NEW YORK, Oct. 19 -- For two games, the battered Boston Red Sox had desperately stitched together a team they hoped could make improbable history -- a comeback from an 0-3 hole in the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. It was not until they stitched together the ailing right ankle of their ace, Curt Schilling, that the comeback was complete enough to force a decisive Game 7.
Schilling pitched seven inspiring innings with a stitched ankle to lead Boston to a 4-2 win against the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS Tuesday night. Clearly, both Schilling and the Red Sox are well. Not only has a team never come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series, none of the prior 25 teams in that position had ever forced a Game 7. Boston, which lost the first three games of this series -- including a 19-8 shellacking at home on Saturday -- can make its first World Series appearance since 1986 with a win Wednesday night.
Alex Rodriguez, right, swats the ball out of the glove of pitcher Bronson Arroyo, center, in the eighth inning.
(Julie Jacobson - AP)
"For the last three days we showed up having to win that day," Boston Manager Terry Francona said. "Because of that we'll show up [Wednesday] and say the same thing."
The starters for Game 7 were uncertain after Tuesday night's game, but Francona was leaning toward using either Tim Wakefield or Derek Lowe. If he opts for Wakefield, it would be just the latest dramatic twist in this storied rivalry. It was Wakefield who surrendered Aaron Boone's game-winning home run in the 11th inning of last year's Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees.
The Yankees will choose a starter from a group that includes Kevin Brown, Orlando Hernandez and Javier Vazquez.
The series is headed to a seventh game because of Schilling, the pitcher who had been so hobbled by a torn tendon in his right ankle that he had been deemed unlikely to pitch again this season after a painful and ineffective appearance in Game 1, when he allowed six runs in just three innings. On Tuesday, he pitched seven innings allowing one run on four hits.
"I don't think people have any idea what he went through to pitch tonight," Francona said. "His heart is so big."
Schilling's start gained even more drama when television shots prior to the game showed pink stains on his right sock, covering his ankle. Blood apparently had begun to flow because of two sutures put on the sides of Schilling's ankle on Monday that helped stabilize the tendon. His much-discussed high-top shoe, which seemed to alleviate some of the pain in his ankle in his bullpen session on Friday, was discarded because it rubbed against the sutures. Instead, Schilling used his regular shoe.
"My goal was to get this to the point where I could compete and use my normal stuff," Schilling said.
Between innings, Schilling appeared to cower in the dugout, seemingly in pain. At any moment he appeared ready to break down. He never did. Bernie Williams's solo home run in the seventh accounted for the Yankees' first run. Schilling retired the next two batters to end the inning, then received hugs from his teammates and from Francona.
"I guarantee you he didn't feel that good but he competed and pitched his [butt] off," Francona said.
In the eighth, the ghosts that seemingly run wild at Yankee Stadium during the postseason showed up again. The Yankees began a rally against Bronson Arroyo, started by a double from Miguel Cairo. Derek Jeter singled to make it 4-2 and Alex Rodriguez followed with a slow ground ball down the first base line that was gloved by Arroyo. Rodriguez, running to first base, knocked the ball out of Arroyo's hand, sending it down the right field line. Jeter scored from first and Rodriguez stood at second base, called safe by first base umpire Randy Marsh.
Francona came out to argue with Marsh. For the second time in the game, the umpires convened and overturned a call -- in the fourth inning, Mark Bellhorn's three-run home run was initially called a double before the umpires changed the ruling. Rodriguez was called out for interference.
"The home run I can understand the umpires getting together and overruling it," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said. "The other one I had a problem with because Randy Marsh was closer than anybody else."
The crowd jeered and littered the field with trash, stalling the game for several minutes. Arroyo retired Gary Sheffield to end the inning. During the top of the ninth inning, the umpires had determined the crowd was still so unruly, they stopped the game for several minutes in order to bring riot police onto the field. The police remained on the field as Boston closer Keith Foulke, appearing for the third consecutive game, pitched the ninth inning to save the game for Schilling.
Kevin Millar's two-out double began Boston's rally in the fourth. A single by Jason Varitek, in a key, seven-pitch at-bat, provided the first run. Orlando Cabrera's single extended the inning for Bellhorn, a player who had struggled so much in this series, the fans at Fenway Park this weekend began chanting "Pokey," a call for backup Pokey Reese, when he stepped to the plate. Bellhorn, on a 1-2 pitch, sent a drive that went over the left field wall, striking a fan in the stomach. Left field umpire Jim Joyce ruled the ball had hit the fence, but the call was reversed, giving Boston a 4-0 lead.
The grand rematch from last year's dramatic ALCS appeared to be an incredible dud after the first three games. New York had taken a supposedly insurmountable 3-0 lead after humiliating Boston 19-8 in Game 3 at Fenway Park. Boston General Manager Theo Epstein had called out his team, saying the Yankees were the only ones who had taken their games to a higher level. Boston has responded with a fury, winning consecutive extra-inning thrillers in Games 4 and 5, and Schilling's masterpiece in Game 6. Schilling stood strong for the Red Sox, who now have equal footing in this series.
"It's not over yet, not against this team, not against this organization," Schilling said. "I am so damn proud of this team."