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For Yanks, how did it come to this?
10/19/2004 11:31 PM ET
NEW YORK -- Tied, and tight. The Yankees now trail the American League Championship Series, 3-3. Yes, that's right. From where they were, and how they got here, being even is being down.

Come to think of it, how did they get here? Where did the New York juggernaut spin out following a Game 3 in which the Bombers looked invincible in pasting the Sox, 19-8?

The answer to that may be quite simple -- although history will complicate it, attributing all kinds of forces to Boston's amazing rebirth in the 2004 ALCS.

Three trends brought the Yankees from the brink of a World Series to just plain the brink.

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  • Mariano Rivera fell into a bed of Kryptonite
    Feeding off their regular-season success against the peerless closer, the Red Sox converted consecutive comebacks against Rivera to enable two extra-inning victories in Fenway Park.

    The first, in Game 4, came with the Yankees within three outs of sweeping into the World Series. They may not come as close again until 2005.

  • The Red Sox put their celebrated lunacy to good use
    Roger Angell, the renowned author and New Yorker columnist, remarked as the taut 1985 World Series between Kansas City and St. Louis moved to Game 6, "From this point, the team that wins is the one that has more fun."

    Even at 0-3, the Red Sox were looser than the Yankees. Idiots, Inc. is really having fun now.

  • John Olerud
    Little attention was paid when Olerud, after bouncing his bat off his instep, had to leave in the latter stages of Game 3. After all, the Yankees were on their way to that 19-8 victory.

    Since then, however, Tony Clark has gone 3-for-19 in his place. There's a baseball saying that when you're slumping, the game will find you. Tuesday night alone, Clark went 0-for-4, including the game-ending strikeout with the tying runs on base.

    So what's next? How do you break a runaway freefall?

    Assessing how the Yankees could go from a 19-run game -- and 32 runs in the first three games -- to 10 in the next three, Jorge Posada said, "It's been good pitching, and we've also put pressure on ourselves."

    If that's been half of the problem, how can the Yankees possibly find the key to relaxation in the most unusual Game 7 in history? Is there a Big Apple stuck in New York's throat?

    "We've got to keep going out and think positive," Posada said. "We've got a big game tomorrow. We still have nine innings to play."

    Facts machine
    The Yankees' Nos. 2-5 hitters were virtually unstoppable in Games 1-3, but the Red Sox were able to slow them down in Games 4-6. More >
    Nos. 2-5 Runs HR RBIs Avg.
    Games 1-323424.526
    Games 4-6335.190

    What makes Wednesday's Game 7 unique, of course, is that the Red Sox came back from 0-3 to schedule it.

    This had never happened before. So it had to happen between Boston and New York. These two teams set standards, whether for offense, game length, or miracles.

    When the Yankees took a 2-0 lead to Boston and talked about "not having done anything yet," people dismissed it as false modesty.

    When they absolutely destroyed the Red Sox in Game 3 to make it 3-0 and still talked of needing "to maintain our focus and go for the jugular," people laughed it off as misplaced caution.

    But here they are: still looking for Boston's jugular, while trying to ignore the pounding of their own hearts.

    "Here we go again," Derek Jeter said. "All we can do is come back tomorrow. That team over there has responded well. Three games, do-or-die, and they fought back. Now we'll see how we respond.

    "You can say they slumped the first three games, and now we're in a slump. That happens sometimes. I think we've played some pretty good games the last three, but they beat us.

    "Now we have to find a way to get it done tomorrow."

    The Yankees have never before been in this position. No team has. So as far as how teams respond to falling from a 3-0 lead into a Game 7, they will be the guinea pigs.

    "We're lucky to have a Game 7," Posada said. "If we didn't win those first three, we'd be going home now. We have an opportunity to still do it. We've got to come back for one more game.

    "We'll find out," Posada went on. "There's not much else we can do except keep playing, keep grinding out at-bats. We thought we came close (Tuesday). It didn't happen.

    "They're playing very good baseball. You've got to give them credit, too."

    The Yankees might ask, 'Do we have to?'

    Eminem will sing duets with Pavarotti before the Red Sox and Yankees will meet in a postgame, on-field group hug.

    But if they could, fans would line up both teams and give them hugs of appreciation for another splendid week of prodigious hitting, ice-blooded pitching, magnetic gloves and, simply, the highest human drama possible in sports.

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

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