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American League Championship Series Game 7
October 20, 2004 • Yankee Stadium, New York

Red Sox 10, Yankees 3

Box Score

          1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9   R  H  E
___________________________________   _______

Boston    2  4  0  2  0  0  0  1  1   10 13 0
New York  0  0  1  0  0  0  2  0  0   3  5  1

Red Sox Nation finally had its do-over. Aaron Boone's series-winning home run in last year's ALCS had barely landed, when all I was thinking was, "No, wait... do-over!" And now, one year and four days later, they were back in the exact same spot, with a chance to make everything right again. It was incredible to think about all that had gone right just to get back to this spot: making the playoffs, advancing past the first round, coming back every night to force a Game 7. As nervous and neurotic as I had been at work before Game 6, I was even worse the day of Game 7. It goes without saying that they had to win tonight. A loss, after all they went through to get here, would be worse than last year, and worse than if they had just lost Game 4 and been swept. Yet what made me even more nervous was that I felt extremely confident about their chances. Every day during the regular season, I'd leave work telling my co-workers, "We're going to win tonight, 10-0." The same thought crossed my mind with regard to tonight's game, but I never would have said that out loud about a playoff game. I was afraid to even think it! And I had warned everyone not to make any predictions, good or bad, that could potentially jinx anything. I didn't get any work done that day. I felt queasy drinking my morning coffee, was hyperventilating by lunch, and almost threw up after supper.

When the game finally started, it was Derek Lowe against Kevin Brown. Lowe had been the odd man out of the rotation, starting the playoffs in the bullpen, but now with Bronson Arroyo and Tim Wakefield having pitched in relief over the last couple of games, Lowe was starting the most important game of the year. And he was doing it on only two days' rest, having just pitched Game 4. (They say a sinkerballer pitches better when he's tired, but this was pushing it!) Brown hadn't pitched since Game 3, and then he had only gone two innings before the Red Sox knocked him out. (The Yankees tried everything they could to invoke the past, inviting Bucky "Bleeping" Dent to throw out the first pitch and putting Sox management up in the Babe Ruth Suite, but none of that was going to help them win in the present.)

Johnny Damon entered the game with only three hits in the series for a .103 average. But he singled into left field to get the game off to a good start. Mark Bellhorn had been moved back to the second spot in the order after his homer last night. He struck out, but Johnny was able to steal second. I hate listening to the FOX announcers, so I had been muting the TV and listening to Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano on the radio. They had just finished saying that with two very evenly-matched clubs, the team that won tonight's game would be the one which made the fewest mistakes, when Manny Ramirez singled. Johnny tried to score from second, but was thrown out at the plate. I hoped that wasn't a mistake that would prove to be costly. But it didn't take long for David Ortiz to put that fear to rest. On the very next pitch, Big Papi deposited a souvenir into the right field stands, giving the Sox a 2-0 lead. Lowe set the Yankees down in order in the bottom of the first. Trot Nixon grounded out to open the second, but then Kevin Millar singled and Bill Mueller and Orlando Cabrera walked, marking the end of the night for Kevin Brown. Javier Vazquez came in to relieve, and Damon greeted him by hitting his first pitch out of the park for a grand slam. Johnny had picked a great time to heat up, and it was now 6-0 Sox.

Lowe cruised through the second. With one out in the third, he hit Miguel Cairo, who then stole second. Derek Jeter singled, scoring Cairo, but Lowe got Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield on groundouts to end the inning. The Yankees might have thought they were mounting a comeback, and I certainly remembered Game 1 of the series when the Sox came back from an 8-0 deficit to make it 8-7, but any designs they had on accomplishing a similar feat were short-lived. Vazquez walked Cabrera to start the third, and Johnny Damon was up again. This time he hit the first pitch of the at-bat into the upper deck in right field, for an 8-1 lead. (Still, I couldn't relax. There was too much time left in the game. A friend called me up: "You must be loving this!" but I couldn't even form a coherent reply, mumbling only that the more we scored the more nervous I was getting. She's originally from New Jersey, but New England natives know not to celebrate prematurely because it ain't over till it's over. Being five outs away - or one strike away - is not close enough for comfort, and right now we were still five long innings away.) They loaded the bases again that inning, knocking Vazquez out of the game in favor of Esteban Loaiza, who got out of it without any further damage.

Lowe had 1-2-3 innings in the fourth, fifth, and sixth. The Red Sox continued to put runners on base, but hadn't pushed any more runs across. Lowe was done after six innings. I didn't disagree with that, even though he had been excellent, because with as little rest as he had had, it was impressive that he had been able to make it that far. With the exception of last night's starter Curt Schilling, every pitcher was available for tonight's game, but the most likely person to come in after Lowe was Wakefield, who had also been in consideration as a starter for this game. But for some reason Pedro Martinez was warming up, and he came in to start the seventh. I assumed it was because he wanted a shot at redemption against the Yankees, but with such a big lead it seemed to make more sense to bring in Wake now and keep Pedro fresh for - dare I think it? - Game 1 of the World Series. Pedro had also had some first-inning struggles this year, which would seem to make him a less likely candidate for the bullpen. Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams greeted him with back-to-back doubles to score a run, and one out later Kenny Lofton singled home another run. This just served to wake up the New York crowd that had been silent ever since Damon's grand slam. They got a few more "Who's your Daddy?" chants in before Pedro struck out John Olerud and got Cairo to fly out to end the inning.

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Tom Gordon started the eighth inning for the Yankees, and it didn't take long for Bellhorn to once again silence the fans. He hit a home run that clanged off the right field foul pole and put the Sox up 9-3. Mike Timlin retired the Yankees quickly in the eighth. The Sox opened the ninth with singles by Nixon and Doug Mientkiewicz. Trot moved to third on Mueller's fly ball, and scored on Cabrera's sac fly, making it 10-3, and it was on to the bottom of the ninth. Timlin came back out, and gave up a single to Matsui. Bernie Williams reached on a fielder's choice that put Matsui out. Jorge Posada popped up for the second out of the inning. It was beautiful to hear the "Let's go, Red Sox" chants that were now ringing out in The House That Ruth Built. Lofton walked, and Alan Embree came in to face Olerud. Ruben Sierra was called on to pinch hit. He took ball one, then hit a grounder to Pokey Reese at second base. Pokey scooped it up, threw over to Mientkiewicz at first, and it was over! The Red Sox had won! And they did it at Yankee Stadium, embarrassing the Yankees by becoming the first team in major league history to come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a seven-game series. In a sweet reversal of fortune, it was the Yankees who were the authors of the biggest collapse in baseball history.

The Red Sox were going to the World Series, for the first time in eighteen years. Their opponent was yet to be determined, as St. Louis and Houston would square off in their Game 7 tomorrow (with two former Red Sox, Jeff Suppan and Roger Clemens, starting). And of course, the Red Sox would have to win the whole thing to completely erase the demons of their past. But for now, the victory over the Yankees was a big, beautiful step in the right direction.

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