Most Red Sox fans can probably identify Keith Foulke as the pitcher who recorded the final out of the 2004 World Series. But can you name the pitcher who got the final out in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS?
It’s Alan Embree who retired Ruben Sierra on a ground out to second baseman Pokey Reese to complete the greatest comeback in baseball history, as the Red Sox rallied from a three games to none deficit to beat the Yankees.
“I got called in and they pinch hit for John Olerud and I was like, ‘Thank you – you’re doing me a favor. John is a pretty good hitter.’ Embree told me. “I had faced Ruben quite a bit and I knew that if I threw a pitch down and away, he would be trying to hit a home run and could roll over on it. Fortunately, he did roll over on it and it was the longest ground ball I think I’ve ever been part of. I’m thinking, ‘Get to the glove, get to the glove, get to the glove . . . OK, good throw, good throw, good throw . . . OK, it’s over . . .Thank God.’ It was slow motion for me.”
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Embree pitched in six of seven games in that series and in 11 of Boston’s 14 playoff games that year, allowing 2 ER in 7.1 IP.
“That time of year, what are you going to do – say, ‘No, I need a day off?’ Embree said with a laugh. “I take pride in my post-season numbers and giving our team a chance to win, and I did everything I could to be ready no matter if I felt good or bad.”
He’s hoping to fill a similar role this year.
The 40-year-old lefty returned to the Red Sox organization for the first time since 2005 when he signed with Boston as a free agent with roughly one week to go in spring training. After allowing 10 ER in 2.1 IP in 3 spring training outings with Boston, Embree agreed to begin the season in Pawtucket and tossed a hitless and scoreless inning in the season opener on Thursday.
“I felt good,” Embree said. “I went in with the game plan that I was going to work on my fastball command and for the most part I did that. Everything feels pretty good. I’m close . . . but I still feel like I need some more touches. Other than that, it was a good day.”
Embree is likely to get plenty of work on the PawSox season-opening homestand because his contract with Boston includes an opt-out clause on April 15th. If he is not promoted to Boston by that date, he is free to explore opportunities with other MLB teams.
“Hopefully things go well and I get enough appearances that on the 15th, that won’t be the issue,” Embree said. “The issue will be that I’m going to Boston – which is ultimately what the goal was. But that being said, baseball is a business and if for whatever reason they didn’t feel I was fit, I would have to move on from there. So it’s one of things where I’ll evaluate it on that day.”
I asked Embree if he would consider staying in Pawtucket beyond April 15th if the Red Sox said, “We think you can help the major league club, but don’t think you’re quite ready yet.”
“I’d have to explore the other options before I would consider that,” Embree told me. “I’m very grateful that the Red Sox gave me the opportunity that they did. Calling me as late as they did and giving me the chance to come down here and work out some bugs. But usually around the 10th appearance, I’m usually ready so that’s kind of what I’m gauging it on and the next few outings will tell.”
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After being rained out for the first time this season on Friday, the PawSox host Rochester in a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at McCoy Stadium. Daisuke Matsuzaka will make a rehab start in Game One and Adam Mills will take the ball in Game Two.
Our radio coverage begins at 12:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.
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