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And Jason Giambi was up: 41 homers and 107 RBIs for the season, three home runs against the Red Sox and another one against the Cubs in the postseason. With a 1-and-0 count Giambi unleashed a monstrous uppercut swing ... and the ball dribbled slowly, slooowwly down the first base line. Only Giambi's speed—his lack of it, that is—permitted Prior to retrieve the ball in time to nip the runner at first.
Two out, men on second and third.
Robin Ventura went up to pinch-hit. Cubs manager Dusty Baker trotted out to the mound and conducted as brief a conference as any manager ever had: all of eight seconds. When he left, Prior—despite Ventura's mediocre hitting that year—intentionally walked the batter.
Two outs, bases loaded.
In one sense it was a cardinal violation of baseball protocol: You do not put the winning run on base. By another measure it was a shrewd move, setting up a force at any base; and the Yankees were out of lefthanded hitters. The Series would be left to Boone, the man who had hit the Game 7 home run against the Red Sox but had gone only 3 for 21 against the Cubs.
Boone took the first pitch: belt-high, on the outside corner. Strike one.
Boone took the next pitch: shoulder-high, down the middle. Ball one.
On the third pitch Boone swung. And connected. But from the sound of the ball meeting the bat, it was evident: He had missed the sweet spot. The ball rose in a lazy arc toward centerfield, a can of corn.
As Lofton, waving his arms with joy, moved toward the ball ...
... and the three Yankees base runners, heads down, began running ...