Hanley reaches legendary status in mammoth sweep

Bill Foley
Contributing Writer

It was one of those moments that you will forever remember where you were.

When Hanley Ramirez sent the walk-off home run to the moon — or, more accurately, to the center field seats — Thursday night, I was watching on my phone. Frustrated, I turned the TV off and went to bed. Then I reluctantly checked the phone expecting to see the Red Sox go down quickly in the ninth.

Boy, was I wrong. It was just like how I was wrong about Hanley. Last offseason, like most Sox fans, I wanted Hanley gone. Trade him, cut him, whack him  whatever it takes to get him the heck out of Boston.

After his monster long weekend against the Yankees, Hanley (pictured with Dustin Pedroia) is everybody’s second favorite Red Sox star. He has practically become a folk hero.
(AP photo by Elise Amendola)

Hanley’s walk-off home run will go down as one of the biggest regular-season shots in Red Sox history. It’s right up there with Bill Mueller’s two-run blast off Mariano Rivera to walk off with an 11-10 win over the Yankees a few innings after Jason Varitek punched Alex Rodriguez on July 25, 2004.

You will never forget where you were at during that game, either.

Thursday night’s three-run blast that devastated the Yankees would have been legendary enough. Hanley, though, just kept on going. On the series, Ramirez went 9 of 16 with four home runs and nine RBIs as the Red Sox swept the Yankees in the four-game set at Fenway.

Despite a couple diving catches by Mookie Betts and the lights-out performance from the Red Sox bullpen, the Yankees might have swept that series if it wasn’t for the first baseman we wanted to run out of town after a horrible 2015 in left field.

Instead of waking up this morning tied with New York for second place at 81-68, the Red Sox hold a three-game lead over Baltimore and a four-game edge over Toronto. The Yankees, well, they are done. Ramirez stuck a fork in the Bronx Bombers, who are eight games back after entering the weekend with realistic playoff aspirations.

ESPN now give the Yankees a 1.7 percent chance of making the postseason. Lloyd Christmas doesn’t even like those odds.

The beauty of the sweep isn’t that it put the Red Sox in the driver’s seat in the division race. It isn’t even that it likely ended the Yankees’ season. The beauty is in how the Red Sox swept the Yankees.

It wasn’t the Fenway Massacre. It was worse than that. It was the Great Fenway Root Canal, and the Red Sox repeatedly played Lucy to the Yankee’s Charlie Brown.

The Red Sox tortured the archrival and their fans, who had good reason to believe the Yankees were going to win three of the four games.

Red Sox fans thought the Yankees were going to win, too. When the Yankees led 5-1 on Thursday, visions of cocky Yankees fans dancing around with their broomsticks started bouncing through my head.

The Yankees, of course, led 5-2 on Saturday and 4-0 on Sunday. And they lost them all in heartbreaking fashion.

The Red Sox, a team that somehow topped the division standings while leading the league in disappointment, sure seemed ripe for the picking for a young Yankees team that didn’t realize that its ownership quit on it earlier in the season.

With Gary Sanchez at the heart of their order, the Yankees will be back in 2017 and for many years to come. The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry will likely be back to 2004 levels in the next year or two.

Hopefully we’ll see a few fights break out along the way, too.

Baseball is so much more fun when the Evil Empire is strong, and, really, wouldn’t you rather the Sox be duking it out with the Yankees than the Orioles and Blue Jays down the stretch?

The 2016 Yankees, however, were on a roll. They had an eye on the playoffs with their unlikely second-half run, and their fans were starting to get cocky.

The future was now for the Yankees, who were going to the playoffs.

That is, until the folk hero hat is Hanley Ramirez told them they weren’t.

Follow Bill Foley on Twitter @Foles74