October 20, 2004: The Red Sox–Yankees ALCS

Game One at Yankee Stadium was a two-pronged disaster for Boston. Schilling got roughed up both on the scoreboard and physically in the Yankees 10-7 win. Schilling injured his right foot covering first base on a routine ground ball. Hobbling badly, he could not complete three innings. It was the shortest post-season outing of his career. On the positive side for Boston fans, the Red Sox came close to rallying from an 8-0 deficit, cutting the score to 8-5 at one point. This group would not surrender without putting up a fight.

Game Two was far closer, but the Yankees won all the same. This time the score was 3-1. Pedro Martinez was the losing hurler for Boston. He seemed personally snake-bitten in big games versus New York.

After a rainout pushed Game Three from Friday to Saturday, the Yankees pounded the Red Sox at Fenway Park 19-8. Neither team’s pitching was especially stellar as both clubs combined for 37 hits in the ugly game. The contest was tied 6-6 after just three innings, but the score was 17-6 after 6-1/2 innings. The Yankees pounded out 22 hits in the intimidating blowout. Yankee fans were quick to point out that if the hyphen in the 19-8 final score were tilted upwards, the year “1918” would appear. They Yankees were poised to sweep the ALCS the next night. No one seriously thought Boston could rebound—especially after the pummeling they endured in Game Three.

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Game Four was a classic. New York led the Red Sox 4-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ nearly invincible relief pitcher, was summoned the finish off Boston for another season. The Red Sox refused to die. Leadoff batter Kevin Millar worked Rivera for a walk. Manager Francona quickly replaced Millar with pinch runner Dave Roberts who had been acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier in the season solely for his footspeed. Bill Mueller was the next Red Sox batter, but the real battle was between Rivera on the mound and Roberts at first base. Everyone in North America and abroad who was watching the game knew Roberts was going to try to steal second base.

Rivera threw several times to first base with attempted pickoffs. Roberts barely beat the third throw back to first base. According to Roberts, “The first [time Rivera checked me at first base], I felt I got the jitters and then it kind of dissipated a little bit. The second time the jitters were all gone and I was really into it. After the third pick over was a close play, I think the second one was really close also, and then I felt like I had been there from the first inning on.” (Dan Allen, “The Steal by Dave Roberts,” danallen.com, October 17, 2004.) Roberts broke for second on Rivera’s first pitch to Mueller. He was safe—certainly not by a huge margin—but he was safe.

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