Yanks win pennant on homer

Boone's leadoff shot in 11th extends N.Y.'s mystique, Red Sox's curse, 6-5

Martinez blows 3-run lead in 8th

Wakefield gives up HR to slumping infielder

N.Y. vs. Florida tomorrow

League Championship Series

October 17, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - It wasn't enough that the New York Yankees kept their season alive last night. That's only half the fun. They also took special care of a certain curse that once again had the strength to wrap itself around their most hated rival.

Will it ever let go? Down to their last five outs, the Yankees overcame a three-run deficit in the eighth and got a leadoff home run from Aaron Boone in the 11th to defeat the Boston Red Sox, 6-5, in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

"Wow. I can't even talk," Boone said. "It's unbelievable. Mo ... so many heroes today. Unbelievable. This is awesome. Like Derek told me, `The ghosts will show up eventually.'"

The Yankees and Florida Marlins begin the World Series tomorrow in New York. No problem guessing which team will have the fresher pitching staff.

New York has been stuck on 26 championships since winning the 2000 Subway Series, all of them coming after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth in 1919. That constitutes a dry spell in the Bronx, but Boone might have poured gallons of water on it with one swing against Tim Wakefield.

Boone was batting for the only time in the game, a 2-for-16 slump moving him to the bench. He entered the game after pinch-running for Ruben Sierra in the eighth, and jumped on the first pitch from Wakefield, who won twice as a starter in the series and retired the side in the 10th last night.

As the ball arced toward the left-field seats, Boone raised both arms while running to first base. Mariano Rivera, who pitched three innings for the win, rushed to the mound that Wakefield vacated and sprawled across it.

In Red Sox Nation, there's still only frustration and disappointment.

They've been steady companions.

Boston drove Roger Clemens from the game in the fourth inning, leaving Pedro Martinez to carry out their historic matchup alone. He led 5-2 going into the eighth, but the Yankees scored three runs before manager Grady Little removed him.

Jorge Posada's two-run double tied the score - he reached second only because nobody covered the bag after the ball fell into center field - and the Yankees had new life.

A double by Derek Jeter and single by Bernie Williams with one out reduced Boston's lead to 5-3. Little stayed with Martinez after visiting the mound, and Hideki Matsui lined a double down the right-field line, with Williams stopping at third because a fan touched the ball.

Posada broke his bat while looping a 2-2 pitch into center, and Little finally called upon left-hander Alan Embree, who retired Jason Giambi after the slugger twice homered off Martinez.

Little brought in Mike Timlin with two outs even though Enrique Wilson was 4-for-30 against left-handers this season. The Yankees countered with Ruben Sierra, who was walked intentionally. Timlin walked Karim Garcia on four pitches to load the bases for Alfonso Soriano.

After striking out four times against Martinez, Soriano hit a sharp grounder that took a high hop off the right side of the mound. Second baseman Todd Walker made a leaping grab and flipped to Nomar Garciaparra for the force.

Trot Nixon hit a two-run homer of Clemens in the second inning, and Kevin Millar led off the fourth with a bases-empty shot. Former Oriole Mike Mussina removed his jacket and began to warm in the bullpen, poised to make his first career relief appearance after 400 starts.

It came two batters later after Bill Mueller poked a hit-and-run single behind Jeter, who broke to cover second base at the same time as Soriano - another sign that the Yankees weren't in position to extend their season.

The crowd gave Clemens a loud ovation as manager Joe Torre left the dugout to make the change. Clemens stared at the ground with each step toward the bench, never once lifting his head.

A loss would have ended Clemens' career, since he still plans to retire with six Cy Young Awards and a ticket punched for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. He won Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS for the Red Sox, but they weren't in a sentimental mood last night.

The Yankees haven't lost an ALCS since 1980, or a best-of-seven series when leading 3-2 and heading home since the 1926 World Series. Only nine teams in history have won the last two games of a best-of-seven series on the road, and only the second in the ALCS.

Inheriting two runners with none out, Mussina struck out Jason Varitek and got Johnny Damon to ground into a double play. Mussina gave the Yankees three scoreless innings.

The Red Sox set an ALCS record with 12 home runs, the last coming when David Ortiz launched David Wells first pitch into the center-field bleachers in the eighth inning. They were out-bashing the Yankees, outpitching them and making more plays in the field.

The tabloids referred to the game as Round 7, and the fight reference was clear and predictable. The New York Post has labeled Martinez the "coach-mauling Fenway punk" because he threw Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground in Game 3.

During their pre-game long tossing, Martinez and Clemens stood with their backs turned to each other, maybe 10 feet of space separating them.

Martinez agitated the crowd twice in the first three innings by coming inside to a Yankees hitter, though neither time with the intent to hit anyone. One pitch after Soriano spun away to avoid a curveball, Martinez struck him out with a fastball.

He came a little closer to Soriano's head in the seventh after the Yankees put the tying runs on base with two outs. With the count 2-2, Martinez blew a 94 mph fastball past him.

Clemens' fastball kept touching 94 mph in the first two innings, but the Red Sox had good swings against him. The best came from Nixon, who followed a single by Millar with his fourth postseason homer.

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