A 365-day circle of Red Sox humiliation and Yankees hegemony was essentially completed here in Fenway Park.
On the anniversary of Grady Little's decision last October to leave Pedro Martinez on the mound in Yankee Stadium, the Yankees crushed Boston, 19-8, on Saturday night to take a three-games-to-none lead in the American League Championship Series. The postseason offense records that the Yankees broke can be summed up briefly: all of them.
No team in baseball history has come back from such a postseason deficit. These Red Sox won't be the first to do such a deed, not after the way their own boneheaded blunders perfectly complemented the 22-hit Yankees slugging in this rout.
It's never over until it's over. Except sometimes. And this is one of those times. Nobody recovers from what New York dished out. The Yankees pounded so many balls off the Green Monster that, by the seventh inning, the poor old battered edifice was heard moaning, "No Mas." New York had eight doubles, a triple, four home runs and several other singles off the left field wall.
The symmetry of this season's Boston-New York battles seems complete now. In July, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek had a brawl after Bronson Arroyo hit A-Rod. In this Game 3, A-Rod greeted Arroyo with an RBI double in the first inning and a titanic home run off him onto Lansdowne Street in the third. Before the night was over, Rodriguez had another double, a walk, five runs scored and three RBI.
The most unconscious of all Yankees was Hideki Matsui, who went 5 for 6 with two doubles, two homers, five runs and five RBI. So far in this series, he is 9 for 15 with four doubles, two homers and 10 RBI. Somewhere, Theo Epstein's computer just exploded.
The only compensation for Red Sox fans was that the game was so long and lugubrious (4 hours 20 minutes) that no one in full command of their senses could possibly have watched to its conclusion, unless held at gunpoint.
"We will show up tomorrow," Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said afterward, squelching rumors that perhaps they wouldn't. "It was getting ugly early. . . . You saw what they did to us."
Can a baseball game require a parental guidance rating?
"When you have two days off, you never know what will happen," said Yankees Manager Joe Torre.
Apparently, in this case it just meant the Yankees decided to score three days worth of runs in one night.
So, if you want symbolism, here it is. The pitching ace that both the Yankees and Red Sox craved last winter -- Curt Schilling -- ended up being ineffective in this series for Boston, losing Game 1, due largely to a gimpy ankle. In complete contrast, Rodriguez, the other superstar that both teams sought in the offseason, performed in perfect health for the Yanks and has had a monstrous 14-for-33 postseason with seven extra-base hits. The other high-dollar hitter the Yanks acquired to counteract Boston was free agent Gary Sheffield, who had four RBI in this game with two singles, a double and a homer.
Meantime, early in this game the Red Sox committed two base-running blunders and a balk that cost them about four runs. Given all this extra slack, the Yankees blew apart a 6-6 tie and coasted to a crushingly decisive victory. In baseball history, 80 percent of all teams that have fallen behind 3-0 in games in a postseason series have gone on to be swept.
Last season the Red Sox and Chicago Cubs were at the center of some of the most exciting postseason baseball of our time. Both seemed to have their respective pennants in their grasps then lost. In response, both radically improved their teams with high-priced and big-name stars. The idea that they might meet in the World Series this year even seemed plausible.
Now the mean old game of baseball has flushed that fantasy down the game's relentless reality tester. The ludicrously talented Cubs, who should have won the National League wild card in a walk, collapsed in late September, losing eight of nine games when it mattered most. Now, the Red Sox with perhaps their best team since Babe Ruth pitched for them are in the midst of being humiliated and possibly swept by a gutty Yankees team with a patched-together pitching staff and $100-million slugger Jason Giambi not even on its active roster.
Perhaps the evening's tone of pacifist Red Sox behavior was set when the national anthem was sung by The Cowsills, a putrid elevator-music pop group of the '60's who provided the capacity crowd with a skin-crawling "Mighty Wind" moment.
In the morass of a Fenway Park slugfest, mental mistakes often tell the tale, even though they don't show up in the box score. The Red Sox contributed to their own demise in the early innings when they might have taken a significant lead. First, Manny Ramirez ended the first inning by getting thrown out going first to third on a single -- a classic rockhead mistake. The first two hitters of the next inning had a walk and homer. Does that mean the Red Sox wasted two runs? Logicians would argue otherwise. But ballplayers invariably play the "what would have been" game and are haunted by such mistakes.
Next, in the third inning, Boston reliever Ramiro Mendoza balked home a run for a 6-4 Yankee lead. But it wasn't just any balk. Mendoza stepped backward off the rubber then, almost in the same motion threw to the plate. No one could ever remember seeing a similar balk. Future generations can discuss his motives. Without that balk, the run wouldn't have scored.
But then it was that kind of night for the Sox. National TV accidentally showed Johnny Damon on the Boston bench between innings -- barefoot, clipping his toenails.
The Red Sox topped themselves in the bottom of the fourth. With the bases loaded and one out, Orlando Cabrera doubled to right-center. Two runs scored to tie the game at 6; slow Bill Mueller, running from first base, should have been held at third base. Keep that big-inning going. But through some incomprehensible snafu he tried for home and was out by 10 feet. A subsequent groundout would have scored him. So, in three innings, the Red Sox had probably cost themselves three runs while giving the Yankees one extra score. Instead of being ahead by something like 9-5, they were merely tied.
Such sins seldom go unpunished. In the fourth inning, Francona bequeathed the tie game to unheralded Curtis Leskanic, of whom Red Sox fans say: "Time to panic. Call Leskanic." Leskanic was in rare form. After a walk to Rodriguez, Sheffield deposited his hanging slider over the Green Monster for a three-run homer. Then Matsui doubled, ending Leskanic's brief but memorable night.
With the game now nearly two hours long and verging on the absurd, Francona did the only natural thing -- he called for a knuckleball pitcher who was scheduled to start Game 4. Hey, what else? That didn't work either. Tim Wakefield issued an intentional walk then watched Ruben Sierra drive a two-run triple up the right field gap for an 11-6 New York lead.
After that, the Yankees used the rest of the night to get personal. With the game out of hand in the seventh inning, Sheffield, Matsui, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada all bashed two-out hits to pad their margin. In most games, that borders on bad sportsmanship. When it's Yankees against Red Sox, such mortifications are almost the heart of the matter.