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Archive for Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Next stop: Game 7

Red Sox force decisive game

October 20, 2004

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— Gritting his teeth and grimacing throughout, Curt Schilling willed away the pain in his bloody right ankle and Boston got the benefit of two reversed calls to move within one win of the most shocking comeback in baseball postseason history.

For the second straight year, the New York Yankees and the Red Sox will go to a Game 7, a winner-take-all battle for the AL pennant between baseball's perennial pinstriped power and a Boston team desperately trying to win the World Series for the first time since 1918.

Pitching on a dislocated ankle tendon that forced him out of the opener, Schilling smothered the Yankees by allowing one run over seven innings to lead the Red Sox over New York, 4-2, Tuesday night and pull Boston into a 3-3 tie in an AL championship series that was three outs from a sweep just two days earlier.

"This is incredible," Schilling said.

New York was ahead 3-0 in the series before blowing a ninth-inning lead in Game 4 at Fenway Park and losing in the 12th on Sunday night. The Yankees led Game 5 in the eighth Monday, then lost that one, too, another 5-hour marathon that stretched on for 14 innings.

Of the 25 previous major league teams that fell behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, none had forced a Game 7. But back in the Bronx, where they wasted a four-run lead in Game 7 last year, the Red Sox broke through with a four-run fourth against Jon Lieber.

The team trying to reverse The Curse benefited from two big reversed calls.

In the fourth, Mark Bellhorn hit a ball over the left-field wall that was at first ruled a ground-rule double before it was correctly changed to a three-run homer that made it 4-0.

Then in the eighth, after Miguel Cairo's double and Derek Jeter's RBI single off Bronson Arroyo pulled the Yankees to 4-2, Alex Rodriguez hit a ball between the mound and first. Arroyo picked it up and ran toward first, where just before the base the striding A-Rod slapped the ball away.

Jeter came all the way around to score as the ball bounced down the right-field line. After Boston manager Terry Francona came out to argue, the umpires huddled, discussed the play, then called Rodriguez out for interference and sent Jeter back to first.

"You could see Alex take a swipe at the ball," Francona said.

Rodriguez raised both hands and put them on his helmet, screaming about the reversal, and the game was held up for 10 minutes while fans tossed debris on the field and Yankees manager Joe Torre argued. Gary Sheffield then fouled out, ending the inning.

"There were a lot of things that went on that didn't fall our way, but that's the way it goes," Torre said.

New York's Alex Rodriguez knocks the ball out of the glove of
Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo, left, as first baseman Doug
Mientkiewicz looks on during the eighth inning. Rodriguez initially
was called safe, but after a conference by the umpires was called
out for interference. The Red Sox won Game 6 of the AL championship
series, 4-2, Tuesday in New York.

New York's Alex Rodriguez knocks the ball out of the glove of Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo, left, as first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz looks on during the eighth inning. Rodriguez initially was called safe, but after a conference by the umpires was called out for interference. The Red Sox won Game 6 of the AL championship series, 4-2, Tuesday in New York.

After Boston's Orlando Cabrera was ruled safe at first base in the ninth, preventing the Yankees from completing a double play, public address announcer Bob Sheppard made his second announcement for fans to maintain order. The umpires talked with Kevin Hallinan, senior vice president of security in the commissioner's office, as Yankees reliever Tanyon Sturtze warmed up.

Helmeted police then came on the field and kneeled in foul territory along the stands on both the left- and right-field sides in the top of the ninth.

Schilling, who accepted a trade to the Red Sox last fall for the express purpose of beating the Yankees, took a three-hit shutout into the seventh before allowing Bernie Williams' solo homer on the 91st of his 99 pitches.

Keith Foulke, who threw 72 pitches during the previous two games, relieved to start the ninth. He walked Hideki Matsui leading off and Ruben Sierra with two outs before striking out Tony Clark on a 3-2 pitch to end it, sending the Red Sox running out of the dugout for their third straight night of celebration.

After chasing the Yankees all summer and falling short in the AL East race for the seventh straight season, the wild-card Red Sox caught up to their old rival, an unexpected turn of events given how close Boston was to packing up for the winter just 48 hours earlier.

Boston said before the game that knuckleballer Tim Wakefield would start Game 7, but Francona wouldn't commit after the game, an indication the Red Sox might switch to Derek Lowe.

Torre said he hadn't decided on his starter -- Kevin Brown or Javier Vazquez are the most likely candidates.

"I guess it was supposed to happen," Torre said. "We just have to call on the reserve that allowed us to bounce back from a lot of challenges all year."

While the Yankees are trying for their seventh AL pennant in nine seasons under Torre and record 40th overall, the Red Sox are attempting to reach the World Series for the first time since 1986.

Boston starter Curt Schilling examines his right foot in the fourth
inning with catcher Jason Varitek. Schilling and the Red Sox won,
4-2, Tuesday night in New York.

Boston starter Curt Schilling examines his right foot in the fourth inning with catcher Jason Varitek. Schilling and the Red Sox won, 4-2, Tuesday night in New York.

From the start on a cold night with an intermittent misty rain, nothing went right for the Yankees. Jorge Posada's deep drive to right was held up by the wind in the second, Williams just hooked a ball foul with two runners on in the fourth.

While the Red Sox looked loose, especially after the initial call of a double on Bellhorn's ball was reversed, the Yankees looked tight, overswinging for the second straight night and never testing Schilling's ankle with a bunt on the slick grass.

Boston's big fourth began with Kevin Millar's two-out double to the left-field wall. He took third on a wild pitch and scored on Jason Varitek's single. Cabrera singled to put two runners on.

Bellhorn, in a 4-for-32 postseason slump, poked a 1-2 pitch to the opposite-field, down the left-field line and to the top of the wall.

It bounced back on the field and left-field umpire Jim Joyce called it a double. Replays showed the ball hit a fan in the first row in the chest, and Francona came out. All six umpires had a conference near shortstop and they changed it to a homer.

Lieber, who beat Pedro Martinez 3-1 in Game 2, allowed four runs and nine hits in 7 1-3 innings, retiring 11 in a row after Bellhorn's homer.

Notes: Williams' homer was his 22nd in postseason play. ... The only teams in North American major sports to overcome 3-0 deficits in best-of-seven series were both in the NHL: Toronto against Detroit in the 1942 Stanley Cup finals and the New York Islanders against Pittsburgh in the 1975 quarterfinals.

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