SERIES: AL championship series; Yankees lead 3-0.
The Boston Red Sox entered this AL championship series hoping to finally overcome their bitter rivals from New York following a heartbreaking seven-game defeat last October.
Instead, they’ve been reduced to trying to prevent the Yankees from completing a humiliating sweep in their own ballpark.
Down 0-3 and coming off an embarrassing blowout loss, the Red Sox will try to save face and give themselves a fighting chance to send this series back to the Bronx when they take the field for Game 4 at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox were up three runs and five outs away from eliminating the Yankees in Game 7 last October, but Pedro Martinez squandered the advantage and New York won the pennant on Aaron Boone’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Armed with twin aces in Curt Schilling and Martinez this time around, the Red Sox appeared primed to reach their first World Series since 1986.
Things haven’t quite worked out that way.
Schilling lasted just three innings due to an injured ankle in a Game 1 loss and Martinez suffered a 3-1 setback in Game 2. Boston was hoping to regain some momentum at home, where it went 55-26 this season, but that plan also went awry very quickly in Game 3.
Starter Bronson Arroyo surrendered six runs in two innings, and the Yankees just kept hitting, pounding out an ALCS record 22 hits en route to a 19-8 drubbing to take a commanding lead—one that has never been overcome in a major league best-of-seven series.
“It starts to look daunting if you look at too big a picture,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “We’ll show up tomorrow, and our only goal, our only objective, is win tomorrow.”
Hideki Matsui paced the Yankee attack, going 5-for-6 with two homers, five runs scored and five RBIs. Gary Sheffield went 4-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs, also scoring five times, and Alex Rodriguez and Bernie Williams each added three RBIs for New York, which is bidding for its seventh World Series appearance in nine years under manager Joe Torre.
“We feel like we have a whole lot of momentum,” said Rodriguez, who was nearly traded to the Red Sox this past offseason before settling in New York.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re facing.”
Making matters worse for Boston, the Red Sox used their scheduled Game 4 starter, Tim Wakefield, in relief Saturday night, forcing Francona to start Derek Lowe in the must-win game Sunday. Wakefield was reached for five runs and five hits over 3 1-3 innings, making him one of six Boston pitchers that gave up runs.
“We got ourselves into a bind,” Francona said. “You saw what was going on. We were in the third inning and we were already into our fourth pitcher. We got into a position where we didn’t want to get in.”
Originally left out of Boston’s postseason rotation, Lowe was slated to pitch Game 5 after Schilling’s injured ankle forced him out of action. Though he won 14 games this year, Lowe was pounded for 20 runs over 17 1-3 innings during his last five appearances of the regular season, relegating him to bullpen duty in the playoffs.
Lowe did pick up a win in relief by tossing a scoreless inning against Anaheim in the Game 3 clincher of the division series at Fenway on Oct. 8. But that has been the extent of his postseason action this year.
The Yankees will send Orlando Hernandez to the mound in search of the franchise’s 40th AL pennant.
The Cuban right-hander has not pitched this postseason due to a fatigued shoulder, but was one of New York’s most consistent pitchers down the stretch. Hernandez returned to the Yankees in June after missing all of last year with Montreal due to shoulder surgery.
El Duque played a huge role in helping the Yankees hold off the Red Sox for their seventh straight AL East title, going 8-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 15 starts. New York won 11 of Hernandez’s outings, including each of the first eight.
Hernandez also boasts a 9-3 record with a 2.51 ERA in 16 career postseason outings. He went 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two ALCS starts against the Red Sox in 1999, and was the winning pitcher in the Game 5 clincher at Fenway Park.
The Yankees have won six straight playoff games since dropping Game 1 of the division series at home to Minnesota. They are 3-0 on the road thus far in the postseason.
“We knew going in that it was going to be a tough series,” Torre said. “To be up 3-0, I think we’re surprised.”
Game 5, if necessary, will be Monday in Boston.
PROJECTED LINEUPS: Yankees - SS Derek Jeter (.292, 23 HRs, 78 RBIs, 23 SBs), 3B Rodriguez (.286, 36, 106, 28 SBs), RF Sheffield (.290, 36, 121, 117 runs), LF Matsui (.298, 31, 108), CF Williams (.262, 22, 70), C Jorge Posada (.272, 21, 81), 1B John Olerud (.259, 9, 48) or Tony Clark (.221, 16, 49), 2B Miguel Cairo (.292, 6, 42), DH Kenny Lofton (.275, 3, 18) or Ruben Sierra (.244, 17, 65). Red Sox - CF Johnny Damon (.304, 20 HRs, 94 RBIs, 123 runs, 19 SBs), 2B Mark Bellhorn (.264, 17, 82, 177 Ks), LF Manny Ramirez (.308, 43, 130), DH David Ortiz (.301, 41, 139), 1B Kevin Millar (.297, 18, 74), RF Trot Nixon (.315, 6, 23), C Jason Varitek (.296, 18, 73), SS Orlando Cabrera (.294, 6, 31), 3B Bill Mueller (.283, 12, 57).
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Hernandez (8-2, 3.30 during regular season). Hernandez last pitched on Oct. 1 at Toronto, yielding five runs over three innings in a 7-0 loss. He is 5-4 with a 3.17 ERA in 13 career regular season starts against the Red Sox. Hernandez went 3-1 with a 4.21 ERA in seven road outings this year.
RED SOX PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Lowe (1-0, 0.00 ERA). Lowe is 8-10 with a 6.07 ERA in 39 career appearances, including 15 starts, against the Yankees. He last faced them at New York on Sept. 18 and endured his worst outing of the year, yielding seven runs in one-plus innings of a 14-4 loss before being forced out with a bruised right leg. Lowe did pitch well at Fenway this year, going 8-4 with a 4.55 ERA in 14 starts.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Red Sox, 11-8.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - 1B Olerud left Game 3 with a bruised left instep. He stumbled out of the batter’s box when he grounded out to shortstop to end the top of the sixth inning, and was replaced on defense by Clark. X-rays of Olerud’s foot were negative, but he’s unsure if he’ll play Sunday. … CF Williams now has 47 career hits in the league championship series, breaking Pete Rose’s record of 45. He also has 29 RBIs in the LCS, surpassing David Justice’s record of 27. … LF Matsui has 10 RBIs in the series. He also knocked in five runs during a 10-7 victory in the opener Tuesday night. Red Sox - The only teams among the major North American leagues to overcome 3-0 deficits were both in the NHL: Toronto in the 1942 Stanley Cup finals against Detroit and the New York Islanders in the second round against Pittsburgh in 1975. … CF Damon, who snapped an 0-for-9 in the series with an RBI single in the second Saturday, is 15-for-35 (.429) in his career against RHP Hernandez. … Of the 25 teams that have lost the first three games of a best-of-seven in the majors, 20 went down in four straight.
POSTSEASON ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 3-0 on the road. Red Sox - 1-1 at home.