For the first time in history, the Red Sox and the Yankees met in the postseason. The two teams being in the same league, the only way it could happen was after the creation of the three divisions in each league and the Wild Card. The 98-win Yankees topped the AL East, and they swept the Texas Rangers – rather easily – in the Division Series. The Red Sox had had to battle from an 0-2 deficit and win three in a row to overcome the Indians. Now it was head-to-head, the two teams in baseball with perhaps the greatest rivalry. New York had won the division and earned home field advantage, but Game One was far from a cakewalk. It took 10 innings to conclude.
In the 12 games the two teams had played against each other, the Red Sox held the edge, an 8-4 record over the Yankees. The two teams were close to each other in batting average – Boston .278 and NY .282, and in ERA (Boston had the edge, 4.00 to 4.13). The Yankees had a run differential of 169 more runs scored than allowed; Boston’s run differential was 118. New York scored exactly 900 runs, and Boston 836.
In the first game, the Red Sox established a 3-0 lead over Orlando Hernandez after 1 ½ innings and left four on base. New York’s Scott Brosius homered off Kent Mercker to give the Yankees two runs in the second. The next run scored was five innings later when Derek Jeter drove in Brosius with the tying run. Hernandez pitched through eight, and Mariano Rivera set down the six batters he faced in the ninth and tenth – though it took a double play in the tenth. Rod Beck took over pitching for the Red Sox in the bottom of the tenth – but he didn’t pitch long. One pitch, in fact, which Bernie Williams clubbed for a walkoff home run. 4-3.
It was a slow see-saw in the second game, David Cone throwing for New York against Ramon Martinez of the Red Sox. In the bottom of the fourth, first baseman Tino Martinez homered off Ramon Martinez (no relation) to make it 1-0, New York. Nomar hit a two-run homer in the top of the fifth, tilting the balance in Boston’s favor. In the bottom of the seventh, Ramon M gave up a walk. A sacrifice to move the runner to second was one of two outs, but then a double by Chuck Knoblauch tied the game. In came Tom Gordon to pitch. Knoblauch stole third. Gordon walked Jeter. Rheal Cormier was brought in to pitch to Paul O’Neill, who singled to make it 3-2, Yankees. That was the last run scored in the game – even though the Red Sox left three men on base in the eighth and two more in the ninth. The series went to Boston, with New York having a 2-0 edge.
Game Three was billed as the match of the century: current Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez against the former Red Sox ace, Roger Clemens. Pedro had a Cy Young in each league and was just coming off one of the best seasons any pitcher has ever had: 23-4, with a 2.07 earned run average. He’d won pitching’s Triple Crown, leading in wins, ERA, and with 313 strikeouts. Over the whole season, he’d averaged 13.2 strikeouts a game. He won his third Cy Young and came in second in the MVP balloting only because two writers deliberately chose to ignore the voting requirements of the BBWAA, stressing that pitchers should be included. Clemens already had five Cy Youngs, including 1997 and 1998 for the Blue Jays. This was his first year in New York, and he was 14-10 with a 4.60 ERA – but never to be counted out. There were, indeed, two more Cy Youngs in his future.
In this game, though, Clemens was knocked out after two-plus innings. Boston scored twice in the first, twice in the second, and then twice in the third. Five of those runs were charged to Roger. A walk and a two-run homer by John Valentin gave Boston two runs before Clemens got anyone out. After Clemens walked the first man in the third, Joe Torre asked for the game ball and handed it to Hideki Irabu in relief – and Brian Daubach greeted him with a home run. The runs kept coming and it was 13-0 before the Yankees got one of their own, a solo Scott Brosius homer off Tom Gordon. The final was 13-1.
Darryl Strawberry hit a homer off Bret Saberhagen in the second inning of Game Four. The Red Sox pushed a run across to tie it 1-1 in the bottom of the second, then took a 2-1 lead in the third. The Yankees got two runs in the fourth, and then held the 3-2 lead until the ninth inning. Andy Pettitte had pitched 7 1/3. Looking for an insurance run in the top of the night, the Yankees got six of them! Rich Garces had given up two, but left with the bases loaded. Rod Beck came on and, as in Game One, pitched to one batter, pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee – who hit a grand slam. With the score 9-2, why take him out? Beck pitched to two more batters and got those two out. Rivera struggled a bit, giving up two hits but no runs.
Game Five had become an elimination game for the Red Sox. And they were eliminated. It was in Kent Mercker’s hands to try and stop the Yankees. Orlando Hernandez was pitching for New York. Hernandez threw shutout ball through seven innings. Mercker allowed two Yankees runs in the first, a two-run homer by Jeter before there was anyone out. That was the game-winning hit, since the Red Sox only ever scored once, when Hernandez gave up a leadoff homer to Jason Varitek in the eighth. New York scored two more in the seventh and two more in the top of the ninth. It was a 6-1 win that sent New York to the World Series.By TBP
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