October 16, 2003

Game Six. Boston 9, New York 6.

Boston 1st: Damon and Walker both swing at pitches at their ankles and ground out. The slumping Garciaparra is on top of two Pettitte fastballs, fouling them off, before poking a pitch into right field for a single. Ramirez grounds out, but Nomar's hit is a good sign.

New York 1st: With a 25-mph wind blowing out to both left and right, Giambi lifts a solo home run over the right center field wall (Yankees 1-0). Early on, Burkett is not getting calls on the corner. An inside pitch to Jeter is called a ball, while a similar pitch was called a strike on Ramirez. [My notes are full of exclamation points about the horrible calls made by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez. The strike zone changed shape so many times, and Hernandez blew so mnay calls, it's impossible to say which team, if either one, had the upper hand. Hernandez's performance ranks down there with Eric Gregg's 1997 debacle; MLB should be embarrassed to have such erratic and amateurish umpiring in such an important game.]

Boston 3rd: Varitek opens the inning by jumping on a hanging curve and hitting it into the upper deck in left field. Tie game 1-1. Damon walks on five pitches and scampers to third as Walker singles past Johnson into right field. Nomar forces Damon at third and Ramirez walks on four pitches to load the bases. Ortiz wastes no time, smacking Pettitte's first pitch over Jeter into left field (Boston 3-1). Millar follows with a single to shallow center and Boston leads 4-1.

New York 4th: With a 3-run lead, Burkett has an easy 3rd (allowing only a 2-out single to Jeter), but he comes undone in the 4th. Williams grounds out on a fine play by Millar along the first base line. Posada singles to right and Matsui singles to left center. Burkett falls behind Johnson 3-0 (getting squeezed on balls 2 and 3) and is forced to come in over the plate. Johnson crushes a ground rule double to right center. Posada scores and when Matsui crosses on Boone's ground out, the Red Sox lead is cut to 4-3. With two outs, Garcia grounds to shortstop, but Nomar boots it behind the bag and New York has runners at 1st and 3rd. Grady has had Arroyo warming in the pen since Johnson's double, but he allows Burkett to face Soriano, who has battered him in his short career (9-for-14, 1.714 OPS!). It is a questionable move (or non-move), but one entirely consistent with Grady's conservative approach this season. Soriano lines Burkett's first pitch to the left center field wall, Johnson and Garcia score and the Yankees retake the lead 5-4. Grady comes out and replaces Burkett with Arroyo. He walks Jeter but strikes out Giambi in an 8-pitch at-bat.

New York 5th: Posada hits an opposite field home run to left off Arroyo (McCarver the Unprepared refers to him as "Brandon" Arroyo) and New York extends its lead to 6-4.

Boston 6th: Pettitte is gone after five innings and 91 pitches. The big question is whether Contreras can pitch effectively for two or three innings until Rivera can close it out. Contreras pitches a strong 6th: Nixon is called out on a tailing fastball, Varitek strikes out on a splitter and after Damon walks, Walker strikes out on a fastball away.

New York 6th: Todd Jones makes his first appearance of the post-season (great *&%$# idea, Gump!) Jones strikes out Garcia, but Soriano singles to center and Jeter walks. Gump goes to Embree and the Boston infield shifts over to the right side against Giambi. I think this is a bad idea, because it leaves third base uncovered against a possible steal and with only one out, the infield should play for a possible groundball (and DP). But this is a bad move because it potentially gives the Yankees extra bases when they are already up 6-4. ... Sure enough, on the first pitch to Giambi (a called strike), Soriano and Jeter pull a double steal (without a throw to either base) and the double play is now out of the question. This is a huge moment in the game; a single could put the Yankees up by four runs. Embree battles Giambi and fans him on a 97 mph fastball for the 2nd out. Williams hits a hard grounder to Mueller at third, but he makes a nice play and the New York rally is snuffed out.

Boston 7th: Contreras begins his second inning and is hit hard. Garciaparra slams his first pitch over Williams's head to the center field wall for a triple. The ball bounces back towards the infield. Matsui runs over from left, grabs the ball, whirls and heaves it into the third base stands for an error. Nomar scores and Boston is within one run, 6-5. Ramirez also slams the first pitch over Williams's head for a standup double. Contreras uncorks a wild pitch with Ortiz batting (it's only his 3rd pitch of the inning) and Manny trots to third. On a full count, Ortiz hits a smash off the first base bag. The ball sails high into the air and lands in short right field. Manny scores and the game is tied at 6-6. Millar flies out to right, Mueller singles past Jeter into center and Contreras's day is done. Heredia gets Nixon looking, but after intentionally walking Varitek to load the bases, Heredia walks Damon on four pitches to give the Red Sox the go-ahead run. Walker strikes out, but Boston now holds a slim 7-6 lead.

New York 7th: Embree is still on the hill; good move by Grady. He should stay in to face Posdada, Matsui and Johnson. And those are the only batters he faces. Posada grounds to second, Matsui singles to shallow left, and Johnson (a selective batter who is already 3-for-3) grounds into a double play, shortstop unassisted to first. Inning over.

New York 8th: Timlin relieves Embree, with Wakefield warming up (probably a psychological ploy). Boone falls behind 0-2, takes two balls and strikes out on a pitch in the dirt. Garcia singles to left and is forced at second by Soriano. With Jeter at the plate, Soriano steals second right away. Jeter fouls a pitch off his foot and is down 0-2. He hits the ball hard to Mueller at third, who bobbles it slightly, but throws to first to nip Jeter for the third out. [Note to Fox: In a pressure situation, with a chance to tie the game, the New Mr. October has failed.]

Boston 9th: Nelson strikes out Nixon swinging to start the inning, but Mueller lines a double into the left center field gap. Torre brings in lefty Gabe White to face Nixon. Grady stays with Trot, who looks at strike one, fouls a pitch off, takes ball one, then launches a huge home run into the 3rd deck in right field. Yankee Stadium goes silent as Boston takes a 9-6 lead.

New York 9th: Scott Williamson is on to close the game with a 3-run lead. Giambi falls behind 0-2, runs the count full, but goes down swinging on a 95 mph heater. Williams pops an 1-0 pitch into shallow center. Damon jogs in, slips and as he falls he catches the ball. He ends up on his back, smiling. Two outs. Posada flies out harmlessly to center on a 1-1 pitch and at 8:16, Boston wins Game Six.

Damon doubled with two outs in the top of the 9th but was stranded at second base. It was Boston's 16th hit of the afternoon. Everyone in the lineup had at least one hit; Nomar had 4, Mueller 3 and Millar and Ortiz 2 each (Damon also had 3 walks). The bats appear to be out of hibernation -- better late than never -- and that is the best news of the day. Just an average Red Sox offense should be enough to win the pennant.

So here we are. Thursday night. 8:18 pm. Game 7. American League Championship Series. Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees. Pedro Martinez v Roger Clemens. The winner will host the Florida Marlins in Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday.

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