Red Sox Running Out of Solutions to the Problem


The folks at Fenway Park, ever dutiful, threw back nearly every baseball that reached them Saturday night.

And while these mostly amateurish heaves -- though not all, as Alex Rodriguez’s third-inning home-run ball came back from Lansdowne Street, over the back side of the Green Monster, Theo Epstein’s iMac consequently installing the young man as next year’s right fielder -- generally were regarded as flings of defiance, they served the dual purpose of keeping the umpires in baseballs.

Home runs came back. Foul balls came back.

Everything but their Red Sox came back. Once tied, 6-6, they lost, 19-8. Put another way: 19/8. Look familiar?


No team has advanced to the World Series after losing the first three games of a league championship series, which puts the Red Sox in a nearly hopeless -- if not unfamiliar -- place.

There is not an organization that resides closer to despair than the Red Sox, so on they trudge, the promise of a nice season and then vanquishing the evil empire all but gone.

Hope bloats. So does lousy pitching.

Halfway through the fourth inning, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona had spent more time on the mound than any of his pitchers.

In that fourth, Francona had turned to the knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, analogous to the pro golfer going to the bag for the long putter, the when-all-else-fails solution. Wakefield was taken from the field in the seventh inning by a loud, approving ovation, having giving up only five of the Yankee runs.

From the back of the press box: “What time’s batting practice over?”

And although all of this is quite sad for the floppy-haired boys from Boston, they did not entirely give away a series they had believed would change the course of the franchise. A handful of Yankees took it from them, none of them pitchers in Game 3, all of them named A-Rod, Sheff and Godzilla.

Playing amid the ski caps and Stephen King’s orange hunting jacket on the night autumn arrived in the Northeast, the Yankees loosed the upper-middle portion of their lineup on a line of Red Sox pitchers that wound from Bronson Arroyo to Ramiro Mendoza to Curtis Leskanic to Tim Wakefield to Alan Embree to Mike Myers.


Rodriguez, once nearly the Red Sox shortstop, had three hits and three runs batted in, and scored a league championship series record five runs.

Behind him, Gary Sheffield had four hits, four RBIs and scored three times.

Behind him, Hideki Matsui had five hits, five RBIs and scored five runs.

They had four home runs among them, and five doubles, and tempted the Fenway grounds crew to re-rake every other inning based on their plate appearances alone.

Asked how he would pitch to the Yankees, were he a pitcher, Sheffield smiled and said, “Walk Matsui,” adding, “[but] keep pitching to me.”

Relayed that, Matsui too grinned, and said, “For me, I’d walk Sheffield and I would pitch to Matsui.”

Together, they took much of the life from the Red Sox, who will start tonight on that oh-three deficit. In American baseball history, it has been attempted 25 times before, and the trailing team has failed every time. Two Japanese league teams have rallied for four consecutive wins, so optimism comes from half-a-world away.

“The ultimate goal,” Sheffield said, “is to finish things off. We didn’t pack enough clothes.”


In three games, propping up a pitching staff thought to be vulnerable coming into the week and living down to it in Games 1 and 3, Rodriguez, Sheffield and Matsui had 24 hits, 21 runs and 18 RBI. Of the three during the regular season, Rodriguez, at about $25 million a pop, was the slacker. In the postseason, however, he has 14 hits in 33 at-bats.

“You know,” Rodriguez said, “I’ve worked hard all year and for some reason this year, I know not if it’s the change to New York or whatnot, but I just haven’t found it for five months.

“And finally in September, [after working with hitting coach] Don Mattingly ... I just felt it click.”

They’ve gotten hot together, apparently in time to run off the Red Sox, apparently in time to rush the World Series, the only possible drawback -- one they’d surely live with -- being the lack of at-bats between now and their next Game 1, scheduled for Saturday.

If the Yankees complete the sweep tonight, presumably against Red Sox starter Derek Lowe, they’ll have five days of batting practice. Well, five more days of batting practice.

As it was, Fenway ushers had been instructed to hide the women and children by the third inning, the stands were nearly empty by the seventh inning, and the trio of Rodriguez, Sheffield and Matsui was still swinging by the ninth.


“I expected this all year,” Sheffield said. “It’s just happening right now, in the playoffs, at the right time.... This is what we came over here for.”