Sox Can Ace History Test
This was Willis Reed dragging his injured leg onto the Madison Square Garden court to will the Knicks past the Lakers in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases after his dramatic 1988 World Series home run for the Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinal ace Bob Gibson winning three games in the 1967 World Series on painkillers because of a broken leg.
It was a veteran Boston Red Sox right-hander, blood oozing through his sock from the sutures on his injured right ankle, grimacing and hobbling through a gutsy seven-inning performance that moved his team to the brink of a historic comeback from a three-game deficit in the American League championship series and coined a new catchphrase all over New England:
Where there’s a Schill, there’s a way.
Curt Schilling, all but counted out of the series because of a dislocated tendon in his right ankle, gave up only one run and four hits, struck out four and walked none Tuesday night to lead the Red Sox to a 4-2 Game 6 victory over the New York Yankees in front of 56,128 in Yankee Stadium to force a winner-take-all Game 7 tonight.
Red Sox closer Keith Foulke, running on fumes after throwing a combined 72 pitches in Game 4 Sunday and Game 5 Monday, struck out Tony Clark on a full-count fastball with two on to end the game, and starter-turned-reliever Bronson Arroyo survived a few harrowing moments in the eighth, as Boston got two big reversals from the umpires and staved off elimination for the third consecutive night.
Struggling second baseman Mark Bellhorn, dropped from second to ninth in the order earlier in the series, provided the decisive blow, a three-run home run off Yankee starter Jon Lieber in the fourth, and now the Red Sox, cursed history and all, owners of an 85-year World Series drought, have a chance to do what no other team in major league history has done: win a seven-game series after losing the first three games. No team had ever even forced a Game 7 after a 3-0 deficit.
“We have a chance to shock the United States of America,” Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar gushed afterward.
What about the world, Millar was asked?
“Yeah, there you go, we’ll shock the world,” he said. “If they’re watching in Japan, we’ll shock them too.... The whole world will be watching [tonight]. It’s the most televised game in the world. You have a chance to be a hero. We’re going to lay it all on the table. We were down, 3-0, and now it’s tied, 3-3. We have nothing to lose.”
Schilling, who did not wear a custom-designed high-top cleat because it was rubbing against the stitches that had been inserted on his ankle Monday, was not overpowering -- his fastball hit 94 mph in the first inning but touched 92 and 93 only a few times the rest of the night.
But he located his fastball on both corners and mixed in a good split-fingered fastball and changeup to blank the Yankees through six innings. His only blemish was a solo home run to Bernie Williams in the seventh, an upper-deck blast to right that ended the Yankees’ 14-inning scoreless streak.
“I don’t think any of us have any idea what he went through to pitch tonight,” Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said. “For him to go out there and do what he did -- you can talk all you want about [his ankle], but his heart is so big. That was amazing.”
Said Schilling: “What they did is, my tendon is out, and it’s dislocated. To avoid having it popping in and out, they sutured the skin down to something in between the two tendons. And it worked.”
It was not known whether Schilling took an anesthetic to numb the area, but with temperatures dipping to 49 degrees at game time, gusty winds and a cool mist that created conditions more suitable for duck-hunting, Schilling probably didn’t need it.
Despite the elements and his injury, Schilling warmed the hearts of his teammates.
“That was definitely an inspiring moment, seeing Curt pitch,” Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon said. “We know Curt had some help. We know someone was looking down on him, helping him get through seven strong innings.”
Arroyo replaced Schilling to begin the eighth and gave up a one-out double to Miguel Cairo. Derek Jeter singled to left, scoring Cairo to pull the Yankees within 4-2, and Alex Rodriguez squibbed a grounder off the end of his bat toward first.
Arroyo and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz convened on the ball, which was fielded by the pitcher, but with first base uncovered, Arroyo stuck the ball in his glove and moved to the line to tag Rodriguez.
Rodriguez then chopped Arroyo’s left forearm with his left hand, and the ball squirted out of Arroyo’s glove and into foul territory, allowing Jeter to score and Rodriguez to take second.
Francona came out to argue and, for the second time in the game, the entire six-man umpiring crew convened and reversed a call in Boston’s favor, first-base ump Randy Marsh ruling Rodriguez out on interference and sending Jeter back to first.
Fans littered the field with bottles and trash, and after a three-minute delay, Arroyo got Gary Sheffield to pop to the catcher, ending the inning.
In the top of the ninth, Major League Baseball security chief Robert Halinan instructed about a dozen police officers, in riot gear, to station themselves down each foul line to protect the umpires.
Lieber blanked the Red Sox through three innings but needed some defensive help -- Cairo started a smooth 4-6-3 double play with the bases loaded to end the second, and Jeter turned an unassisted double play after Damon’s leadoff single in the third.
The Yankee right-hander wasn’t as sharp as he was in Game 2, falling behind hitters instead of pumping in a high percentage of first-pitch strikes, and the Red Sox took advantage in the fourth with a two-out rally that began with Millar’s double into the left-field corner.
Millar took third on a wild pitch before Jason Varitek fouled off four two-strike pitches and capped a 10-pitch at-bat with a run-scoring single to center. Orlando Cabrera singled to left, putting runners on first and second for Bellhorn.
The left-handed-hitting Bellhorn lined a 1-and-2 pitch to deep left, the ball dropping onto the warning track, a play left-field umpire Jim Joyce initially ruled a double, scoring two runs.
Francona came out to argue, and as television replays showed the ball hitting the chest of a fan who was standing in the first row, the umpires huddled near the shortstop position. After several minutes, Bellhorn’s hit was ruled a three-run home run, and Boston had a 4-0 lead.
“He knows the importance of every at-bat,” Damon said of Bellhorn. “One at-bat could decide the game, and that’s exactly what happened.”
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To the Limit
A look at the Game 7 records for the Yankees and Red Sox in best-of-seven series:
*--* * 2003 ALCS Def. Boston * 2001 World Series Lost to Arizona * 1964 World Series Lost to St. Louis * 1962 World Series Def. San Francisco * 1960 World Series Lost to Pittsburgh * 1958 World Series Def. Milwaukee * 1957 World Series Lost to Milwaukee * 1956 World Series Def. Brooklyn * 1955 World Series Lost to Brooklyn * 1952 World Series Def. Brooklyn * 1947 World Series Def. Brooklyn * 1926 World Series Lost to St. Louis RED SOX (1-5) * 2003 ALCS Lost to N.Y. Yankees * 1986 World Series Lost to N.Y. Mets * 1986 ALCS Def. Angels * 1975 World Series Lost to Cincinnati * 1967 World Series Lost to St. Louis * 1946 World Series Lost to St. Louis
Umpires called New York’s Alex Rodriguez out for interference after he swatted Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s glove while running out a grounder in Game 6 of the AL championship series. From the Official Baseball Rules:
(a) Offensive interference is an act by the team at-bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. If the umpire declares the batter, batter runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules. In the event the batter runner has not reached first base, all runners shall return to the base last occupied at the time of the pitch.
From the MLB Umpire Manual, a casebook that guides their decisions:
Section 6.1 (Offensive Interference):
While contact may occur between a fielder and runner during a tag attempt, a runner is not allowed to use his hands or arms to commit an obviously malicious or unsportsmanlike act such as grabbing, tackling, intentionally slapping at the baseball, punching, kicking, flagrantly using his arms or forearms, etc., to commit an intentional act of interference unrelated to running the bases.