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They're At It AGAIN
Tom Verducci
October 18, 2004
After a season of sparring, the free-spirited Red Sox and the never-say-die Yankees were set for another epic confrontation
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October 18, 2004

They're At It Again

After a season of sparring, the free-spirited Red Sox and the never-say-die Yankees were set for another epic confrontation

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Year

Games

Runs

Runs Per Game

HRs

HRs Per Game

SP Reached 8th Inning

2004

16

166

10.4

50

3.13

1

2003

18

127

7.1

22

1.22

6

2002

17

185

10.9

45

2.65

1

2001

18

114

6.3

34

1.89

9

2000

15

121

8.1

20

1.33

6

1999

16

165

10.3

35

2.19

7

1998

14

89

6.4

27

1.93

8

1997

15

127

8.5

34

2.27

5

1996

14

117

8.4

35

2.50

5

1995

15

166

11.1

50

3.33

4

The American League season was six months of calisthenics, all those games nothing but 1,140 jumping jacks, including seven passed off as Division Series matchups in which the outcome was supposedly in doubt. By last Saturday night, of course, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees had outspent, outplayed and outlasted their competition. Properly warmed up, they arranged to meet again, as they did last year in the AL Championship Series, for what Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez calls, "the matchup everybody wanted to see, including the players." � "We're both going to be bloody by the time it's over--not literally," Yankees manager Joe Torre said, apparently forgetting the sight of one of his pitchers, Tanyon Sturtze, leaking hemoglobin like oil from a jalopy after a July 24 brawl between the two teams. "Emotionally drained," Torre added, to clarify. � Both teams played to type in dispatching the last obstacles to their inevitable rematch. The loaded, loose Red Sox, who lack nothing but a decent barber and a bit of couth, steamrollered Anaheim in three games so convincingly that Angels first baseman Darin Erstad exclaimed, "Those boys are winning the Series. That's the deepest team I've ever seen. They've got every piece of the puzzle. I don't see anybody beating them."

Meanwhile, the closely cropped, tight-lipped Yankees spotted the Minnesota Twins one game before ripping off three straight come-from-behind wins, the last being Saturday's 6-5 thriller in 11 innings that was made possible by Ruben Sierra's game-tying, three-run homer in the eighth. "The guy did what those Yankees do," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after it was over. "It's unbelievable."

Out of 48 postseason games under Torre in which they were six outs or fewer from defeat, the Yankees have now rallied 17 times to win. Of that Octoberfest of comebacks, the most famous was last year's iconic ALCS Game 7, which Aaron Boone ended with an 11th-inning walk-off homer.

The two Division Series, however, also underscored how significantly the AL East archrivals have changed since that Game 7. Red Sox ace righthander Curt Schilling, whom the Yankees were unable to acquire in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for lack of farm-system resources, and Rodriguez, whom Boston was unable to acquire in a trade with the Texas Rangers for lack of financial resources, bring new weapons and fresh blood to the rivalry.

The 37-year-old Schilling opened the Division Series with a workmanlike 9-3 victory on Oct. 5 and ended it soaked in beer and champagne as part of his official Boston baptism last Friday. (It marked only the second time since, ahem, 1918 that the Red Sox clinched a postseason series at home.) Not bad for a guy who was signed to his first professional contract--with Boston--by Boone's grandfather Ray. "I know the reason I'm here is to pitch big games in October," Schilling says. "That's why I came here. And this is only the first step."

Schilling agreed to the trade to Boston last fall after a negotiating session with then 29-year-old Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein over Thanksgiving dinner at Schilling's suburban Phoenix home. "The first time I cook Thanksgiving and it's national news," Schilling's wife, Shonda, recalls. "Talk about pressure. But it was nice that Theo was so young. Curt threatened to have him babysit our kids."

This season Schilling discovered a Boston team that reminded him of the outlandish and goofy 1993 Philadelphia Phillies club, for which he starred. Righthander Pedro Martinez, for instance, blew off the on-field player introductions before ALDS Game 1 in Anaheim, then appeared for the intros before Game 3 at Fenway Park wearing a headband instead of a cap. For batting practice before that game, first baseman Kevin Millar donned a camouflage hat and reserve first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz sported Millar's jersey.

Centerfielder and leadoff batter Johnny Damon's Nazarene look is one of many extreme hairstyles--Friday's starting pitcher ( Bronson Arroyo) wore cornrows and the winning reliever ( Derek Lowe) a mullet--that have inspired homages from wigged-out Red Sox fans. And the players pick from a line of inspirational, bumper-sticker-like T-shirts to wear under their jerseys (e.g., why not us? ... the time is now ... if 25 men believe they can, they will).

"Oh, it's not an act--these guys are crazy," Schilling says. "There must have been 50 times this year that we'd say in the clubhouse, 'Man, can you imagine if the public saw what we did?' This is a fraternity--a fraternity where you don't have to go to school and everybody has a hell of a lot of money. That's horribly dangerous. But come game time, this team plays hard, and it plays the game as right as it was meant to be played."

As it was last season, Boston is a relentless offensive club. Trying to pitch around Red Sox batters is like trying to make your way around the furniture in an unfamiliar room with the lights out. You can proceed as slowly and as carefully as you like, but eventually you'll crash into something. The three Anaheim starters, for instance, averaged a numbing 23 pitches per inning against Boston and lasted a total of only 12 2/3 innings.

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