Red Sox need a comeback of historical proportions vs. Yanks

Monday, October 18, 2004

BOSTON -- High over the Boston skyline, the message in lights on the towering Prudential Building read: "Go Sox."

That should soon be changed to: "Sox Gone."

No major league baseball team has ever come out of a three-games-to-none hole in a postseason series, and the battered, bruised and embarrassed Boston Red Sox surely don't seem ready to do it against the torrid New York Yankees.

The Yankees circled the bases Saturday night as if they were cartoon figures in a video game, one man after the other driving balls off the Green Monster and way over it, into gaps, down the lines. It was like Little League, softball in the park, football, the Yankees winning 19-8 in 4 hours, 20 minutes of a Boston tee-off party -- the longest nine-inning postseason game in history.

The only score that could have been more demoralizing for cursed Red Sox fans would have been 19-18, a mocking reminder of the last time the team won the World Series.

Now as the Yankees stood one victory away from their 40th American League pennant and seventh World Series appearance since 1996, the Red Sox were reduced to playing only for pride Sunday night in an effort to prevent the dreaded sweep.

Beaten twice in Yankee Stadium and once miserably at home, the Red Sox pinned their dim hopes on the fragile psyche and suspect control of Derek Lowe in Game 4 instead of injured Cy Young candidate Curt Schilling, winner of a major league-leading 21 games this year.

The Red Sox couldn't expect much from their bullpen, not after the way the whole staff was clobbered for 22 hits in Game 3. Batting practice pitchers have had better days.

Hideki Matsui put on his Godzilla show, homering twice, doubling twice, singling once, hitting to all fields. Gary Sheffield homered once, doubled once and singled twice. Bernie Williams had four hits. Alex Rodriguez launched a moon shot over the Green Monster in left and out of the ballpark.

"We had a night tonight where none of our pitchers located," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "I mean, none of them. We walked guys, we hit some guys, we got men on base, we gave up a lot of extra-base hits. That's a bad combination."

The Red Sox weren't too shabby at the plate with 15 hits, but none of them really mattered. They were playing catch-up from the start. Then, after they went ahead 4-3 in the second and were tied 6-6 in the third inning, the Yankees pulled away again. Anything they wanted to do, anywhere they wanted to hit, the Yankees did it.

"They closed the gap quickly," said Rodriguez, whose huge homer leading off the third started a three-run comeback in the inning. "So we wanted to make sure we answered back in that inning and that was a big home run just to tie it up. And we knew that it was going to take at least 10 runs to win that game at that point."

Yankee manager Joe Torre said it was "like football ... you score a touchdown and you get the ball right back. ... These guys played nine innings tonight and they got the most out of every at-bat. I could not have been more proud of them tonight."

The Yankees led by so much they could let their ace reliever, Mariano Rivera, rest up for another day.

"We're not done!" Francona declared emphatically, though he sounded like a man in denial.

Even if they avoid a sweep, the Red Sox are all but done in this best-of-seven series.

They had the look of a beaten team, not just on the scoreboard but in their faces and the way they left the field -- a little dazed, thoroughly disgusted, slamming down gloves and trooping back to a deathly quiet clubhouse.

The Yankees weren't about to celebrate too soon or pronounce the Red Sox dead after this long, chilly and windblown game. They would leave that to everyone else who saw this affair.

"It's not over yet because they are certainly capable of winning ballgames," Torre said, trying to be diplomatic. "But to be up 3-0, yeah, I think we're surprised by the fact that we've done that."

If the Yankees were surprised, the Red Sox and their fans were shocked. They thought they had the team to win this year, a team that would take the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

Now they were looking out for brooms and a fat lady.

Steve Wilstein is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at swilstein(at)

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