a while, I just pulled anything that I could find on the rack.”
That “anything” hit the game winning home run. That “anything” was Charlie Moore‘s bat.
“Hell, he can have it,” Moore said. “At least someone got some use out of it.”
“I can’t explain how it felt out there,” Yost said to a crowd of reporters. “I can’t even say that it happened. It’s like a fairy tale, the kind of moment you spend your whole life dreaming about. I was so overjoyed I wanted to jump up and down, but I figured that wouldn’t be right.”
Oh, we did the jumping up and down for you, Ned. And it felt just fine.
Boston has given the Brewers and their fans their swagger back. With the lead in the AL East trickling away, nothing seemed to go right. Then the 6-3 win with Doc Medich on the mound in Game 1. Then Ned Yost.
Like they so often do, however, the Brewers battled right back. Don Money smacked a solo shot in the top of the second, and Sutton got himself out of a second inning jam before settling down in the third. From then on, he was untouchable, allowing only one hit until Gary Allenson‘s lead-off homer in the seventh.
But after seven innings and Bob McClure on the mound, the game was all tied up at three. Sutton out of the game, advantage swung to the home team.
It seemed that the Brewers gaffed on failing to cash in on a golden opportunity in the eighth. With one down, Simmons singled to left and the speedy Marshall Edwards trotted in to replace him. After a Gorman Thomas walk and Ben Oglivie strikeout, Don Money walked to load the bases. Charlie Moore, however, popped to first to end the inning.
Bob McClure kept the Brewers in the game, retiring the side in order in the eighth. Thus, the stage was set for Yost and the Brewers in the ninth.
Two down and two on, Ned Yost at the plate. Such an improbable ending. But Yost’s homer adds yet another chapter to this storybook season of a team destined for the playoffs.
And considering what happened in Detroit, that is looking even more possible. The Tigers beat the Orioles 3-2, extending the Brewers’ lead to four games with five to play. The magic number is now two.