Resilient Red Sox rally past Yankees

Boston forces Game 7, turns back New York, 9-6

League Championship Series

October 16, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - The Boston Red Sox didn't worry that yesterday's pitching matchup favored the other team, or when they fell behind in the first inning, or after grabbing a three-run lead. As the pressure built, so did their confidence and resolve.

They still can't envision the World Series being played without them. And they certainly can't take a hint.

Nomar Garciaparra broke out of a prolonged slump with four hits, and the Red Sox took advantage of every mistake by the New York Yankees in the seventh inning to win Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, 9-6, and set up a dramatic and potentially volatile finish.

Trailing 6-4 and moving closer to elimination, the Red Sox scored three times in the seventh to stun a crowd of 56,277 at Yankee Stadium.

They almost hit for the cycle, needing only a homer after the first three batters were finished with reliever Jose Contreras. The Yankees committed an error, threw two wild pitches and issued a bases-loaded walk. And the pinstripes that ran down the series faded to gray.

"That's just the way this team functions," said catcher Jason Varitek, who homered into the upper deck in left field in the third inning to tie the score at 1-1.

"I said it a lot [Tuesday] night, and a lot of people laughed at me. This team, just give us a chance."

The Red Sox wanted one more opportunity with Pedro Martinez in Game 7, a reprise of Saturday's showdown with Roger Clemens - minus the bench-clearing scuffles, imposed fines and police investigations.

They get it tonight.

"It's Game 7. There's more important things than stuff that shouldn't be on the sports page," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

"You hope it's a clean game and one team wins, as opposed to somebody having to live with a mistake, an error or something like that. I don't know of any two clubs that are more evenly matched."

Tonight's winner will advance to the World Series against the Florida Marlins, beginning Saturday in the AL city. The Yankees are trying to win their 39th pennant, and the sixth since 1996. They're trying to atone for last year's exit in the AL Division Series.

They're trying to convince the Red Sox, an organization without a world championship since 1918 and snubbed from the Fall Classic 16 straight years, to play along.

"I guess it was supposed to come down to seven games, as much as you hate to think about it," Torre said. "They battled like we've battled each other all year. It was just no quitting on either ballclub. At least we know tomorrow will be the last day."

Strong winds and a cloudy sky made for a football atmosphere. The Red Sox prefer a rodeo, and they were able to "Cowboy Up" one more time against their most hated rival.

That attitude was apparent in the sixth, when the Yankees had runners at second and third with one out and a chance to put the game away. Reliever Alan Embree struck out Jason Giambi and retired Bernie Williams, making the comeback possible.

"I'm sure they didn't expect us to go down without a fight," Varitek said.

Trot Nixon hit a two-run homer off Gabe White in the ninth, the ball landing about 10 rows up the third deck. But the game, and perhaps the entire series, turned in the seventh with Contreras trying to preserve Andy Pettitte's 6-4 lead until the bullpen gates swung open again and Mariano Rivera walked through them.

Garciaparra, batting .105 in the ALCS and .205 in the postseason, lifted a fly ball into the wind that carried to the left-center field fence for a triple, and he came home when Hideki Matsui bounced a throw into the seats while presumably aiming at third base. Matsui also misjudged a line drive from Bill Mueller in the second inning and allowed the ball to clear his head for a double.

"The wind was unpredictable," Torre said. "It was swirling and doing a lot of different things."

Booed every time he got near the plate, Manny Ramirez doubled off Contreras and moved up on the first wild pitch. David Ortiz followed his two-run single in the third with another single that tied the game.

Before the inning was done, Mueller singled, left-hander Felix Heredia threw a wild pitch and walked Varitek intentionally to load the bases, and Johnny Damon walked on four pitches to give Boston a 7-6 lead.

"It just looked like [Contreras] started to overthrow the ball," Torre said. "I thought his stuff was good."

Bypassed in Game 4 after Sunday's rainout, John Burkett lasted only 3 2/3 innings. Giambi homered in the first inning, and the Yankees scored four runs in the fourth to wipe out a 4-1 deficit created against Pettitte. A two-run double by Alfonso Soriano gave them the lead.

When Jorge Posada hit a bases-empty homer off Bronson Arroyo in the fifth, the Yankees seemed in control. Instead, the teams will revise the one-game playoff of 1978 in the latest winner-take-all showdown - with two pitchers dealing with their own histories against each other.

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