What a difference a week makes.

Last night, I found myself howling at the TV, angered beyond belief that, in a critical 9th inning at bat with the winning run on third, David McCarty would be hitting for Kevin Millar.

You see, two weeks ago, I would have rather seen Carol Channing at the plate with the game on the line than Millar. But that was then. This is now. And now is very much like 2003. Hits are coming when we need them. And Millar has come alive during this homestand, playing a key role in the three game sweep of Oakland, which concluded with last night’s breathtaking extra-inning triumph.

This was the one that almost got away, and if it got away, you’d be looking at a “closed” sign where this blog entry now rests. This would have been an epic loss. The “Heaven’s Gate” of losses. Godzilla to our Tokyo. It would have prompted a sharp rise in gun permit applications, liquor sales and Zakim Bridge pedestrians.

But, magically (and I do believe in magic — look no further than the Duff Sisters, the Lohan Sisters, the Simpson sisters and the Hilton Sisters), we pulled this one out. After pissing away a 7-1 lead and a shaky-but-impressive outing by Curt Schilling, we came back in extra innings to pocket the win.

And what a way to end it. Damon on first. Mueller cracks a drive to centerfield. Damon, looking eerily like Snake Plissken racing through a post-apocalyptic New York, gets on his “horse,” making a crazy dash for the plate and just narrowly avoiding the tag.

How huge has Damon been to this team over the past three nights? He’s become the spark. The agent provocateur, if you will. He’s making things happen the way a leadoff hitter should be making things happen. He went 3-for-6 last night and suddenly only Manny has a better batting average on the team.

And Millar. Did I mention Millar? Guy was a lightning rod for fan anguish before this homestand. Now, after another impressive performance at the plate last night (3-for-6), he’s back in good graces. He’s earned the love, so the love we give.

And Mueller. Now we realize what we were missing when he was on the DL. The guy who always seemed to get a hit when we needed a hit is at it again. Suddenly, chanting “Youk” just isn’t all that exciting.

And Manny. I could watch this guy hit all! damn! day! He gets brushed back during his first at bat, next time up he launches a three-run homer. He gives high-fives and ass-slaps and performs his new home run ritual… giving the dugout camera his best “Issac” from “The Love Boat” — a little “heywhassupdawgs” to the fans sitting at home, clutching our beers, waiting to something to believe in again.

Are there concerns? Sure, there are always concerns. The bullpen looked pretty rough last night, underscoring how much we miss Scott Williamson. Also, Pokey, god love him, has pretty much levelled off to that “awesome defense, minimal offense” guy he was sold as. An unimpressive 0-for-4 with 4 Ks. Nomar looked equally lost at the plate, putting up an o-fer and leaving 5 runners stranded.

But now is not the time to dwell on the negative. This is a team at a crossroads. With Texas in town tonight, it’s time they ask themselves just how badly they want it.