BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- Powered by their lead "idiot," the
Boston Red Sox
were just dumb enough to believe they could pull off the greatest postseason series comeback in sports history.
became the first team in major league history to overcome a three games to none postseason deficit, pounding the rival
New York Yankees
, 10-3, in Game Seven of the American League Championship Series.
- the self-proclaimed leader of the group of "idiots" who professed to not be smart enough to be burdened by Boston's past postseason failures - delivered two of the game's biggest blows. After predicting a
series victory, Damon went 3-for-29 in the first six games, but in the finale he homered twice and set an ALCS record with six RBI.
Damon's big performance enabled Boston to accomplish the previously impossible. Of the 25 other teams to fall behind three games to none in a best-of-seven series, 20 were swept and none even had forced a Game Seven. In the four major team sports in the United States, only two teams ever have erased such a deficit.
"We're a bunch of grown-up idiots right now," Damon said. "We did the impossible and we're definitely enjoying it.
"As far as doing something that's never been done before, I mean, that's for you guys to have some fun with," Boston manager
said. "I understand it's special. We just wanted to win and move on. And the only way we could move on was to do it the way we did."
New York opened the series with three straight wins, including a 19-8 rout in Game Three at Fenway Park. But after the
answered with three victories to become the first team ever to force a Game Seven after dropping the opening three games, Damon seized center stage.
With the bases loaded in the second and Boston already holding a 2-0 lead, the long-haired center fielder belted reliever
's first pitch of the game over the right field wall for the second grand slam in
"I've been waiting my whole career to be put in this situation and going to the World Series," Damon said. "Now we're the greatest team on earth, the
Boston Red Sox
. Everyone around the country wanted us to do it, to erase history, to be the first team to come back from that deficit and to do it against the Yankees, in their ballpark, is definitely a very special feeling.
New York got on the board in the third on
's RBI single, but Damon continued to add to Boston's lead in the fourth, depositing the first offering from Vazquez into the upper deck in right field with one on and none out to make it 8-1.
"Everyone was wondering what was going on with Johnny," Damon said. "Well, I stepped up today and took care of business. That's why we're going off to the World Series.
Pitching on a mere two days' rest,
(2-0) was magnificent. The righthander allowed just one run and one hit with a walk and three strikeouts, throwing 44 of 69 pitches for strikes.
"I think you can look at the two days' rest, but you can also look at the fact that I only pitched once in 16 days, so it wasn't like I was pitching every five days," said Lowe, who retired the final 11 Yankees he faced after Jeter's hit.
"We were trying to get innings out of D, and he just pitched two days ago," Francona said. "If we got three, four, whatever we got, we could have gone to (Tim) Wakefield. We had lined up a lot of different scenarios, but he was so special tonight."
Lowe, who recorded 12 of his 18 outs on ground balls, claimed his team's early offensive outburst was just one reason for his success.
"We scored six runs early and really it allows you a few more mistakes, but I didn't think like that. I kept thinking, this (Yankees) offense is so good, especially in this stadium, you really try to keep the crowd out of it as much as you can. And by doing that, you can throw strike one, you know, and don't walk anybody."
(1-1) lasted just 1 1/3 innings, surrendering five runs and four hits. The veteran righthander, who fell to 0-5 in career postseason starts at home, walked two and struck out one.
"When you don't do a good job pitching, you're going to pay for it," Brown said. "I know what I was trying to do, it's just physical, trying to make it happen. Tonight was a night I didn't execute what I had in my head. I couldn't make the pitches. I just came up short and wasn't consistent with what I had been in the past."
The Yankees, baseball's premier franchise, were seeking a record 40th AL pennant but instead earned the dubious distinction of losing a decisive playoff game at home to their hated rivals.
"We didn't deserve to win," Jeter admitted. "It's not fun, especially in this rivalry. We had our opportunities to win one of four games. ... They played better, that's the bottom line. We had them on the ropes."
"We had a chance, being up 3-0. We couldn't get the knockout punch," New York's
added. "It's frustrating, being up 3-0 and to get beat at home two games. The
came up big against us. Losing to them, or anybody else, is difficult."
insisted his team did not take their 3-0 lead for granted.
"We always respected their ballclub. We knew they had a ton of ability," he said. "The fact that when they get on a roll, they can do things like they do to us. ... We had a couple of games, if you go back in the series, where we had situations the way we wanted it, leads late in the game, and we just could not close the deal. We certainly never took them for granted, even up 3-0 because we know how explosive they can be."
, who was named Most Valuable Player in the series, and
also homered for Boston, which opens the World Series at home on Saturday against the
or St. Louis Cardinals.
Brown, who was ineffective in his Game Three start, was in trouble from the outset. Damon opened the game with a base hit and stole second before Bellhorn struck out. Ramirez followed with a single to left-center, but Damon held up as the ball bounced through the infield and was thrown out at the plate.
After delivering the winning hits in extra innings in Games Four and Five, Ortiz drilled Brown's first pitch into the right field seats for a 2-0 lead. He hit .387 with three homers and 11 RBI in the series.
"Last year, I remember we had a bad memory," Ortiz said. "So a lot of my teammates were just destroyed because we played a pretty good game and we lost, and it was a big-time opportunity to step to the World Series.
"We saw a lot of fans crying and feeling hurt and I think myself and all of my teammates, we were worried about it and kept that for ourselves. And that's one of the big reasons for us to come to the field and represent the way we did the last four games."
In the second, Brown retired
drew walks. Torre replaced Brown with Vazquez, who filled a similar role in Game Three and recorded the win. But the former All-Star righthander's first offering to Damon landed in the right field stands, giving Boston a comfortable 6-0 cushion.
"It was a bad pitch," Vazquez said. "I should know better, coming out of the bullpen, throwing a first-pitch fastball. In that situation, it wasn't the spot I wanted with the bases loaded. It wasn't a good pitch."
Troy O'Leary recorded the club's first postseason grand slam in Game Five of the 1999 AL Division Series against Cleveland.
With one out in the bottom of the fourth,
was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on Jeter's single to left. But Vazquez walked Cabrera to open the fifth and Damon became the ninth player in
history to record a multi-homer playoff game, giving Boston a seven-run bulge.
Damon also homered twice off Vazquez in an 11-3 loss to the Yankees on June 29.
Boston loaded the bases later in the inning, but
recorded the last two outs to avoid further damage.
Loaiza escaped another jam in the fifth, and the Yankees began a late charge in the seventh.
, who failed to win his two starts in the series, started the inning and was greeted with consecutive doubles by
, drawing New York within 8-2.