Clutch trio caught in Sox's spell
Drew, Bay and Kotsay play pivotal roles as Boston advances
BOSTON -- J.D. Drew arrived in Boston with something less than a savory reputation. Jason Bay replaced a pariah after toiling in the relative obscurity of the Steel City. Mark Kotsay came in an under-the-radar August trade for a Minor Leaguer.
Now they're all heading to the American League Championship Series together as members of the Red Sox, who seem to have a knack for turning everyone who dons their colors into October heroes.
"Maybe there is some magic in these uniforms," Kotsay said.
Just as Drew and Bay had done with key homers in the first two games of the AL Division Series, Kotsay played a pivotal role Monday as Boston vanquished the best regular-season team in the league with a 3-2 thriller in Game 4 at Fenway Park.
His fifth-inning single triggered the two-run rally from which the Angels came back before succumbing on Jed Lowrie's two-out walk-off single in the ninth, and his pair of defensive gems at first base underscored general manager Theo Epstein's approach to filling what few holes appear on his roster each year.
"We had a need for a backup outfielder and first baseman, and Mark is the consummate baseball player," Epstein said in the chaos of the victorious home clubhouse. "He plays the game the way we like to play it, and he fit in right from the start.
"If there's such thing as a 'Red Sox kind of player,' Mark is it."
Kotsay, after ducking into a trainers' room to make quick phone call to his mother, said there very much is such a player -- every player who calls Fenway home.
"For me, the longer I've been here, the more I see that there's just a feeling about this team that they're going to get it done," Kotsay said. "It's hard to explain, but there's a confidence here that you don't see or feel most other places. Maybe no other place."
Angels outfielder Garret Anderson, in the hushed visitors' clubhouse, managed to momentarily admire the way Boston beats back all comers come October.
"They have a lot of talent and a lot of players who just play the game right," he said.
Talent certainly helps.
Drew, who drew the ire of Phillies fans forever for refusing to sign with them out of Florida State after being selected second overall in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, has long been known as one of the game's more gifted players.
Bay, acquired as part of the three-way deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers in July, was a two-time National League All-Star for the Pirates, and he hit 31 homers with 101 RBIs with Pittsburgh and Boston during the regular season.
Kotsay is a former winner of the Golden Spikes Award, annually presented to the best college baseball player in the nation, and while he's never put up eye-popping numbers, he's long been considered the kind of player every team needs: versatile, professional, passionate.
But there's more to winning in October than talent. Talent gets you there. What gets you to the next round was suggested on the backs of the drenched T-shirts that several Red Sox were wearing while celebrating Monday night.
"THE ONLY TALENT IS DRIVE," the shirt says.
"Like I said, it's hard to explain," Kotsay said. "But there is a certain drive here."
And more than a little magic.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.