Tito once faced Girardi's tough choices

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
5:38
PM ET
BOSTON -- Terry Francona was once faced with the same choices as Joe Girardi. For Francona, it was not Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson. It was Johnny Damon and Mark Bellhorn.

Damon, his leadoff man, couldn't buy a hit. Bellhorn, his No. 2 hitter, was striking out every other at-bat.

And his team, like Girardi's, trailed 3 games to none in the ALCS.

But unlike Girardi, who benched A-Rod and Granderson, Francona stayed the course in 2004, and was rewarded with the greatest comeback in baseball history.

Damon walked and scored the winning run in the 14th inning of Game 5 of the ALCS. He was still just 3-for-29 (.103) entering Game 7 in Yankee Stadium.

"I am having the worst series of my life," he had said after Game 5, "and maybe I'll get this thing turned around soon."

Turnaround? Damon hit a grand slam in Game 7 that will be remembered as one of the memorable home runs in team history, then hit another homer as the Sox routed the Yankees.

Bellhorn, who at one point in the series had whiffed 10 times in 20 at-bats, hit a three-run home run off Jon Lieber in Game 6 that helped the Sox tie the series with a 4-2 win, then homered off the foul pole in Game 7.

Francona had been peppered with questions asking whether he'd thought of shaking up his lineup, but he stuck with Damon at the top of his order and resisted calls to replace Bellhorn with Pokey Reese.

His response? "We've gone with these guys all the way," Francona said. "I just thought it was the right thing to do."

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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