NEW YORK, Oct. 12 -- It was the Boston Red Sox who entered the American League Championship Series with an unbeatable ace, a healthy swagger and a stirring belief they were a team of destiny, a force that could quell spirits and cure curses. The New York Yankees stumbled into this rematch with a tattered pitching rotation and a grieving closer, with only history as a firm and sturdy crutch.
After a 10-7 win against Boston in Game 1 -- a game in which they pounded ace Curt Schilling, survived a furious Red Sox rally, and received an inspiring performance from Mariano Rivera -- can anyone still think the Yankees don't have fate on their side?
Shortly after getting back from a funeral for relatives in Panama, closer Mariano Rivera preserves New York's 10-7 victory in the ALCS opener Tuesday.
(Charles Krupa - AP)
_____ From The Post _____ • The Red Sox come back from three games down to shock the Yankees and advance to the World Series.
• Boston ends years of frustration by ousting the Yankees.
• Thomas Boswell: Red Sox fans have waited generations for this.
• It's been a wild swing of emotions for Boston fans.
_____ On Our Site _____ • Game 7 box score
• ALCS, NLCS Photos
• Highlights of the Sox-Yanks rivalry
• How Red Sox, Yankees compare
• Talk about the ALCS.
_____ Live Online _____ • The Post's Jorge Arangure Jr. on the rivalry. Read the transcript.
_____ Schedule, Results _____ • Game 1: Yankees 10, Red Sox 7
• Game 2: Yankees 3, Red Sox 1
• Game 3: Yankees 19, Red Sox 8
• Game 4: Red Sox 6, Yanks 4 (12)
• Game 5: Red Sox 5, Yanks 4 (14)
• Game 6: Red Sox 4, Yankees 2
• Game 7: Red Sox 10, Yankees 3
• Red Sox win series, 4-3
Mike Mussina began the game with a three-pitch strikeout of Johnny Damon that was simply a precursor of things to come. Mussina continued to be perfect through the first 6 1/3 innings until Mark Bellhorn doubled on an 0-2 count, ending a bid for history. Don Larsen's win for the Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series remains the only perfect game and no-hitter in postseason history. With history swept aside, Mussina allowed four runs in the seventh inning, and Boston scored a total of five in the inning.
"You're only human," Mussina said. "You know what's going on. But you have to keep after it. They're a hard-hitting club. They proved how explosive they are and why they're a good ballclub."
Tom Gordon entered the game in the eighth and allowed a two-run triple to David Ortiz, making the game 8-7. The Yankees summoned Rivera, who did not arrive at Yankee Stadium from Panama until 8:53 p.m. On Tuesday afternoon, Rivera attended the funeral of two relatives who died in a pool accident on Saturday at the closer's home in Panama. After the funeral, Rivera boarded a plane chartered by the Yankees.
"I wanted to stay there, definitely I wanted to stay with my family," Rivera said. "But there's nothing there that I can do, so I talked to my wife and I talked to the family that I need to be here."
By the fifth inning of Tuesday's game, Rivera appeared in the Yankees' bullpen and was met with hugs from his teammates. Rivera, with a heavy heart, managed a smile.
With Ortiz at third base in the eighth, Rivera jogged to the mound from the bullpen amid nervous cheers from Yankees fans. Rivera forced a popup from Kevin Millar to end the threat. Rivera, staked to a three-run lead after a two-run double from Bernie Williams in the eighth, retired the Red Sox in the ninth for the save.
"I came here and my friends, my teammates treated me like a king," Rivera said. "That was something special and I appreciate that. I'm tired, but my mind kept going."
Boston had been dominated through the first six innings and looked utterly lifeless against Mussina. During their late-season surge, the Red Sox nicknamed themselves the "Idiots," a team that only knew how to play tough baseball. On Tuesday, perhaps the Red Sox were too stupid to realize they were supposed to pack up after trailing 8-0.
"It just shows you the fight and determination we have in this clubhouse," Millar said.
Heading into Tuesday's start, a small measure of concern emerged about Schilling's right ankle, which had troubled him at one point during the season and appeared to bother him during his start against the Anaheim Angels during Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Schilling said the ankle bothered him while warming up. At times, he felt it pop.
"I couldn't throw the ball where I wanted to," Schilling said. "I thought it was obvious. I didn't command the baseball like I could have and should have. . . . I knew I was going to be throwing the ball differently."
After the second inning, Schilling approached Boston pitching coach Dave Wallace and said, "I can't reach back and make it come out."
Schilling, in his worst outing of the year, a three-inning, six-run flop, was ordinary. In the first inning, Hideki Matsui, who batted .361 with four home runs and 18 RBI against the Red Sox during the regular season, followed Gary Sheffield's double with one of his own, scoring the Yankees' first run. Williams singled to give New York a 2-0 lead.
Schilling unraveled in the third. He allowed singles to Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to start the inning and walked Sheffield to load the bases. Matsui cleared them with a double off the right field wall. Sheffield slid into home with a hearty vigor. He quickly rose, his helmet falling aimlessly to the ground, delivered a thumping chest bump to Rodriguez and let out a powerful roar.
These Yankees were not so eager to pass their AL crown to Boston. The Yankee Stadium crowd, perhaps sensing Boston's chances dwindling, began to chant, "Who's your daddy?" -- a direct reference to Pedro Martinez's confession earlier this year that New York had proven unbeatable for the Boston pitcher. Amid the chants, Matsui, who finished the night with three hits and an ALCS record-tying five RBI, scored on a sacrifice fly from Williams, giving the Yankees a 6-0 lead. Schilling did not come out for the fourth inning. His status for the remainder of the series remains in question.
Beating Boston's ace, their celebrated offseason acquisition, ensured the Red Sox's fate would once again fall to Martinez, a familiar and somewhat scary prospect for Boston faithful. The Yankees had little problem with Martinez this year, and Martinez said as much after his last start against them.
Now, he must conquer those doubts as he pitches at Yankee Stadium for the first time in the postseason since a World Series appearance vanquished in a matter of moments in Game 7 of last season's ALCS.