The New York Yankees took control of the American League Championship Series tonight in a game that began with a comedy of errors and ended with such an ugly scene that umpires were forced to suspend play for eight minutes in the bottom of the ninth inning.
In the end, the Yankees did what they almost always do after a tough defeat. A day after their most lopsided postseason loss in history, the Yankees rebounded to win, 9-2, tonight in front of 33,586 at Fenway Park.
The Yankees got a solid 7 1/3 innings from left-hander Andy Pettitte and another save from closer Mariano Rivera in taking a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Darryl Strawberry started their scoring with a second-inning home run and Ricky Ledee finished it with a grand slam in the ninth.
The Yankees also took advantage of four Boston errors and got a terrific defensive play when shortstop Derek Jeter threw out Boston's Jose Offerman at the plate in the third inning.
The Yankees also were assisted when umpires appeared to blow a couple of calls. Second base umpire Tim Tschida admitted he blew one to end a Boston rally in the bottom of the eighth, and first baseman umpire Dale Scott may have gotten one wrong to start the bottom of the ninth.
After Scott's call, Red Sox Manager Jimy Williams rushed onto the field to complain and was ejected by Scott. At that point, things turned nasty when fans littered the field with debris and hurled several objects dangerously close to umpires and a variety of New York players.
Umpires halted play and ordered the Yankees off the field. Umpires huddled in the infield while the field was cleared and the crowd calmed down. After the game resumed, Rivera got the final two outs.
Afterward, the Red Sox complained about the missed calls and the Yankees complained about the stadium security personnel who ordered them to remain in the dugout after the game. Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson said security men were "yelling obscenities and cussing me. They're out there to protect us."
"That was a show of no-class whatsoever," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said.
Torre called the littering of the field "disgraceful."
"I know it's not an indication of Boston," he said. "Tonight was a bad mark against a very good team. . . . The sad part about it is you have a ballclub, the Boston Red Sox, who have busted their [butts] all year and given this city something to be proud of. I think it's inexcusable."
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner blamed Williams for the trouble, saying: "He really incited it. It's quite regrettable. I'm sorry it happened."
The trouble began in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out and Jose Offerman on first base, John Valentin hit a slow roller to Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch.
Knoblauch, who has had a season-long throwing problem, had made two bad throws earlier in the game. This time, he bobbled the grounder and got control of the ball at about the time Offerman arrived in his vicinity.
Knoblauch waved at Offerman, but clearly missed him before throwing a high lob to first baseman Tino Martinez, who got his foot on the bag just ahead of Valentin.
But the Yankees were given the double play when Tschida ruled that Knoblauch had tagged Offerman. Williams and Offerman argued the ball with Tschida and others, but didn't change anyone's mind.
"I didn't make the right call," Tschida said. "I got in the best position I could on that play and called the play on reaction. The only time I saw it was when I got back to the dressing room and saw the television."
The Red Sox came undone in the top of the ninth when they committed two more errors, allowed three singles and finally were buried by Ledee's grand slam.
Then in the bottom of the ninth, Nomar Garciaparra hit a slower roller to third baseman Scott Brosius. He fielded the ball and threw to Martinez at first. Garciaparra appeared to beat the throw, but Scott called Garciaparra out.
Williams flew onto the field to protest, and by the time he'd departed, the fans had begun hurling objects around the perimeter of the field. Some of those objects came close both to umpires and New York players, prompting the suspension of play.
If the Red Sox lose this series, they will remember two blown calls that helped the Yankees. Umpire Rick Reed admitted missing a call in Game 1 that hurt Boston.
"We feel it's being taken away from us, but we don't know why," Red Sox outfielder Darren Lewis said.
As for tonight's game itself, Pettitte enhanced his reputation as a big-game pitcher by winning his second straight start in the postseason. He's 4-1 with a 2.67 earned run average the past two Octobers and quieted Fenway Park a day after it had been rocking in a 13-1 defeat of Roger Clemens and the Yankees.
The Yankees needed Pettitte to be at his best because they nursed a 3-2 lead from the fourth inning until the ninth. They took the lead for good with the help of two Boston errors in the top of the fourth, and Pettitte made that lead stand up.
"We're really not looking at the three games right now," the Red Sox' Valentin said. "Now, obviously, you have to look at tomorrow."