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Yankees fall short in Game 610/20/2004 3:36 AM ET
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- For the second year in a row, it will all come down to Game 7 between the Yankees and Red Sox.
That's because Boston staved off elimination for a third consecutive day, defeating New York, 4-2, in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.
"Here we go again," said Derek Jeter. "It's the same as last year. That team on the other side has responded well in three games that were do-or-die. Now we're going to find out how we respond in a do-or-die situation."
No team in baseball history had ever forced a Game 7 after dropping the first three games of a best-of-seven series.
"If we win tomorrow, it won't be embarrassing," said Alex Rodriguez of his team's three-game losing streak. "This is what everyone wanted to see with Boston and New York -- a one-game showdown."
Curt Schilling rebounded from his subpar Game 1, throwing seven dominant innings of one-run ball to force the deciding game, which will take place on Wednesday night in the Bronx.
Mark Bellhorn, who entered Game 6 with a .150 average and 10 strikeouts in 20 ALCS at-bats, blasted a three-run home run off Jon Lieber in the fourth inning, a shot which proved to be the game-winner for the Red Sox.
Having played three games in three days following a rainout on Friday, the Yankees and Red Sox will meet for the 52nd time since the beginning of 2003. Boston holds a 26-25 advantage, but it was New York which won the deciding game in last year's ALCS.
"It's a beautiful thing," said Tony Clark. "These two teams have been so evenly matched all season, so to have it come down to Game 7 is nothing surprising."
Lieber wasn't nearly as effective as he was in Game 2, allowing four runs in that fourth inning, but he managed to put up zeroes in each of the other six frames he threw, giving his offense a chance to come back.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Schilling came out firing, looking more like the 21-game winner than the Game 1 starter who was roughed up for six runs in three innings.
Schilling, pitching with a right ankle injury which will require surgery after the season, sat down the first eight Yankees he faced, showing velocity that he didn't have a week ago.
"We expected that," Clark said. "We didn't think he'd be out there hobbling around. We expected him to be 100 percent and he threw the ball well."
Lieber got help with a pair of double-play balls in the second and third, but he threw an alarmingly high 50 pitches in the first three innings.
Boston got to Lieber in the fourth, mounting a two-out rally against the right-hander. Kevin Millar got it started with a double to left, and Jason Varitek drove him in, singling after a 10-pitch at-bat against Lieber to give the Sox a 1-0 lead.
After an Orlando Cabrera single, Bellhorn drilled a ball to the left-field wall. The shot was originally called a double, but replays showed that it clearly hit the chest of a fan in the stands. After the umpiring crew huddled, the hit was ruled a homer, giving Boston a 4-0 advantage.
"I knew he hit pretty well. It was a sinker, but it stayed up in the zone," Lieber said. "With two outs, you don't want to let them get some momentum. It ended up costing us the ballgame."
New York tried to get some of the runs back in the bottom of the fourth, as Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield led off with back-to-back singles. But Schilling settled in, retiring the next three hitters on balls that didn't leave the infield.
"He threw the absolute same as Game 1," Jeter said. "We just didn't get as many hits off him, but his stuff was the same."
Schilling continued to mow through the Yankees, sitting them down 1-2-3 in the fifth and sixth, but Lieber did his best to match him, retiring 10 in a row after Bellhorn's homer, taking the game through the seventh.
Bernie Williams finally got the Yankees on the board in the seventh, drilling a one-out solo home run into the upper deck in right field. It was Williams' second homer of the series, his third of the postseason, cutting the lead to 4-1.
Lieber's streak of retiring 11 in a row was snapped with Manny Ramirez's one-out double in the eighth, which ended the starter's day. Lieber was charged with four runs on nine hits over 7 1/3 innings, striking out two without walking a batter.
"Lieber pitched dynamite," said manager Joe Torre. "Just one bad pitch to Bellhorn cost us three runs, but he certainly hung in there and pitched very well."
Schilling left the game after seven, allowing one run on four hits. Like Lieber, he didn't issue a walk, as he struck out four.
Bronson Arroyo started the eighth, and the sight of anyone other than Schilling must have been a positive one for the Yankees. Cairo doubled with one out, then Jeter singled him in on the first pitch, slicing the lead to 4-2.
A-Rod came to the plate as the tying run, but he pushed a ball up the first-base line. Arroyo fielded the ball and went to tag Rodriguez, but A-Rod slapped at the pitcher's arm, forcing the ball from his glove. Jeter rounded the bases and scored as the ball trickled away from first base, while Rodriguez stopped at second on what was ruled an error by Arroyo.
But after an argument by Sox skipper Terry Francona, the umpires gathered together for the second time in the game. They ruled that A-Rod had interfered with Arroyo, calling him out and sending Jeter back to first base.
"They said I should have ran him over, kind of like a catcher, that I can't go out of my way to knock the ball out of his hand. I was perplexed by the whole situation," A-Rod said. "I don't know what I tried do. I knew he was coming, and I know that the line belongs to me. Looking back, maybe I should have run him over."
The crowd of 56,128 jeered the decision, showering the field with debris as Torre tried to make his own argument. When things settled down, Arroyo got Sheffield to pop out behind the plate, moving the game to the ninth.
"I was relaxed that at-bat," Sheffield said. "He was throwing me some good pitches, those sidearm curveballs, staying inside so I couldn't extend my arms. He didn't want me to hit something far, so I knew he was going to stay out of the extension part of the plate."
Tanyon Sturtze kept the deficit at 2 after taking over for Paul Quantrill with one on and one out in the ninth. Sturtze walked Bellhorn to put two men on, but got Johnny Damon and Bill Mueller to pop out to Jeter, giving New York one last chance in the ninth.
Keith Foulke, who threw 72 pitches in Games 4 and 5, came out to try to nail down the win in the ninth. Hideki Matsui led off with a walk, bringing the tying run to the plate. Williams struck out, then Foulke retired Jorge Posada for the second out. Ruben Sierra walked to keep the hopes alive for the Yankees, but Clark struck out, keeping the Sox -- and the ALCS -- alive for one more day.
"We had our opportunities again tonight. I had one there in the ninth and came up short," Clark said. "I got a pitch I could handle and I swung right through it."
Aaron Boone won't be in the Bronx on Wednesday night, so it will be up to some other player to create a new memory in this historic rivalry.
"It's going to be fun," Jeter said. "Forget about the first six games, because they're over with. Now it comes down to one game, so we'll see who's better for one game."
"I guess it was supposed to come to Game 7," Torre said. "We'll see what happens."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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