When I think about the 2004 playoffs, I think about Kevin Millar. Nothing would have been possible without this guy. What a freaking character, man. We were down 0-3 to the Yankees, and Millar was strutting around the clubhouse with a big smile on his face like, Don’t worry, we got this. We got these guys right where we want them.
I swear to God, there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that we were still in the series. It was infectious. We were a bunch of idiots. We all thought we were going to win the World Series.
Let me prove it to you.
Look at the tape of the 9th inning of Game 4 of the ALCS. We’re down 4-3. We’re three outs away from getting swept at Fenway. And guess what? We’re up against Mariano Rivera, the single greatest closer of all time. The guy with the nastiest single pitch I have ever seen. Almost unhittable. And what’s going on? The whole freaking stadium is standing up and cheering. Anywhere else, it would’ve been a damn funeral. Kevin Millar is leading off and he’s in the dugout like, Hey, I’ll see you guys on first base. We’re winning this thing.
Millar goes up to the plate and stands up to Rivera. He takes five pitches and gets a walk. Believe me, man, the amount of patience it takes not to chase Rivera’s cutter when you’re losing is incredible. You’re desperate to make something happen. The pitch comes in and it’s right over the plate, then you swing, and what happens? It’s in the dirt.
Before Millar even got the walk — after the third ball — our pinch-runner Dave Roberts was already standing up in the dugout with this look in his eyes. He’s like, Yep. Let’s go. I’ll see you guys at second base.
Roberts comes in to pinch run for Millar and the whole world knows he’s about to steal. Rivera knows it. Jorge Posada comes to the mound to talk to Rivera like, Yo, this guy is about to steal. It doesn’t matter. Rivera throws to first. Throws to first. Throws to first. When he finally pitches the ball, Bang! Roberts is gone.
The second he slid in there, it popped off. Fenway was going crazy. But what a lot of people don’t remember is that Bill Mueller actually had to get a hit off Rivera in order to score Roberts. You know how many times Rivera jammed me up in that situation? Mueller swung on a 1-1 count, put it right up the gap and Roberts scored the tying run. That was a big, big hit.
After we tied it, I didn’t just think we were going to win the game, I thought we had the series. I really did.
So in my mind, when I get up to the plate in the bottom of the 12th, that’s it. Game. That’s my mentality. I’m up against Paul Quantrill. When I faced him before, all he threw me was the sinker. And it’s a good sinker. He struck me out with it a few times. So the count goes to 2-1, and now I know what’s coming. When a pitcher gets behind in the count and needs to throw a strike, they go to their main pitch. I know the sinker is coming, and it’s coming over the plate.
He winds up, and I see the sinker. It’s a good pitch. He gets it in on me. Not a lot of big guys can turn around a pitch like that, even if they know it’s coming. It jams them up. But I got good wood on it, and as soon as I hit it, I knew it was going out. And it went out fast. It was like a line drive that just kept going.
I’m rounding the bases and it’s like everything’s popping off. Missiles, rockets, fireworks, whatever. It was a party.
That hit got me a lot of Wheaties, man. That hit put me on the map. Two years after getting released by the Twins, I’m on a damn Wheaties box. Unbelievable.
Everything in baseball is momentum. When I jumped onto home plate, the series was only 3-1, but we felt like we had them. Even before we went out for Game 7, Millar was in the clubhouse just yelling like a crazy person. “We got this! This run doesn’t end. We got this, bro!” It was like he knew the script or something. That Red Sox team was one of the best I’ve ever been on. I can’t believe Hollywood hasn’t made a movie about that season, but maybe people would think it was too unbelievable. They could call the movie The Idiots. We were either too dumb or having too much fun to know we were losing.