BOSTON — The fans at Fenway had seen a lot through the first 11 innings of baseball on Wednesday night. They had seen four home runs sent over the walls, 14 runs scored and 10 pitchers ascend the mound.
Yet when a small pocket of fans erupted near the Red Sox' dugout in the top of the 12th, it wasn't for anything that took place on the diamond. It was for the Bruins' double-overtime win over the Sabres in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The fans in the first few rows were fortunate enough to have a view of the TVs, and their cheering let the rest of Fenway know that the Bruins had just won.
The time was 10:40 p.m.
Minutes later, Hideki Okajima induced a groundout by Michael Young to end the inning, and the scoreboard operator climbed out of the Green Monster to update the score of the hockey game: 3-2 in favor of the Bruins.
The time was 10:44 p.m.
With a re-energized crowd, the Red Sox came to bat in the bottom of the 12th. Marco Scutaro hit a seeing-eye single with one out off Dustin Nippert. The shortstop then advanced to second thanks to his bold decision to tag up on a J.D. Drew fly out to center. Scutaro made it to second — barely — and the Rangers decided to intentionally walk Dustin Pedroia. That brought up Kevin Youkilis.
The first baseman got ahead 3-0 before Nippert fought back to fill the count. With a stiff breeze blowing to left-center field, Youkilis got under Nippert's pitch, and just as Darnell McDonald's did one night earlier, Youkilis' shot got just enough air under it to catch the Monster. In strolled Scutaro with the game-winning run.
The time was 10:59 p.m.
The crowd celebrated its second walk-off victory in as many days — the first time that's happened since April of 2008 — but they had plenty to celebrate before that. They had seen Drew hit a grand slam to give the Red Sox the lead in the third inning, and they'd seen solo homers from Mike Lowell and McDonald. They watched Jason Varitek prevent a key run from scoring in the fourth inning by blocking the plate. They watched Daniel Bard pitch two perfect innings and Jonathan Papelbon face the minimum six batters in his two innings of work.
Everything was there for the Red Sox. They just needed the win. Thanks to Youkilis, they got it.
"A win is a win," Youkilis said. "Guys are picking each other up and doing a good job of helping each other out."
After the game, Scutaro's decision to take second on the fly to center proved to be just as big as the walk-off double.
"That's just good baseball," Terry Francona said, adding that there's no way the coaches could have called for the play. "He retreated real quick. He did a good job. That was just great baserunning."
Youkilis, who had to watch patiently as Nippert sent four wide ones to Pedroia, appreciated Scutaro's risky decision.
"He took a chance, and it paid off in the end," Youkilis said. "I think people would be saying that was the worst decision of his career if he gets thrown out, but he didn't. That's what the great part about that is — being aggressive and doing the little things that help win a ballgame."
For the Red Sox, those little things simply haven't been adding up lately. With two walk-off wins (and with a little boost from the Bruins, perhaps), the spirit of the fans in Fenway was palpable.
"When I saw everyone go nuts and there was really nothing going on in our game, you can put two and two together," Youkilis said of the fans' outburst in the top of the 12th. "That was really nice. Good for the fans of Boston tonight."