Red badge of courage

On torn ankle, Schilling pitches Red Sox to tie in ALCS with 4-2 victory

He gives Yanks 1 run in 7 innings

Down 3 games, Red Sox rally to force Game 7

umps meet, alter 2 calls

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

NEW YORK - Forgive the Boston Red Sox for remaining skeptical tonight, at least until the conclusion of Game 7, but the great curse appears to be lifting.

How else to explain the past three games of the American League Championship Series? First, they make two comebacks against Mariano Rivera, the greatest reliever of this generation, stealing 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.

The Red Sox got seven brilliant innings from injured starter Curt Schilling and a pair of opportune calls from the umpires, as they defeated the New York 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 two 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.

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 send knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to the mound, trying to complete the unprecedented task.

Schilling overcame the troublesome right ankle that hindered his performance in Game 1, holding the Yankees to one run on four hits.

Boston scored four runs off Jon Lieber in the fourth inning, with three of them 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 right-field wall but caromed off a fan's chest and bounced back onto the field.

The Maier play worked for the Yankees, as Derek Jeter was awarded a home run after Maier reached over the same wall to make the catch.

This one worked against the Yankees.

Jim Joyce, the left-field umpire, ruled that the ball had stayed in play, which would have held Bellhorn to a two-run double. But after getting prompted by Red Sox manager Terry 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 in the eighth, with Schilling's pitch count at 99, Francona turned to Bronson Arroyo in relief.

Derek 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.

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

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

Play resumed, and Arroyo got Gary Sheffield to foul out to the catcher, ending the inning. The riot police were called, and after standing awkwardly near the Red Sox dugout, they positioned themselves to the side.

Boston closer Keith Foulke walked two batters in the ninth inning, bringing the potential winning run to the plate, but Tony Clark struck out to end the game.

Schilling finished his pre-game warm-ups in the bullpen and emerged, literally, from the mist, as a light moisture blew sideways through the stadium. The outfield door swung open, and he walked slowly back to the Boston dugout.

He wasn't wearing the black, high-top shoes that he had tried in a bullpen session at Fenway Park this weekend, the ones that bore an eerie resemblance to Bill Buckner's shoes from 1986.

Schilling's custom-made right shoe was more of a three-quarter top, and his white sanitary sock on that foot was stained red, the shade of blood.

Sure, Schilling was pitching with a torn tendon sheath in his right foot, but you had the feeling, if it bothered him this time, he'd simply have his leg amputated and go on pitching.

The Yankees pounded him for six innings in Game 1, and from the outset that night, it was clear he wasn't himself. Later, he said the tendon was "clicking" from one side of the ankle to the other with each pitch.

But this time, he looked sound. With a game-time temperature of 49 degrees, you could see Schilling's breath with each exhale. Soon, Red Sox Nation started to exhale, too.

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