Yanks pound out 3-0 edge with 19-8 win

11 runs in row put N.Y. 1 win from 40th W. Series

Sheffield, Matsui rock Red Sox

Yanks tie, set LCS marks: runs, hits (22), doubles (8)

October 17, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - As if this rivalry hasn't been cruel enough for the Boston Red Sox, as if they hadn't given their fans enough reason for heartbreak, Game 3 of the American League Championship Series sent them spinning to new emotional lows.

In a game that history said they had to win, the Red Sox spent three innings absorbing the New York Yankees' punches, coming back with some haymakers of their own.

Heading into the fourth inning last night, this one was tied at six runs apiece.

But then, with the same cold, calculating precision that has defined their team for the past decade - this time personified by the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui - the Yankees reeled off 11 consecutive runs and rolled to a 19-8 victory before 35,126 at Fenway Park.

New York's 19 runs were the second-highest total in postseason history, topped only by Boston's 23 in Game 4 of the 1999 AL Division Series against the Cleveland Indians.

Now, with a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Yankees are one win from their 40th World Series appearance.

The Red Sox are one loss from one of the worst humiliations they could have imagined: the sight of the Yankees celebrating an ALCS sweep in their grand old ballpark.

New York will have that chance in Game 4 tonight, and Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he'll use Derek Lowe as his starting pitcher after using Tim Wakefield last night for 3 1/3 innings of relief.

"I think we have to try to keep it simple," Francona said. "We show up [today], and our only objective is to win. It starts looking a little daunting if you start looking at the big picture. Keep it simple, and go from there."

No team in major league history has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, and the Red Sox find themselves in this position after a game that seemed eminently winnable - if they could have found anyone who could get the Yankees out.

Starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo couldn't do it. He got pulled during the third inning, and was charged with six runs. Ramiro Mendoza, the former Yankee, had a chance to restore order when he took the mound for the fourth inning with a 6-6 score.

To that point, the Red Sox had already erased deficits of 3-0 and 6-4. To that point, it seemed like they could still turn around this lopsided series.

But Mendoza hit Yankees' No. 9 hitter Miguel Cairo to start the fourth, and Francona turned to right-hander Curtis Leskanic.

"Lesky has had a lot of success against the guys he was facing," Francona said. "Lesky was going to get us out of that half-inning, and Wake was going to start the next inning."

But two batters later, Sheffield drilled a three-run homer into the Green Monster seats above the left-field wall, and the Yankees had a 9-6 lead.

Then Francona summoned Wakefield, and the bleeding continued, as Ruben Sierra hit a two-run triple to right-center.

If there was a backbreaking moment in this marathon game, that was it.

"We got ourselves into a bind," Francona said of his decision to use Wakefield. "It was getting ugly."

The Yankees added two more in the fifth inning, making it 13-6.

Yankees manager Joe Torre was just as desperate to find an effective pitcher after starter Kevin Brown gave up four runs in two innings, but he found one in Javier Vazquez. After coughing up a 6-4 lead in the third, Vazquez held the Red Sox scoreless for the next three innings.

"Those zeros he put up," Torre said, "were like gold for us."

By the end, all sorts of records had been set.

The two teams combined to set a new postseason record for hits in a game, as the Yankees had 22 (matching a League Championship Series record) and the Red Sox had 15. The Yankees also tied a postseason record with eight doubles.

The 27 combined runs between the teams also set an LCS record.

And it was the longest nine-inning game in postseason history at 4 hours, 20 minutes.

Three Yankees did most of the damage:

Matsui went 5-for-6 with two home runs and two doubles. He matched the LCS record for RBIs with five, just as he did in Game 1, and matched the LCS record for hits set by the Orioles' Paul Blair in 1969. Matsui and Rodriguez each scored five runs, matching a postseason record.

Sheffield went 4-for-5 with the go-ahead home run and four RBIs.

Rodriguez went 3-for-5 with two doubles and one of the biggest hits of the game.

It came right after Boston sent nine batters to the plate in the second inning, scoring four runs to take a 4-3 lead. The series was 20 innings old, and the Red Sox had their first lead.

It didn't even last one batter.

Leading off the third inning, Rodriguez got a 2-1 slider from Arroyo and drilled it over the Green Monster, tying the game 4-4.

"We wanted to make sure we answered quick that inning," Rodriguez said. "We knew it was going to take at least 10 runs to win that game."

And they added nine more for good measure.

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