Yankees short hops10/20/2004 1:11 AM ET
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- For the second straight year, the ALCS all comes down to one game.
The Red Sox and Yankees will meet on Wednesday with two important things hanging in the balance -- a berth in the World Series and bragging rights for the next year. The clincher will crown a worthy champion because both teams are just about even over the last two seasons.
After the Game 7 clincher, the Sox and Yanks will have played each other 26 times in each of the last two seasons, setting and tying a Major League record for the most games played between two division rivals. Thus far, Boston owns a 26-25 edge over that span, outscoring New York, 275-270.
This series has been every bit as close. The Yankees won the first three games, but the Sox answered back with three wins of their own. Two of those came in extra innings at Fenway Park, where the last licks played a major role. The Yanks will hope for that same type of advantage on Wednesday night.
A look at key statistics through Game 6 of the ALCS.
||42 (2 in Game 6)
||3 (0 in Game 6)
||.304, 2-for-3 in Game 6
||two of team's six hits
Behind the numbers
||.192 (1-for-4 in Game 6)
||key hit, not enough
Jon Lieber pitched three scoreless innings and seemed to be on the verge of escaping the fourth, but Jason Varitek stopped the shutout with an epic at-bat. Boston's catcher fell behind 0-2, but he fouled off four pitches en route to a 10-pitch confrontation. The final offering turned into a run-scoring single, leading to a four-run frame and a commanding lead for the road team.
Well, was it or wasn't it? The umpires had to converge to get two calls right on Tuesday night, but they ended up with the right outcomes. One of those, Mark Bellhorn's shot over the left-field fence was originally ruled a double, but instant replays showed that it hit a fan in the chest and bounced back onto the field of play. The original ruling would've made the score 3-0 -- the correct judgment made it 4-0 with five innings to play.
Mariano Rivera got up in between the eighth and ninth innings, but the Yanks elected not to use him after they failed to tie the game. That gave their closer a night off, setting him up at full strength for Game 7. Rivera had pitched multi-inning stints for two straight nights, and there was no need to bring him in unless there was a tie game or a save situation.
The Red Sox became the first team in baseball history to force a Game 7 after falling behind 0-3 in a postseason series. Twenty-five teams had been down three games to none previously -- only two others even forced a Game 6. On Wednesday night, Boston will try to become the first team to come all the way back and win.
"I'm always a believer in the team that won the last game is the one that has the momentum. Last year, the Red Sox won the last game, Game 6, and we were able to fight back and win Game 7. That's what we're going to have to do this year." -- Joe Torre
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.