BOSTON – On his left knee, Matt Holliday carried a shiny red reminder of how badly he wanted – needed – that one last step.
He'll wear the wound, about the size of a quarter, for a while, maybe home for the winter.
It will stand for the 24th out on that cool Thursday night at Fenway Park, the out the Boston Red Sox didn't have to get in World Series Game 2, four outs left in a one-run game, the cleanup hitter standing in the batter's box.
It will remind him that the Red Sox were waiting.
Holliday intended to steal that base in the eighth inning, first pitch, go like hell. The Colorado Rockies had only that left, send Holliday to second base, have Todd Helton find an opening somewhere and somehow, and maybe keep playing for another inning or two.
So Holliday, a 240-pound man who'd accessorized his 36 home runs, 137 RBI and .340 batting average in the regular season with 11 steals, went to sneak a few more inches toward second base.
"I was trying to be aggressive, trying to find a way to get into scoring position," Holliday said. "I was hoping if I got to second, Todd could find a way to get a single."
Jonathan Papelbon was unaware. First off, Holliday's two-out liner through the middle had nearly cost Papelbon a rib. Second, closers don't generally pay much mind to baserunners, particularly the ones whose bodies tend toward linebacker.
He was there to get Helton. He looked in at his catcher, Jason Varitek, sure he'd find a fastball. Instead, Varitek was ordering him to throw to first base.
Out there somewhere, a Red Sox scout had seen enough of the Rockies and of Holliday to include this moment in his report. The Rockies will send him. Holliday will go.
A report arrived in Terry Francona's office. It was passed to bench coach Brad Mills. And with the Red Sox leading 2-1, Holliday singled off second baseman Dustin Pedroia's glove.
Mills held a sign for Varitek. Varitek made the relay to Papelbon. Papelbon nodded. And Holliday took two steps off first base, shuffled once, and then again.
"We don't throw over to first base on our own for the most part, ever," said Curt Schilling, who went 5 2/3 innings and won his 11th career postseason game. "It's always a sign from the bench. I would guess given the type of player that Matt is, he was going there, because he's a guy who, like a lot of other guys that maybe aren't … burners, they'll take advantage when they get forgotten about. And given the lead he took and the way he came back, I think he was going there. Our advance scouts pick stuff up like that.
"In a billion-dollar organization, it does come down to the little things, and … all those guys putting those advance reports together are as much a part of this as the players in some cases."
Rather than stand, get to his set position and throw immediately to first, Papelbon stalled with the glove and ball at his waist. Holliday leaned out on his right leg. The crowd grew loud, anticipating fastball, knowing Helton as a pretty fair fastball hitter.
"He did a good job of holding the ball against a guy who they might not have had a reason to think was going," Holliday said. "Obviously, he doesn't throw over a lot."
Papelbon jerked his right foot from the rubber, and Holliday knew, and it must have been awful.
"Yeah, I wanted to cry," he said with mock despair. "No."
He tried to shrug it off.
"It's part of the game," he said. "He did a good job of holding and going over."
Holliday lunged toward the bag, his knees churning through the dirt. First baseman Kevin Youkilis tagged Holliday's hand, arm and shoulder, a foot or more from the base. The Red Sox dashed from the field, and Fenway Park shook, and Holliday brushed the dirt from his uniform and walked slowly into left field. Helton put away his bat and helmet.
While Holliday was the last to know the Red Sox were onto him, Papelbon was only a few seconds ahead.
"I was kind of picking over there just to keep him at first base and not let him get a walking lead," he said, "and it actually kind of did surprise me, to be honest with you."
If he had picked off another runner this season – and there weren't many anyway – Papelbon couldn't recall it.
"The one time I do pick this season, it happens to be a big one," he said. "Probably will go down as one of the biggest outs in my career so far."
Papelbon struck out Helton to start the ninth, and Brad Hawpe – on a 99-mph fastball – to end it. The Rockies never did get a swing against Papelbon with a man on base, never did see him pitching from the stretch. And so a one-run deficit became a one-run loss, and a two-game deficit. And on a long trip to Denver, they carried the knowledge they probably won't beat the Red Sox at Fenway Park with only 26 outs.
Holliday was wearing it on his knee.