Red Sox win, force Game 7

Gutty Schilling, overturned calls stop Yankees, as rallying Red Sox rise in third game in row, 4-2

Home no cure for N.Y.

comeback from 3-game deficit is a first

October 20, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Forgive the Boston Red Sox for remaining skeptical tonight, lest someone jinx this before the end of Game 7, but the great curse appears to be lifting.

How else to explain the past three games of this American League Championship Series? First, they make two comebacks against Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of this generation, and steal two wins from the New York Yankees in extra innings. And then last night, every break and every call seemed to go Boston's way.

Seriously, it's true.

Curt Schilling pitched seven brilliant innings with an ankle that was practically stapled together, and the Red Sox got two opportune calls from the umpires, as they beat the Yankees, 4-2, in Game 6 before 56,128 livid fans at Yankee Stadium.

This one ended with riot police securing the field.

Yes, there will be another Game 7 between these teams here tonight to determine the AL champion, and for once, there's a serious question as to which team will have the fates on its side.

"I'm feeling pretty special," Schilling said, "about being a part of this club right now."

The Red Sox won their third straight game last night, becoming the first major league team to overcome a 3-0 deficit to force a Game 7 in a best-of-seven series.

Tonight, Boston will likely send knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to the mound, trying to complete the unprecedented task. Wakefield was the one who surrendered Aaron Boone's 11th-inning home run in Game 7 of last year's ALCS at Yankee Stadium.

But that's a different chapter in Red Sox history. That was before they added Schilling, who went to the mound last night mended like Frankenstein and pitched like Superman.

Schilling has a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle, and it hindered him severely in Game 1, when he gave up six runs in three innings. After trying a custom-made brace, and high-top shoes, he went back to the mound last night wearing the same old shoes but with a blood stain seeping onto his white sanitary socks.

Turns out, Boston's medical staff applied sutures to Schilling's ankle on Monday, to help hold the tendon in place. One day later, he was on the mound, holding the Yankees to one run on four hits.

"I don't think people have any idea what he went through to pitch tonight," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "You can talk all you want about that [ankle] area, but his heart is so big."

The Red Sox gave Schilling a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning, with three of those runs coming on a controversial home run by Mark Bellhorn.

In a play that conjured memories of Jeffrey Maier, the fan who interfered with a ball in play when the Orioles lost to the Yankees in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, Bellhorn hit a ball that cleared the left-field wall but caromed off a fan's chest and bounced back onto the field.

Remember mystique and aura - the long-rumored Yankee Stadium forces, that Schilling jokingly referred to as dancers in a nightclub? They must have had the night off.

The Maier play worked in the Yankees' favor, as Derek Jeter was awarded a home run after Maier reached over the right-field wall to make the catch.

This one worked against the Yankees.

Jim Joyce, the left-field umpire, ruled that Bellhorn's ball had stayed in play, which would have held Bellhorn to a two-run double.

But after getting prompted by Francona, the six umpires conferred and awarded Bellhorn his three-run homer, drawing groans from the crowd and a quick conversation from Yankees manager Joe Torre.

The Red Sox had a 4-0 lead, but New York was far from finished.

Bernie Williams hit a bases-empty homer off Schilling with one out in the seventh inning. And then going into the eighth, with Schilling's pitch count at 99, Francona turned to Bronson Arroyo in relief.

Jeter trimmed the lead to 4-2 with a run-scoring single to left field, and for the first time all night, the stadium shook.

Then it happened.

Alex Rodriguez hit a little roller up the first base line. Arroyo fielded the ball and went to tag Rodriguez, who knocked it away with his left hand. The ball rolled into foul territory. Jeter crossed home plate, Rodriguez advanced to second, and the scoreboard still said one out.

The stadium was shaking again.

But Francona came back out, the umpires conferred again, and Rodriguez was called out for runner's interference. Jeter was sent back to first base, and the crowd began pelting the field with debris, as Torre went back to argue.

"The home run, I can understand the umpires getting together and overruling it," Torre said. "Everybody saw the play better than Jimmy Joyce down the line. The other one, I have a little more problem with because [first base umpire] Randy Marsh saw the play better than anyone else, and it's not like the ball went out of the ballpark."

Bob Sheppard, the longtime Yankee Stadium public address announcer, implored the crowd to behave itself, but it took several moments to clean the field.

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