Comeback kings

Red Sox stun Yanks, 10-3, are 1st baseball club to win a series after trailing 3-0

Ortiz is MVP

Damon: 6 RBIs

Historic rally propels Boston to World Series for first time since 1986


October 21, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - They were spotted wearing paper bags on their heads at Fenway Park just four nights ago, and now Boston Red Sox fans have a question for the New York Yankees: "Who's your Papi?"

David Ortiz, aka "Big Papi," became the new face of this rivalry last night - joining Babe Ruth and Pedro Martinez - as the Red Sox completed one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.

Ortiz hit a two-run homer in the first inning, at the one moment when the Yankees were feeling confident again, and Boston rolled to a 10-3 victory in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

A crowd of 56,129 at Yankee Stadium watched the Red Sox celebrate their first World Series berth since 1986. Boston will play the winner of tonight's NL Championship Series finale between the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros, with the first game coming Saturday night at Fenway.

Ortiz took home ALCS Most Valuable Player honors, after hitting .387 with three home runs and 11 RBIs.

Johnny Damon, his long-haired teammate who entered last night batting .103 in the series, followed his lead, belting a second-inning grand slam and a two-run homer in the fourth.

"It's very amazing," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "To do what we did, you have to have people chip in and do some special things."

Unable to solve Red Sox starter Derek Lowe, the Yankees trailed 6-0 by the second inning and 8-1 to the fourth, giving them ample time to ponder one of the biggest collapses in sports history.

After spending $180 million on this year's payroll, owner George Steinbrenner can't be happy.

"He's going to be disappointed," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "I saw him before the game, and he offered all the support he possibly could. None of us wanted this to happen. George knows we did the best we can. Unfortunately the results aren't always what we wanted them to be."

The big cushion allowed Francona to tempt the fates in the seventh inning. He summoned Martinez, and the crowd awakened with chants of "Who's your daddy?" as the Yankees quickly scored two runs, trimming the lead to 8-3.

But that momentum disappeared quickly, as Mark Bellhorn led off the Boston eighth with a home run off the right-field foul pole. An inning later, the celebration began, and hundreds of Red Sox fans emerged from their hiding places, chanting "Let's Go Red Sox!"

What happened last night hardly seemed possible Saturday, when New York pounded the Red Sox, 19-8, to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

Twenty-five previous major league teams had fallen behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series and none had even forced a Game 7, let alone come back to win.

The Red Sox joined the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders as the only teams in the four major sports to accomplish this feat.

But what made this series such a classic were the individual comebacks.

The Yankees were three outs away from their 40th World Series berth in Game 4, when the Red Sox rallied against New York's incomparable closer, Mariano Rivera, and then won on a 12th-inning walk-off home run by Ortiz.

Boston came back against Rivera again the next night, this time in the eighth inning, and Ortiz won that one with a run-scoring single in the 14th. In Game 6, it was Curt Schilling, with day-old sutures holding the tendons together in his right ankle, leading the Red Sox to yet another win.

Game 7 had the makings of another classic. The teams had met 51 times over the previous two years, with the Red Sox holding a 26-25 edge.

By the time they took the field last night, it was already the longest series by time in postseason history, at 25 hours and 36 minutes.

"Who said anybody went to bed? Or slept?" Francona said.

Both pitching staffs were spent, so Francona started Lowe, who wasn't even a member of his original postseason rotation. Lowe had thrown 88 pitches in Game 4, but he came back on two days' rest and held the Yankees to one run on one hit over six innings.

"He was so special tonight," Francona said, "under some really tough circumstances."

The Yankees countered with veteran Kevin Brown, who broke his left hand punching a wall in frustration last month and lasted just two innings in Game 3 against the Red Sox.

After all the anticipation, this game had a seismic momentum shift in the first inning. With one out, Manny Ramirez singled up the middle, and Damon tried scoring from second, but the Yankees cut him down the plate with a perfect relay throw from their captain, Derek Jeter.

But Ortiz was up next, and the Yankees' jubilation quickly turned to distress. Ortiz turned on Brown's first pitch and lined the ball a few rows into the right-field seats for his fourth home run of the postseason.

The Red Sox were just getting started. They chased Brown with a single and two walks in the second inning. Torre didn't hesitate. Brown was out, and Javier Vazquez was in, and a few clubhouse attendants probably broke into a sweat wondering which object Brown was about to destroy next.

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