When the rather dull playoff game was over, a crushing Boston loss, the Red Sox and their fans said goodbye to Fenway Park. Depending on what happens today and maybe tomorrow, the next home game is either Opening Day 2004 or the first game of the World Series Saturday night.
It’s Midnight Cowboy Up for these Sox again, and to keep their season alive, they’re going to have to get the job done in the haunted house where so many of Boston’s baseball hopes have been dashed in the last 85 years.Yankees lefthander David Wells beat Boston’s baldies, 4-2, in the fifth game of the American League Championship Series yesterday. New York leads the series, three games to two, and can clinch a trip to yet another Fall Classic with a win at home either today or tomorrow.
It’s simple, Sox fans. The Sons of Grady Little must win twice in the Bronx or there will be no more Rally Karaoke Guy, no more 10-gallon hats, and no more “Sweet Caroline” singalongs until April. All those exorcisms, Springsteen blessings, and Reverse The Curse signs become part of the ongoing history of a four-score championship slump. Or, as the Boss might say, more skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets.
Wells (seven innings, four hits), who bought Babe Ruth’s cap and wore it once while pitching, was asked about the dreaded Curse of the Bambino and answered, “I believe in it and that’s just my opinion. I just try to keep that theory alive. Tonight I got great help, great defense, for that to continue.”
The bottom line is the Red Sox have not hit in this postseason. During the regular season, they thumped their way to the highest slugging percentage in baseball history, throwing the 1927 Yankees out of the books. But they feasted on too many toothless Tigers and Devil Rays. You don’t see that kind of pitching in October, and Boston’s Monster mashers have been neutralized over 10 playoff games, not once scoring more than five runs.
Most alarming is the suddenly sick bat of Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar has become “No-hit” and he’s killing the Red Sox in the No. 3 spot in the order. Garciaparra slumped badly (.170) in September and it has carried over into the postseason. He struck out swinging at a belt-high fastball with runners on second and third and two outs in the third inning.
He’s hitting .105 in the ALCS (2 for 19) and has no hits in his last 11 at-bats.
It might be time for Bill James to weigh in with some OBP suggestions from Kansas City.
Let the record show that the three games (all decided by one or two runs) over four days in Boston presented some of the wildest moments in the history of this 100-year rivalry. Most of the zany stuff happened Saturday, but Wells and friends say they won’t forget their triumphant long weekend in the Hub.
”I think this is a great town,” said Wells. “It’s unbelievable. It’s fun. We’re driving home last night to the hotel and every block, everybody is flipping us off. I wish I had a video camera. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Boston’s best hope at this hour would be the famed “Reverse Lock” theory, which holds that an obvious mismatch often results in the underdog pulling a stunning upset. Things are certainly aligned for the Reverse Lock: The Game 6 matchup features Andy Pettitte against John Burkett.
Pettitte is a big-game lefty, the latter-day Whitey Ford. He smothered the Red Sox in Game 2 and his presence neutralizes the power of Sox lefty hitters David Ortiz (.188 this series), Todd Walker, and Trot Nixon.
Meanwhile, the Sox counter with Burkett, an all-around good guy, terrific bowler, and renowned meatball artist. Burkett too often has hurt himself with one bad inning and cannot afford a stinker tonight. No doubt the Sox will be ready to go with their new Yankee killer, Tim Wakefield, on one day’s rest if Burkett gets hit early.
A Sox victory in Game 6 gives America the Armageddon Game, Pedro Martinez vs. Roger Clemens tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium for the right to go to the World Series. But to get there, the Sox have to win today.
In 1949, the Ted Williams Red Sox went to the Bronx for the last two games of the season, needing only one victory to win the American League pennant. While New England wept, the Yankees won both games and went on to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers for one of their 26 world championships since the Sox sold them Babe Ruth in 1920.
Part of the charm of the 2003 Red Sox has been their ability to dig out of holes and recover from tough losses. The comeback from a 2-0 Division Series deficit against the A’s was the ultimate test of mettle - until now. Now they have to go to New York and win two games to bring the World Series back to Boston for the first time in 17 years.
”The clock is ticking on us right now,” acknowledged Little. “This isn’t something we’ve never been through before. We were through this about a week ago.”
Right. But that was the A’s. This is the Yankees. In the Bronx.