For all the “Star Wars” imagery and talk of good versus evil, Game 1 of the AL championship series was decided by Wakefield’s darting knuckler and Boston’s overpowering bats.
“Our offense came through. It’s unbelievable,” Wakefield said Wednesday night after the Red Sox put aside fatigue and opened with a 5-2 victory.
Ortiz started Boston off with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and Walker and Ramirez added solo shots in the fifth off a shaky Mike Mussina.
Wakefield befuddled New York’s batters, taking a five-run lead into the seventh before he got wild and three relievers from Boston’s beleaguered bullpen completed the three-hitter.
“He had a good one,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. “Nobody knew where it was going.”
All the chants and signs reminding Boston of its 85-year title drought only seemed to spur on the Red Sox against their old rivals, who have dominated their Northeast neighbors for decades.
After traveling from Boston to Oakland on Sunday night, then winning Game 5 on Monday night and flying back across the country, the Red Sox seemed bleary-eyed when they arrived at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. But when it came time to play, they had the energy and emotion, not New York, which had been off since winning its first-round series at Minnesota on Sunday.
Wakefield, who retired 14 straight batters starting in the second, said he was going on adrenaline.
“I told all my friends don’t call me because I’m going to be sleeping in,” he said.
Ever since December, when Boston president Larry Lucchino called the Yankees the “Evil Empire,” the Red Sox have played off imagery from “Star Wars,” painting themselves as white knights trying to knock off the 26-time World Series champions.
Following their stunning comeback from a 2-0 deficit against the Athletics, Lucchino even predicted the Red Sox, who haven’t won the Series since trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920—supposedly bringing on The Curse—would have The Force on their side.
Yankees fans kept reminding the Red Sox of their title drought, taunting them by screaming “1918,” but it just seemed to fuel the Red Sox, who showed force at the plate and rapped out 13 hits, including four by Ramirez, who grew up close to Yankee Stadium.
“Out pitching is our strength and, hopefully tomorrow, Andy will get us back even,” New York manager Joe Torre said. “We put him in that situation many times and he’s come up big for us.”
Boston, which finished second to New York in the AL East for the sixth straight season, had dropped 12 of its previous 13 games in the ALCS, including a 4-1 loss to the Yankees in 1999. But the Red Sox struck back on the 47th anniversary of one of the most famous games in baseball and Yankee Stadium history—Don Larsen’s perfect game against Brooklyn in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
Mussina, pitching on seven days’ rest since losing the first-round opener against Minnesota, wasn’t sharp at all, allowing three homers in a game for only the second time this year—and for the first time in 13 postseason starts. He dropped to 4-4 in postseason play.
“When they get a good pitch, they hit it hard,” Mussina said. “They have a lot of guys who hit .320.”
While Mussina didn’t allow any runs in the second inning, he labored, going to 2-0 counts on four batters, including 3-0 on three. He said plate umpire Tim McClelland squeezed him.
“I thought the strike zone was small tonight,” Mussina said, “I just thought it was a struggle throwing strikes.”
Boston finally broke through in the fourth. Ramirez reached on a one-hopper to right side that Mussina just managed to deflect—similar to Cristian Guzman’s infield hit that led to Minnesota’s key rally in his previous start.
Ortiz, who had been 0-for-20 against Mussina, fell behind 0-2, worked the count full and then homered into the front of the right-field upper deck.
Walker made it 3-0 when he led off the fifth with a drive high off the foul pole in right field. While right-field umpire Angel Hernandez signaled it was foul, he was immediately overruled by McClelland—also behind the plate 20 years ago when he took a home run away from George Brett, a call later reversed by AL president Lee MacPhail.
Josh, an 18-year-old from Fair Lawn, N.J., who refused to give his last name, said the ball hit his right palm, dropped straight down and didn’t hit the pole.
“It was a foul ball by at least six inches,” he said.
Walker couldn’t tell.
“Everybody that saw the replay says that it was a home run,” he said.
With four postseason homers, Walker tied the Boston team record set by Nomar Garciaparra four years ago. Walker hit just 13 during the regular season.
“I don’t think I can explain it,” he said. “And I don’t think I want to.”
Jeter already was looking forward to turning around momentum Thursday.
“It’s a short series and we have to come back out here tomorrow and getback in it,” he said.
Boston 3B Bill Mueller nearly dropped Jeter’s third-inning popup. With Boston’s infield converging, Mueller allowed the ball to pop out of his glove before letting it fall back. … Red Sox CF Johnny Damon, recovering from aconcussion sustained Monday, won’t be available until Game 3 at the earliest.