NEW YORK -- A bullpen that's been a headache all season for
the New York Yankees let them down at the worst time.
In a game with 28 hits, the Boston Red Sox stretched the AL
Championship Series to a Game 7 on eight straight pitches out of
the strike zone, four that were thrown there on purpose and four
that were not.
Manager Joe Torre ordered an intentional walk to Jason Varitek
to load the bases with two out in the seventh inning. Reliever
Felix Heredia then missed the strike zone with his next four
pitches, walking Johnny Damon and forcing home the go-ahead run in
a game the Red Sox won 9-6.
There were a number of factors that figured in Torre's decision.
Varitek had homered earlier. Torre didn't want to give him a swing
against a left-hander, especially after Heredia had just struck out
lefty-swinging Trot Nixon.
"It's not an easy decision to make," Torre said, "but the way
Varitek has been swinging the bat, especially right-handed, it was
one I felt I had to do and then just live with the results."
Catcher Jorge Posada was disappointed with the way Heredia
worked on Damon.
"He walked on four pitches," Posada said. "There's not much
you can do right now. There's a lot you want to accomplish about
being more patient and selective. We got wild."
Trailing 6-4 and running out of innings to prolong their season,
Boston rallied against the Yankees' shaky middle relievers, who
weren't able to hand over the lead to reliable closer Mariano Rivera.
The comeback started against Jose Contreras, the Cuban defector
whose signing with New York in December prompted Red Sox president
Larry Lucchino to call the Yankees the "Evil Empire."
"The wind was not a factor," Matsui said through an
interpreter. "When I threw the ball, it was already off to the
right. When the ball hit off the wall, I looked and saw the runner
off second base. I thought I would be able to get him at third
base. It was a mistake on my part."
A wild pitch put runners on second and third. Needing a
sacrifice fly to take the lead, Nixon instead struck out for the
After the intentional walk to Varitek, lefty-swinging Damon came
He missed the first two games of the series after coming out of
the final game of the division playoff against Oakland with a
concussion. He had three hits in his first game back but nothing
Heredia went to work. He missed badly on his first two
pitches, came closer on the third and then completed the walk with
an eighth straight ball.
Ortiz trotted home with the go-ahead run and the Red Sox clung
tenaciously to the lead the rest of the way, surviving Yankee
threats in the seventh and eighth.
Boston got some insurance when Torre went to another lefty in the ninth. Gabe White came in to face Nixon and
gave up a two-run homer that made it 9-6.