Hundreds of naturalized citizens of Red Sox Nation stood seven and
eight deep behind metal police barricades on Van Ness Street on
Sunday, their faces flushed from joy and drink (not necessarily
in that order), as the setting sun cast a golden finish to its
day's work. The loopiness and absurdity that passed for
postseason baseball over the previous two days at Fenway Park
spilled out into the street. Grown men stood on parked vehicles
or dumpsters just to get a look at the three buses loaded with
their beloved Sawx. Women blew kisses. The fans chanted their own
versions of drinking songs, including "Let's go, Red Sox!" and
Suddenly the rooftop emergency escape hatch of the middle bus
flew open. Out popped the grinning face of Boston DH David Ortiz,
like a supersized jack-in-the-box accessorized in a black leather
cap and sunglasses. He waved madly at the squealing masses, as if
on a parade float. Meanwhile the guy behind the wheel, dressed in
a bright blue suit the color of the Caribbean Sea, kept pounding
on the horn, each blast prompting a yelp from the crowd. It was
Manny Ramirez--the leftfielder who had played much of the
Division Series against the Oakland A's as if just awakened from
a nap--in the driver's seat.
Just before the buses rolled off toward the airport, the
fans--those under the age of 85 suffering the psychosis caused by
a lifetime of postseason failure--began to chant their anthem:
"Yankees suck!" It may have looked and sounded like a clinching
party, especially with New York at that moment dismissing the
Minnesota Twins from the playoffs with clinical precision. Never
mind that the Red Sox' Division Series against Oakland was not
yet over, with the teams flying west to a deciding fifth game.
What the masses on Van Ness Street knew was that tomorrow the
ball would be in the hands of Pedro Martinez. That very
prospect--one game to win in October, the ball in Martinez's
hands--may be as secure a feeling as there is in the game. The
Boston ace burnished his reputation as a premier big-game pitcher
by outdueling Barry Zito, 4-3, in the 13th postseason matchup of
Cy Young Award winners. Martinez, who lasted seven-plus innings,
is unbeaten in six postseason games: 4-0 with a 2.13 ERA.
Having to use Martinez twice meant that Boston had the services
of its ace only once in the first six games of the American
League Championship Series, which was scheduled to start on
Wednesday. The same scenario had occurred when the Red Sox and
Yankees played in the 1999 ALCS, with Martinez winning his start
in Game 3 and Boston losing the other four games.
New York, meanwhile, needed starters Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte,
Roger Clemens and David Wells only once each against Minnesota,
and all of them pitched well. After losing a sloppy Game 1, the
Yankees allowed the Twins only one run in each of the next three
games. Including short relief help from Mariano Rivera and Gabe
White, New York pitchers threw only 110 balls to 104 batters in
those wins, as 70% of their pitches were strikes.
Pettitte and Wells, who are potential free agents, and Clemens,
who's retiring, all face the possibility that each start will be
their last in a New York uniform. "Eventually there will be [a
last game as a Yankee], but I don't want it to be on my dime,"
said Clemens after throwing 28 balls to 28 batters in Game 3. "I
don't think he really had his A game, but it's Roger Clemens,"
Minnesota first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said afterward. "His W
game can beat a lot of teams."
Nothing came so neat and clean last week for the Athletics and
the Red Sox, who beat up on each other like feuding cousins. Both
organizations believe such finer points of the game as
baserunning, defense and bunting traditionally have been
overvalued in baseball. Watching them face off in postseason
games, in which playing for one run often becomes more important
than waiting for a big inning, was like watching two elephants
trying to tango. No lead or ego was safe.
The Red Sox lost Game 1, for instance, when closer Byung-Hyun Kim
blew his third postseason game in which his team had given him
the lead after eight innings, all in the past three years.
Ramirez, though, also made defeat possible when he failed to run
hard from second on a grounder to third in the 12th inning.
Boston gave away Game 2 as well, thanks to fielding blunders by
Ramirez and second baseman Todd Walker.
In Game 3 the Athletics played 11 innings of the sorriest
baseball ever to be found in October, and it wasn't just that
they committed four errors in the 3-1 loss. They also quit on the
base paths twice when an honest effort would have won the series
for them. The trouble with the Athletics is that such play is all
too common for them in October, when walks and homers, their
weapons of choice, are harder to come by. As one team member said
after the Game 3 debacle, "The immaturity of this team continues
to pop up and kill us."
Four outs from a 4-3 win in Game 4, Oakland lost again when Ortiz
slammed a two-run double off closer Keith Foulke. Monday's defeat
left the A's 0-9 in games that could have clinched a postseason
series for them, the longest such losing streak in the history of
the game. In those games they committed 12 errors, allowed 12
unearned runs and were outscored 50-24 while hitting only four
The Athletics and the Red Sox took turns embarrassing themselves,
and the disjointed style of ball they played was the least of it.
Kim shamed himself again in Game 3 when he flipped off the Fenway
fans for booing him in pregame introductions, then, after being
asked to warm up late in the game, complained that his shoulder
was stiff. "We're done with him," one Red Sox source said on
In that same game, four Sox benchwarmers pulled an unthinkably
bush-league stunt. To incite the crowd to mockingly chant the
last name of A's lefthander Ted Lilly, they spelled his name with
white athletic tape on the back of their red warmup jackets and
stood on the top step of the dugout. "That," Epstein said,
"crossed way over the line."
The grammar-school dramatics were but an unpleasant sideshow to
Boston's main mission. With two final-at-bat wins on the weekend,
the Red Sox did what they had to do: They brought the series to
WHAT THE SCOUTS SAY
I can't believe Bernie Williams is hitting cleanup. He's a
singles hitter who's on the downside of his career.... Derek
Jeter is a big-game player. He's not a great shortstop, but you
trust him to make the plays in the postseason.... Jason Giambi is
cheating on fastballs inside, trying to hit home runs, and that's
causing him to chase pitches out of the zone.... Jorge Posada is
a great mistake hitter, but sometimes you can get him to chase
pitches, especially with the short porch at Yankee Stadium....
Hideki Matsui has a flat stroke. His home runs are accidents.
Good pitchers get him out.... Aaron Boone has been very
disappointing. He's an undisciplined hitter who chases too many
pitches. Now that he's out of the home run haven in Cincinnati,
he's not a power hitter.... Andy Pettitte is their best
pitcher--he's locating everything right now.... Roger Clemens
uses the splitter a lot, but he still gets his fastball up to 95
about 10 times a game. He uses those bullets judiciously....
Mariano Rivera's stuff is electric again.
HOW TO BEAT THE RED SOX
The key is to be patient with Pedro Martinez--make him throw a
lot of pitches and get him out of the game. The Yankees have to
read the advance scouting reports on the Boston hitters and stick
to the script. They've gotten off the reports sometimes, such as
last year against Anaheim, and paid for it.
Alfonso Soriano is their catalyst. He has tremendous bat speed
and can catch up to anybody's fastball. Be careful with him
leading off the game, because he'll take you out of the yard. But
he doesn't belong in the infield; he'd make a fine centerfielder
for this team next season.
WHAT THE SCOUTS SAY
You have to pound Nomar Garciaparra on his thumbs and go up in
the zone on him. He's a first-ball, fastball hitter. If you get
ahead, he really expands his zone.... David Ortiz is a dead
lowball hitter whom teams pitched badly to all year. He has a big
hole inside and up, which the A's exploited like crazy.... Jason
Varitek is a dirty player, but I'd like to have him on my team.
He's going to get himself smoked one of these days for the way he
blocks the plate without the ball. This club has a lot of hitting
intelligence, and he's one of the guys who can make adjustments
and hit to all fields.... Pedro Martinez has such good command of
his curveball and changeup that he can dominate teams that get
aggressive against him. The way to beat Pedro is to stretch him
out--get him up to 100 pitches in six innings, and you've got a
shot.... Their hottest reliever, Mike Timlin, had the best year
of his career. He had the reputation of being soft and afraid of
the late innings, but he's been more aggressive with his stuff.
HOW TO BEAT THE YANKEES
The Red Sox have to get two wins out of Pedro, they have to steal
one game out of their bullpen, and they have to get a win out of
Tim Wakefield or Derek Lowe. They have to find a way to get the
Yankees' starters out of the game early, because Mariano Rivera
is throwing as well as he ever has.
The Yankees have pitchers who can dominate Boston's lefthanded
hitters, so Manny Ramirez has to swing well from the right side
for the Red Sox to have a chance. He's a guess hitter. He'll go
an entire at bat looking for a specific pitch, and if he gets it,
he hammers it.