NEW YORK (AP)—With blood seeping through his sock and bravado etched on his face, Curt Schilling shut down the Yankees and—just as he wanted—shut up 55,000-plus New Yorkers.
Now, with the benefit of two reversed calls by umpires, the Boston Red Sox are just one win away from the most shocking comeback in baseball postseason history and another chance to reverse The Curse.
Pitching on a dislocated ankle tendon held down by three sutures put in the day before, Schilling gave up one run over seven innings as the Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-2 Tuesday night to save their season for the third day in a row and force a winner-take-all Game 7 for the AL pennant and a trip to the World Series.
A series that was three outs from a sweep on Sunday is now tied 3-3.
“When I saw blood dripping though the sock and he’s giving us seven innings in Yankee Stadium, that was storybook,” Boston first baseman Kevin Millar said.
Wednesday’s finale will mark the second straight year the AL championship series has gone the distance between baseball’s perennial pinstriped power and a Boston team desperately trying to win the World Series for the first time since 1918.
“We just did something that has never been done yet,” Schilling said. “It ain’t over yet. It ain’t over by any stretch against this team and this organization.”
He wanted nothing more than to beat this organization.
The day before the series began, Schilling brashly said: “I’m not sure I can think of any scenario more enjoyable than making 55,000 people from New York shut up.”
He failed in the opener, a 10-7 loss in which he lasted just three innings.
The Yankees won the next two games, too, and were ahead 3-0 in the series before blowing a ninth-inning lead in Game 4 at Fenway Park and losing in the 12th Sunday night. They led Game 5 in the eighth Monday, then lost that one, too, another marathon that stretched on for 14 innings and almost 6 hours.
Of the 25 previous major league teams that fell behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, none had forced a Game 7. But back in the Bronx, where they wasted a four-run lead in Game 7 last year, the Red Sox broke through with a four-run fourth against Jon Lieber.
Schilling, who accepted a trade to the Red Sox last fall for the express purpose of beating the Yankees, took a three-hit shutout into the seventh before allowing Bernie Williams’ solo homer.
Last week, he seemed done for the season. The tendon was sutured Monday, but he couldn’t wear a special high-top shoe because it put too much pressure on the area. As soon as he left the game Tuesday night, the suture was removed.
“This training staff was just phenomenal—the things they did for me over the last four, five, six days,” he said. “To avoid having it popping in and out, they sutured the skin down to something in between the two tendons to keep the tendon out. It worked.”
After chasing the Yankees all summer and falling short in the AL East race for the seventh straight season, the wild-card Red Sox caught up to their old rival, an unexpected turn of events given how close Boston was to packing up for the winter just 48 hours earlier.
“We’ve got to play better for one game, that’s the bottom line,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “Their team has responded. We’re going to find out about our team tomorrow night.”
Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, originally scheduled to start Game 7, said Derek Lowe will start instead. Yankees manager Joe Torre said he hadn’t decided on his starter—Kevin Brown or Javier Vazquez are the most likely candidates.
“I guess it was supposed to come to Game 7,” Torre said. “We just have to call on the reserve that enabled us to bounce back from a lot of challenges all year.”
While the Yankees are trying for their seventh AL pennant in nine seasons under Torre and record 40th overall, the Red Sox are attempting to reach the World Series for the first time since 1986. The finale will be the 52nd meeting of the teams since the start of the 2003 season.
“All those games and it’s down to one,” Boston reliever Mike Timlin said. “We could probably have done this in spring training and saved the trouble.”
While the ghosts of Yankees’ past usually turn games for New York in the Bronx, Boston got the breaks in this one on two huge reversed calls.
After Orlando Cabrera’s RBI single in the fourth, Bellhorn hit a ball over the left-field wall that was at first ruled a ground-rule double by left-field umpire Jim Joyce before it was correctly changed to a three-run homer that made it 4-0. Marsh said the other five umpires all said it was a homer.
Bellhorn had been in a 4-for-32 postseason slump.
“I didn’t think I hit it good enough,” he said. “I kind of surprised myself that it went out.”
Then in the eighth, after Miguel Cairo’s double and Jeter’s RBI single off Bronson Arroyo pulled the Yankees to 4-2, Alex Rodriguez hit a ball between the mound and first. Arroyo picked it up and ran toward first, where just before the base the striding A-Rod slapped the ball away.
Jeter came all the way around to score as the ball bounced down the right-field line. After Boston manager Terry Francona came out to argue, the umpires huddled, discussed the play, then called Rodriguez out for interference and sent Jeter back to first.
Rodriguez raised both hands and put them on his helmet, screaming about the reversal.
“I know that line belongs to me and he was coming at me,” he said. “Once I reached out and tried to knock the ball, the call went against me. I should have just run over him.”
Crew chief Randy Marsh, who was the first-base umpire, said he was screened by first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz and that plate umpire Joe West had the best view.
“I did not see Alex wave at him and knock the ball out,” Marsh said.
“That’s against the rules,” Millar said. “If you want to play football, strap on some pads and go play for the Green Bay Packers.”
The game was held up for 10 minutes while fans tossed debris on the field and Torre argued. Gary Sheffield then fouled out, ending the inning.
After Boston’s Cabrera was ruled safe at first base in the ninth, preventing the Yankees from completing a double play, public address announcer Bob Sheppard made his second announcement for fans to maintain order. Helmeted police then came on the field and kneeled in foul territory along the stands on both the left- and right-field sides in the top of the ninth.
Keith Foulke, who pitched five innings the previous two nights, got the last three outs, but not without drama. After a pair of walks, he struck out Tony Clark on a 3-2 pitch to end it, sending the Red Sox running out of the dugout for their third straight night of celebration.
“When we were up 3-0, we didn’t want to be in this position,” Rodriguez said. “If we win tomorrow, it won’t be embarrassing.”
The only teams in North American major sports to overcome 3-0 deficits in best-of-seven series were both in the NHL: Toronto against Detroit in the 1942 Stanley Cup finals and the New York Islanders against Pittsburgh in the 1975 quarterfinals.