CLEVELAND -- The game ended at 11: 30 p.m. Eastern time, which was significant for the Boston Red Sox.
The clock never struck midnight for this magical Cinderella team as expected in the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, especially after the Sox trailed 2-0 in the best-of-five event.
And in the decisive fifth game last night at Jacobs Field, it was Troy O'Leary who was driving the coach, an unlikely hero whose productive regular-season bat had been reduced to Swiss cheese by the Indians in the first four games of the series.
O'Leary followed intentional walks to Nomar Garciaparra in the third and seventh innings with home runs in leading the Red Sox to a 12-8 victory and a date in the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees, beginning tomorrow.
The come-from-behind series surge enabled the Sox to exact a measure of revenge against the Indians, who had knocked them out of the playoffs in 1995 and again last year.
And O'Leary's homers made a winner of Pedro Martinez, who pitched six scoreless, hitless innings in surprise relief.
"I wouldn't come out," said Martinez, who left early in Game 1 because of a strained back muscle and was supposed to throw at most 40 pitches last night. "As long as I was able to throw the ball over the plate, I was going to stay in there."
O'Leary clubbed a first-pitch grand slam off Cleveland starter Charles Nagy in the third, putting Boston on top, 7-5.
And in the seventh, he snapped an 8-8 tie with a three-run, first-pitch homer to right off Paul Shuey, tying teammate John Valentin (Sunday night), ex-teammate Mo Vaughn (last Sept. 29) and Edgar Martinez (Oct. 7, 1995) for the postseason single-game record of seven RBIs.
Not bad for a guy who had been 2-for-17 in this series and 3-for-33 overall in the playoffs before busting out at the most crucial time as the Red Sox became the fifth major league team to rally from an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five series.
Before O'Leary's heroics in each case, Indians pitching coach Phil Regan held a discussion on the mound as to what to do with Garciaparra. In the third, there were runners at second and third with one out. In the seventh, there was a runner at second with one out.
They gave Garciaparra, who had crushed a first-pitch, two-run homer in the first inning, a routine intentional pass the first time. The second time, Shuey missed with a pitch down and in, and then they issued the conventional pass.
The sellout crowd of 45,114, mindful of Garciaparra's prowess against the Indians in the past, cheered the move.
Briefly. Very briefly.
O'Leary wasted no time in making the Indians pay, with the first two postseason homers of his career, including the first postseason grand slam ever hit by a member of the Red Sox.
It marked the fourth time this year the Indians had walked Garciaparra to get at O'Leary. And the third time O'Leary homered. He nailed Mark Langston for a three-run homer on Sept. 14 in a 12-3 win. Two nights later, he popped up in a similar circumstance.
But the only popping up O'Leary was going to do last night was the popping of champagne corks in the Sox's clubhouse.
It was too early for manager Jimy Williams to begin worrying about pitching matchups in the ALCS.
"Who we going to pitch?" he said out loud. "What day is it?"
Somehow it was fitting that a homer won it, because early on, the teams were trading bombs.
Was it bad pitching? Superb hitting? You make the call.
All that was evident very early last night was that offensive fireworks were the order of the night.
Veteran pitchers. Young pitchers. It didn't seem to matter too much last night. The ball was just jumping out of the ballpark.
After four innings, the game was tied at 8-8.
And the onslaught began at the very beginning, with Brian Daubach, who had gone 0-for-6 in the Sox's 24-hit assault the previous night, grounding a two-out single through the right side off Nagy.
Garciaparra was next. Nagy gave him a nice fat first pitch, and Garciaparra clubbed it over the center-field fence, giving the Sox a quick 2-0 lead.
The lead lasted all of 15 pitches.
Bret Saberhagen, tapped to start the decisive game because of his experience and because Martinez's back muscle strain was supposedly going to limit him to 40 pitches, had nothing. But the Indians liked what they were seeing.
A walk, an RBI double and the first of Jim Thome's two two-run bombs, this one a 477-foot blast to right-center, gave Cleveland a 3-2 advantage.
And in the second, the Indians increased the bulge to 5-2. Wil Cordero sizzled a laser-like leadoff liner off the left-field wall for a single, and Travis Fryman clouted the first pitch he saw for a two-run homer to left-center.
So it was 5-2, the fans going wild in the Jake.
But, typically, the Sox refused to fold. In fact, they came right back for five runs in the third against Nagy. A fielder's choice by Valentin chased home one run, and, after an intentional walk to Garciaparra, O'Leary launched a first-pitch grand slam to right-center, a 417-foot drive.
That put the Sox up, 7-5, and Derek Lowe, who had held the Indians to only four hits in their last 50 at-bats against the right-hander, was on the mound.
In only 13 pitches, that lead evaporated.
Back-to-back doubles by Roberto Alomar and Manny Ramirez (first hit, first RBI of series) and Thome's second homer, and fourth of the series, put Cleveland ahead, 8-7.
Could Charles Nagy, pitching on three days' rest for the second time in his career, hold that advantage? No.
Darren Lewis led off with a double, finishing Nagy. Lewis had an adventurous trip around the bases, but eventually scored the run that tied the game at 8-8.
Lewis failed to tag up on a deep fly to center, but then wriggled out of a rundown on an errant throw by catcher Sandy Alomar that permitted Lewis finally to make it to third, with only one out. Lewis was trapped off because he mistakenly thought the Sox also had a runner on first when Jose Offerman drew a walk.
But by then, the hitters' arms must have been tired from swinging and their legs tired from racing around the bases.
N.Y. Yankees vs. Boston (Best of seven; times p.m.)
Date Site Time
Tomorrow at N.Y. 8: 15
Thursday at N.Y. 8: 15
Saturday at Bos. 4: 19
Sunday at Bos. 7: 50
*Monday at Bos. 8: 15
*Oct. 20 at N.Y. 4: 19 or 8: 15
*Oct. 21 at N.Y. 8: 15
TV: All games on chs. 45, 5.