To a man, the New York Yankees vowed this one would be different, and it was.
The defending world champions were a poised portrait in pinstripes behind lefthanded pitcher Andy Pettitte while taking a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the American League Championship Series with a 9-2 win over the Red Sox last night at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, came close to exhausting their supply of tomorrows by self-destructing with four errors before a sellout gathering of 33,586 shocked into silence by a six-run Yankee ninth that climaxed with Ricky Ledee’s grand slam off Rod Beck, the fifth Sox pitcher.
The silence didn’t last long, as the night turned ugly and dangerous in the bottom of the ninth when Red Sox manager Jimy Williams, already agitated by an admittedly blown call by second base umpire Tim Tschida in the Sox’ half of the eighth, was ejected by first base umpire Dale Scott, who thumbed Williams when he hurled his cap high into the air.
Plate umpire Al Clark, who approached Williams as he was retrieving his cap, waved the Yankees off the field after he nearly was hit by what appeared to be a plastic bottle, one of numerous projectiles thrown onto the field from the stands. While police officers and league and team security officials flooded the field and Fenway Park public address announcer Ed Brickley warned the crowd that further disorder could result in a forfeit, the players were kept in the dugout until play resumed after an eight-minute delay.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who had retired John Valentin on a controversial double play to end the eighth, gave up a couple of hits after play resumed, but he struck out Jason Varitek to end the game and keep intact his streak of being unscored upon in his last 33 appearances, dating to July 21.
Since the league’s pennant has been decided by a best-of-seven series, only two teams -- the ‘85 Royals and ‘86 Red Sox -- have overcome 3-1 deficits to advance to the World Series.
``This was a very emotional game for us,’’ said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who admitted the team’s joy was muted by the crowd’s behavior.
``My opinion of what happened is the sad part about it is you have a ball club, the Boston Red Sox, that has busted their ass to play and give the city something to be proud of. I think it’s inexcusable.
``Not what Jimy Williams did what he did. I’m a manager. I understand the frustration that he goes through . . . [but] to have people throw stuff, that’s disgraceful.’’
Williams closeted himself in his office after the game. He issued a one-sentence statement: ``It’s the first one to win four and it’s not over yet.’’
The Sox, who had a potential 10th-inning rally in Game 1 short-circuited by a call made by second-base umpire Rick Reed, who he later admitted he was wrong, were hurt again last night on a play in which the same principals were involved, except for the umpire.
Just as in Game 1, the play revolved around Yankees pitcher Rivera, second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, Red Sox base-runner Jose Offerman and Sox batter John Valentin. In Game 1, Reed ruled that Knoblauch had possession of a throw to second base on a force play in which Offerman was running and Valentin was the hitter. Replays clearly showed that Knoblauch never had the ball and Offerman should have been safe.
Last night, with Offerman aboard on an infield hit off Knoblauch’s glove, Valentin hit a checked-swing roller to second. Knoblauch, charging the ball, made a pass at Offerman, who eluded the tag, then made an awkward lob to first to retire Valentin. Offerman, first-base coach Dave Jauss, and Williams disputed the call, to no avail.
After the game, Tschida said it was almost impossible to get a proper angle to make the call, then said: ``No, I didn’t make the right call.’’
Instead of capitalizing on the lift reliever Rich Garces gave them by pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, the Sox still trailed by a run and took the field still stewing about the blown call.
Garces retired Joe Girardi on a fly ball to start the ninth, but Knoblauch singled off Garces’s glove and Derek Jeter singled to left, Knoblauch stopping at second. Paul O’Neill followed with a smash that Offerman fielded going to his left, then spun and threw low to Garciaparra covering second. Garciaparra, who earlier in the game had been charged with his fourth error of the series, attempted to backhand the bag-high throw, but it went off his glove and he fumbled the ball as he tried to pick it up with his bare hand.
Knoblauch scored the Yankees’ fourth run on the play, Bernie Williams followed with a single to make it 5-2, and he advanced to second when right fielder Darren Lewis’s throw ticked off Garciaparra’s glove.
In came Beck, who threw one pitch to Bernie Williams in Game 1 that ended up as a winning home run. He threw two pitches to Ledee, the second landing in the center-field seats.
Sox starter Bret Saberhagen allowed the Yankees just five hits in six innings, but one of those hits was a home run by DH Darryl Strawberry that gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the second. Saberhagen also was charged with an error when he failed to handle Mike Stanley’s low flip while covering first base in the fourth, when the Yankees also capitalized on Garciaparra’s throwing error to score two unearned runs.
The Sox had tied the score at 1 in the bottom of the second on Butch Huskey’s double and Troy O’Leary’s broken-bat single.
The Sox took the lead in a third inning certain to be subject to further review across Red Sox Nation this morning and beyond. With runners on first and third after singles by Damon Buford (who stole second) and Offerman, Valentin doubled off the wall. Buford scored, but Offerman, waved home by third-base coach Wendell Kim, was gunned down easily at the plate by a strong relay from shortstop Jeter.
Kim had opted to be aggressive, not unusual so early in the game. The on-deck hitter, however, was Garciaparra, who entered the game batting .480 in the postseason. Would the Yankees have pitched to Garciaparra with first base open? Possibly not. But at worst, the Sox would have had the bases loaded and cleanup man Stanley at the plate.
Instead, Valentin was on second with two out, Pettitte pitched around Garciaparra and walked him, and Stanley went down swinging.
``I felt like I was in trouble every inning, or what seemed like trouble,’’ Pettitte said. ``The fans were really into it and stuff like that, and I know it’s kind of tough to control your emotions out there.’’
The Yankees had vowed to atone for Saturday’s 13-1 beating, the worst in the team’s illustrious postseason history.
``We were embarrassed what happened yesterday,’’ Torre said before last night’s game. ``We’re going to go out there and we need a well-pitched ballgame, and you’ll see a different ball club.’’