Yankees 19, Red Sox 8
New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre had said that players are in scoring position at Fenway Park the moment they step up to home plate. The grand old park had been the Boston Red Sox' best hope to turn around what had started as an epic series but suddenly appears to be a complete mismatch.
The Yankees battered the home team, 19-8, in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series to take a three-games-to-none lead. As the game spiraled out of control for the Red Sox, the often raucous crowd at Fenway was in a dazed silence. It was so quiet, that at one point New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez could be heard yelling words of encouragement to pitcher Javier Vazquez.
"I won't bail on those guys," Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said. "We'll show up and play. It's disappointing for everyone. But we're not done. I fully expect we'll come out and play our [butts] off."
Boston's pitching staff, the reason why the Red Sox entered the series as the favorites, has allowed 32 runs in three games. As Saturday's game stalled in the fifth inning with yet another Yankees rally, the two teams had already set an ALCS mark for most runs in a game. It was only the beginning of New York's record night.
The teams broke the League Championship Series record for most runs in the game in the seventh, when New York scored four runs to push their total to 17, and also set a new LCS mark for hits in the bottom part of the inning. The Yankees' 19 runs and 22 hits were also LCS records. Rodriguez ended the game having scored five runs, tying the postseason record. In the ninth, Hideki Matsui equaled Rodriguez's record with his second home run of the game and also tied an LCS record with five hits in a game.
"Last year it was trying to get a feel for it," Torre said about Matsui. "This year we see a different hitter. He's cool under pressure; that's probably the most important ingredient. He never gives away an at-bat. Right now, knock wood, he's huge for us."
The eight doubles by the Yankees tied the postseason record set in 1925 and 1906, six years before Fenway had been built. At 4 hours 20 minutes, it was the longest nine-inning game in postseason history.
"You knew it was going to be one of those nights," Torre said. "[My players] had a lot of determination tonight. You saw it. I can't explain it. You can't teach somebody those things. That has to come from inside."
Red Sox starter Bronson Arroyo, acquired as a waiver wire pickup from the Pittsburgh Pirates in February 2003, was the team's most consistent starter other than Curt Schilling toward the end of the season. But the responsibility of an entire city and team appeared to be too much for Arroyo. A team built around a starting staff of Schilling and Pedro Martinez was suddenly forced to look to Arroyo to save the season. Under such pressure, he crumbled.
The Yankees attacked immediately, scoring three runs in the first, but the Red Sox struck back against Yankees starter Kevin Brown to take a 4-3 lead in the second inning.
Boston's resurgence in the second half of the season might have begun when Arroyo plunked Rodriguez during a game on July 24, starting a fight between the teams. Counting that game, the Red Sox finished the season 46-20. But Saturday, Rodriguez got even with a home run that tied the score at 4 in the third. Two batters later, Arroyo was finished, having allowed six runs in just two innings. Boston's only lead of the series had lasted just through the bottom of the second.
Boston's chances of beating the Yankees had appeared slim even prior to Arroyo's struggles. In the Torre era, the six Yankees teams that had taken two-games-to-none leads in a seven-game series had never been pushed past Game 5. Overall in LCS play, only twice in 15 chances had a team come back from an 0-2 deficit.
Boston's final act of desperation came in the fourth, when Francona brought Tim Wakefield, the announced Game 4 starter, into a game in which the Red Sox trailed 9-6. With a runner on second and two outs, Wakefield was asked by Francona to intentionally walk Jorge Posada, who started the at-bat hitting below .200 in the postseason, in order to face Ruben Sierra, who had just one hit in 13 at-bats against Wakefield. Sierra tripled to right, scoring two runs that signaled perhaps the end of the Red Sox season. Wakefield allowed two more runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh.
"We got ourselves into a bind," Francona said. "You saw what was going on. We got into a position we didn't want to go in. When we win tomorrow, we'll have Wake to thank for that."
The Red Sox enter Sunday's game with their Game 4 starter having been used in relief in Game 3 and their ace, Schilling, unlikely to play again in this series. Their only chance of extending this series falls on Derek Lowe, who had been left off the postseason rotation until Schilling's injury. Suddenly, Fenway Park no longer looks like such an welcoming place for the home team.