This Labor Day evening game at Oakland’s Network Associates Coliseum matched two surging teams seeking to return to the postseason in 2004. The Oakland A’s, winners of three American League West Division titles in four seasons, had won 16 of 19 games and taken a three-game lead over the second-place Anaheim Angels.
The Boston Red Sox had won 17 of their last 19 games and 11 of 12. They were in second place in the AL East but were no longer 10 games behind the New York Yankees, where they had been as recently as August 15. Now, the Red Sox were just 2½ games behind.
There was a bit of a rivalry between the A’s and Red Sox, as Boston had beaten Oakland in the American League Division Series a season earlier. And Red Sox fans came out to the Coliseum, as did the home fans’ taunting “1918” signs that mocked Boston for not winning a World Series for more than 85 years.1 A crowd of 37,839 showed for the holiday game.
The starting pitchers were Oakland’s Barry Zito (10-9, 4.58) against Boston’s Bronson Arroyo (7-9, 4.24). The Athletics had dropped two out of three to the Red Sox in late May and had been swept by Boston in their second visit there in early July. This was their third meeting of the season.
Zito retired the Red Sox in the first, yielding only an infield single. Leading off for the Athletics, center fielder Mark Kotsay hit Arroyo’s second pitch of the game over the right-field fence and inside the foul pole for a quick lead. Eric Byrnes followed with a double, but Dave Roberts’ sliding catch of Eric Chavez’s sinking liner to center helped to strand Byrnes at second.
No more runs scored until the bottom of the third inning, when Kotsay, leading off once more, homered again, this time to right-center. It was 2-0, Oakland.
First up for Boston in the fourth was Manny Ramírez. On a 2-and-0 pitch, Zito put one right over the plate and Ramírez hit it out, an opposite-field home run into the right-center-field seats. It was Ramírez’s league-leading 38th homer of the season and the 385th of his career. Five pitches later, with the count 1-and-2, David Ortiz followed back-to-back with a homer to right-center, his 36th of 2004. The game was tied, 2-2.
It stayed tied until the top of the seventh. Arroyo retired the Athletics in order in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. The Red Sox put two runners on with one out in the top of the sixth, but Zito struck out Kevin Millar and retired Jason Varitek on a grounder to quash the threat.
An inning later, however, Boston broke through. Shortstop Orlando Cabrera led off the seventh with a single. Third baseman Bill Mueller doubled, deep to left-center, and Cabrera scored from first. After one out, Roberts doubled to right field and drove in Mueller. The Red Sox led, 4-2, and Jim Mecir relieved Zito.
Arroyo was still on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, and back-to-back one-out doubles by designated hitter Erubiel Durazo and shortstop Bobby Crosby brought the A’s back within a run. Nick Swisher’s groundout pushed the potential tying run to third, but Mike Timlin came out of the bullpen to retire pinch-hitter Mark McLemore for the third out.
The Red Sox survived an eventful bottom of the eighth to hold on to the lead. Kotsay led off against Timlin by lining a ball to Ramírez in left. Third-base umpire Brian Knight ruled the ball a catch, for an out, though replays suggested the ball might have struck the turf before landing in the glove. A’s manager Ken Macha was incensed, as was Kotsay, who had to be restrained, but the ruling stood.2
Byrnes followed with a fly ball to deep right-center, near the wall. Right fielder Gabe Kapler and Roberts converged on the ball and collided, but Kapler hung on for the catch. Both Red Sox outfielders remained in the game. Reliever Alan Embree came in and induced Chavez to line to Ramírez to end the inning.
With just the one-run lead, Gabe Kapler led off the top of the ninth with a single off Chad Bradford. Arthur Rhodes relieved Bradford, and Roberts singled. A deep fly ball by Mark Bellhorn allowed both runners to tag and advance, and Macha had Rhodes walk Ramírez intentionally. That brought up David Ortiz, but with the bases loaded, the move created more possibilities for outs.
Ortiz, however, cleared the bases with a three-run double to center field. Doug Mientkiewicz, who had entered the game in the eighth, singled to center, sending Ortiz to third. Kotsay protested that he had caught the ball, though this was a more obvious trap, and a fair amount of debris was thrown on the field.
After a delay to clean up the garbage, Varitek singled to right field and Ortiz scored the eighth Red Sox run. Ramiro Mendoza worked the bottom of the ninth for the Red Sox and induced three consecutive infield groundballs to end the game.
Ramírez’s and Ortiz’s fourth-inning homers had been a turning point in the Red Sox’ comeback win. It was the sixth time in the 2004 season that the two sluggers from the Dominican Republic had homered back-to-back. By season’s end, there were exactly a dozen games in which they had both homered, but in six of the 12, they homered back-to-back.
- June 18: In San Francisco against the Giants’ Jerome Williams, in the top of the fifth, Ortiz hit a two-run homer followed by Ramírez. Final score: Red Sox 14, Giants 9.
- July 20: In Seattle against the Mariners’ Joel Piñeiro, in the top of the fourth, Ortiz hit a three-run homer followed by Ramírez. Final score: Red Sox 9, Mariners 7.
- August 14: At Fenway Park, against the White Sox’ Jon Garland, in the bottom of the fourth, Ramírez hit a solo homer followed by Ortiz. Final score: Red Sox 4, White Sox 3.
- August 22: At Chicago, against the White Sox’ Freddy García, in the top of the 8th. Ramírez swung at the first pitch of the inning and homered to tie the game, 5-5. Dámaso Marté relieved García. Ortiz swung at Marté’s first pitch and homered to give the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. Final score: Red Sox 6, White Sox 5.
- August 25: At Toronto, against the Blue Jays’ Josh Towers, in the top of the fourth, Ramírez hit a two-run homer followed by Ortiz. Final score: Red Sox 11, Blue Jays 5.
- September 6: This game at Oakland, an 8-3 Red Sox win.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Red Sox won all six games in which both batters homered. The Associated Press said it was the 10th time that one pair of Boston batters had hit back-to-back home runs in a game, six of the 10 by Ortiz and Ramírez.4
The franchise record for two teammates homering in the same game had been 11, set in 1940 by Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams and tied in 1977 by Jim Rice and George Scott. This pair of homers equaled that record. The “Dominican destroyers” broke it four days later in Seattle, when they homered against Mariners lefty Jamie Moyer in a 9-0 Red Sox win.5
The Athletics lost the next two games in the series to the Red Sox as well and, all told, 15 of their remaining 25 games. They wound up in second place in the West, one game behind the Angels.
The Red Sox finished the season three games behind the Yankees, but reached the postseason as the AL’s wild card, swept the Angels in the Division Series, and overcame New York in the 2004 League Championship Series – despite losing the first three games in the best-of-seven round. Boston went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series.
This article was fact-checked by Carl Riechers and copy-edited by Len Levin.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet.org, and video highlights on YouTube.com.
1 See Gwen Knapp’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle, subheaded “A Rivalry, to Be Sure, but a Civilized One,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 7, 2004: D1.
2 A San Francisco Chronicle subhead read, “Ump’s Blown Call Helps Red Sox Win.” Kotsay led off. He would have been on first base and no runners would have advanced. It was still a one-run game at the time, Boston leading, 4-3. While anything can happen, it would be difficult to describe the play as a rally being squelched. John Shea, “A’s Angry Loss,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 7, 2004: D1.
3 Associated Press, “Road warriors,” Quincy (Massachusetts) Patriot Ledger, September 7, 2004: 25.
4 Janie McCauley (Associated Press), “Four-Run 9th Ices Oakland,” Marysville (California) Appeal Democrat, September 7, 2004: B1, B3.
5 The record had been noted by Bob Hohler, “Sox Stay in Groove,” Boston Globe, September 7, 2004: D1, D6. The phrase “Dominican destroyers” was Hohler’s.