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The dream lives on for Sox
10/19/2004 3:48 AM ET
BOSTON -- The dream lives.

The Boston Red Sox, trying to go where no baseball team has ever gone, kept their hopes alive Monday night with another heart-pounding, marathon, come-from-behind victory against the New York Yankees.

For the second straight night in this American League Championship Series, the Red Sox stepped back from the brink of elimination. A Fenway Park crowd of 35,120 celebrated as though the World Series had been won, but the Boston faithful had every right to smile. This Red Sox victory, after all, laughed in the face of history.

You could look at the 6-4 victory Sunday night as an exception, a fluke. But when you saw the same pattern emerge Monday night, with the same Boston victory, this one 5-4 in 14 innings, now you've got the makings of a trend.

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"It's Groundhog Day," Yankees manager Joe Torre said as he appeared at the postgame interview session, deftly noting the similarities between Games 4 and 5.

The Red Sox and Yankees have already made history. The Monday night contest, at 5 hours and 49 minutes, was the longest postseason game ever played. With that out of the way, finally, the Red Sox would like to make some history independent of the Yanks.

Of the 25 baseball teams that had previously fallen behind 3-0 in a seven-game postseason series, only five had won the fourth game. Only two of those 25 teams had forced a Game 6. The Red Sox have already touched these bases.

As even tiny tots have come to understand, no baseball team down 3-0 has ever come back to win a postseason series. But the fact is that no baseball team down 3-0 has even forced a Game 7.

Facts machine
The Red Sox were the 26th team in Major League history to fall behind 3-0 in a seven-game series. They are just the sixth to avoid a sweep, and now just the third to win two straight after dropping the first three:
Series Down/ahead 0-3 Result
2004 ALCSBoston/NY YankeesTBD
1999 NLCSNY Mets/AtlantaBraves in 6
1998 NLCSAtlanta/San DiegoPadres in 6

So the Red Sox have already done as well as any team down 3-0 has ever done. This is not the same as actually winning, but you can see how it would encourage dreams of actual victory.

You add on to this the way these two victories were achieved, the long nights of late-inning rallies followed by extra innings full of tension and possibilities and you can see why the Red Sox believe they are onto something special.

And maybe they are.

In Game 5, the teams battled on into the New England autumn night, exhausting their bullpens and their alternatives. It was finally a question of which pitcher would crack: Esteban Loaiza or Tim Wakefield. It was Loaiza, even though he had his finest outing as a Yankee before surrendering the game-winning hit to David Ortiz.

But it was Wakefield, who gave up the decisive home run in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, who would be the winner in this one. Manager Terry Francona described Wakefield as pitching the last inning "on heart."

Facts machine
For the third consecutive game, the time of game in the ALCS established a postseason record:
Game Time Record
3 4:20 Longest nine-inning game in postseason history
4 5:02 Longest extra-inning ALCS game in history
5 5:49 Longest game in postseason history

Wakefield had volunteered to pitch in the Game 3 debacle to save the bullpen, thus sacrificing his start in Game 4. Here, when asked if he could go for one more final inning, he responded: "I'll give you what I've got."

Wakefield attributed the victory to "the depth, the character, the heart, the guts," of the Red Sox.

Those are numerous and noble characteristics, but after the last two nights, it is difficult to argue with their presence on the Boston roster.

Regardless of the outcome of this series, these last two games have reinforced every notion regarding the intensity and the drama of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry.

"I'm just in appreciation being able to see that game," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "That was the greatest game ever played, in my mind. It might be the greatest game ever played. I'd like to hear other nominations."

Seemingly long ago, the starting pitchers in Game 5 were Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez.

"Not many people have the opportunity to be in games like this," Martinez said. "I'm really happy I was part of it. I'm really happy we ended up winning both games, that's the most important thing."

The tension, the drama, the even and almost endless competition of the last two games probably could not be found in any other sport, in any other rivalry. Why is this one this way?

"We're very evenly matched," Torre said. "We have a lot of intensity on both sides of this thing. It takes on a life of its own. Each game becomes a series in itself and I think obviously, these last two games have proven that."

Yes, it is said that every baseball game takes on a life of its own, although this game might have borrowed that life from Methuselah.

As Monday night turned to Tuesday morning, thousands of people gathered behind police barricades in the streets outside Fenway Park, simply to wish the Red Sox well as they departed for New York and the remainder of the ALCS. Well, to be completely accurate, some of those people were also gathered to shout a familiar two-word vulgarity at the departing Yankees.

The point was, after an 3-0 deficit, and now after another 5 hours and 49 minutes of Red Sox/Yankees postseason baseball, there was still a reason for Red Sox Nation to care. The dream lives on. It is an improbable dream, but it has always been that way for Boston fans. After a second straight night of dusk-toward-dawn postseason drama, the dream was still available, still intact, still alive.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.