It's too early for the ALCS and ALDS.
This is the ALES (American League East Series).
Tonight's mojo-riffic beer: Steamwhistle.Jeter 6 Damon 8
Rodriguez 5 Renteria 6
Giambi 3 Ortiz -
Sheffield 9 Ramirez 7
Matsui 7 Nixon 9
Posada 2 Varitek 2
Sierra - Olerud 3
Williams 8 Mueller 5
Cano 4 Graffanino 4
Wang 1 Wells 1
Yankees 1st: First pitch, Wells to Jeter at 7:10: strike called, low outside. Capt. Intangibles strikes out on three pitches, swinging and missing a 86 mph cut fastball down and in. Slappy and Giambi both walk as Wells gets squeezed on at least three pitches. Sheffield then gets hit on the back foot to load the bases. Matsui singles to left center. Damon was playing deep, got a poor jump, and the ball falls in front of him. One run scores. Posada strikes out swinging. Sierra flies out to Nixon in right-center. Yankees 1-0.
Red Sox 1st: Will the strike zone be as small for Wang? Damon walks on five pitches, but nothing is questionable. Damon steals second. A low 3-1 pitch to Renteria is called a strike, a pitch Wells did not get in the top half. ER grounds to shortstop, Damon holds. MVPapi pokes a single through the infield to right-center. Williams has no chance to get Damon. Tie game, 1-1. Ramirez and Nixon both strike out.
Yankees 2nd: Wells settles down, adapting his pitches to tonight's strike zone. He's helped out by two nice running catches, one by Ramirez and one by Nixon.
Red Sox 2nd: Varitek blasts Wang's first pitch into the Monster Seats in left center. He sprints around the bases and Boston leads 2-1.
Red Sox 3rd: Damon reaches on a ball that rolls right through E-Rod's legs into left. (And the MVP should go to him because of his defense? Bah.) Rent bunts him to second, almost beating Wang's throw to first. Ortiz grounds sharply to Wang, and is thrown out, but Damon stupidly breaks for third and is out in a rundown. Double play: 1-3-5-6.
Yankees 4th: Matsui leads off with a single to center, but Wells needs only 10 pitches to get three outs, on two popups and a strikeout.
Boston 4th: Nixon walks with one out. With Varitek batting, a hit-and-run play is botched and Nixon is tagged out after pulling up short at second. Two horrible baserunning blunders that could come back to haunt the Sox.
Yankees 5th: Another 1-2-3 inning for Wells, the last out being a fly to the center field track by A-Rod. Easy catch for Damon.
Red Sox 5th: Olerud walks on four pitches, but Mueller grounds into a double play on 3-1 pitch. The Sox have been swinging at balls out of the strike zone, helping Wang out. (The Yankee rookie ends up walking six batters in 6.2 innings, but it could have been many more if the Boston batters had been more patient.)
Yankees 5th: Giambi rips a single, and one out later, Matsui doubles to right center. Nixon takes a wide route to the ball and it skips by him and rolls to the wall. 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. Posada hits a hot shot to third, and Mueller, behind the bag by the line, holds the runner and makes a long throw to first. Sierra flies out to Damon. End of inning. Still 2-1.
Red Sox 6th: Damon lines a single over Cano into right field. With Renteria up, Damon steals second without a throw. ER strikes out and Ortiz is walked intentionally. After Manny rips a long foul to left, he singles to left. Damon is held at third and Boston has the bases loaded with one out. The Yankees pen is quiet. Nixon shows some patience -- and draws a five-pitch walk. Damon scores and it's 3-1. In the visiting dugout, Torre is visibly annoyed. Varitek fouls off two pitches, then grounds to first. Giambi comes home, but his throw is wide and bangs off Posada's glove for an error. Ortiz scores, 4-1. Olerud follows with a sac fly to center, 5-1. Proctor is warming. A wild pitch moves Nixon to third, but Giambi somehow stabs Mueller's line drive and Wang escapes further damage.
Yankees 6th: Williams lines out to Nixon. Cano drops a single down the left field line and is held to a long single by Manny. Jeter then hits a full-count pitch into the bullpen for a two-run home run, cutting the lead to 5-3. ... Wells comes back to get Rodriguez looking at strike three and Giambi on a grounder to first. Seven innings from Orson ... now it's time for the pen.
Red Sox 7th: Wang comes out for another inning. He gets two out, then walks Renteria on four pitches. Leiter comes in and walks Ortiz on four pitches, none of them close. Proctor is brought in to face Manny. Torre must keep the score at 5-3 -- is Proctor really his best choice? ... Ramirez grounds out to shortstop.
Yankees 8th: "Playoff Tito" makes a welcome appearance. And it's OOGY-time. Bradford gets Sheffield on a first-pitch grounder to shortstop. Myers battles Matsui for 11 pitches (including six straight fouls) before striking him out. Timlin gets Posada looking at three straight strikes. The last one was one of the best pitches Timlin has thrown all season, a wicked curve that has Posada moaning to the umpire.
Yankees 9th: Timlin was pacing back and forth in the Sox dugout during the bottom of the eighth, glaring into ESPN's camera, and he came out strong in the 9th. He struck out Sierra on three pitches, the last one a filthy 85 mph breaking pitch (splitter?) in the dirt. Williams also struck out, chasing a 2-2 pitch up around his chin. Cano grounded a single into right, but Jeter tapped out harmlessly to Edgar.
This was obviously a huge win for the Red Sox, bringing them into a tie for first place with two games to go. A loss would have been crushing, leaving Boston needing two wins in two games this weekend to force a Monday playoff in New York.
But Wells pitched great, Boston got some quick runs, then took advantage of the Yankees' poor defense and Wang's control problems. And Francona managed the bullpen brilliantly (and the pitchers did their jobs!).
In Cleveland, Chicago won 3-2 in 13 innings, so Cleveland falls one game behind both Boston and New York in the wild card chase.
Our playoff possibilities just got a whole lot better:
Red Sox win 3
Cleveland wins 0: Red Sox win East, Yankees win WC
Cleveland wins 1: Red Sox win East, Yankees/Cleveland WC playoff
Cleveland wins 2: Red Sox win East, Cleveland wins WC
Red Sox win 2
Cleveland wins 0: Red Sox win WC
Cleveland wins 1: Red Sox win WC
Cleveland wins 2: Red Sox-Yankees-Cleveland 3-way playoff
Red Sox win 1
Cleveland wins 0: Sox win WC
Cleveland wins 1: Cleveland/Red Sox WC playoff
Cleveland wins 2: Cleveland wins WC