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Yanks on wrong side of history
10/21/2004 4:51 AM ET
NEW YORK -- This isn't the kind of history New Yorkers are used to, and especially not in Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees fell on the wrong side of the record books on Wednesday night, becoming the first team in baseball history to lose a seven-game series after taking a 3-0 lead. The Red Sox took it to them and from them, winning four straight games in four straight nights. With that reverse-sweep success, the Sox are World Series-bound for the first time since 1986.

"None of us want this to happen. We went out there, busted our tails," said Joe Torre, New York's manager. "I think everybody was a little surprised that we were up, 3-0. You thought, going in, it was going to be a seven-game series. However, you didn't think it was going to be three straight and three straight. And then, of course, they finished us off tonight."

In the aftermath, Torre's Yanks are left to ponder how it all went awry. Just four days ago, after Game 3 in Boston, a series sweep seemed all but inevitable. Two extra-inning losses later, the Yankees had to come back and try to defend their own home turf.

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But by that time, momentum, that fickle beast, was firmly entrenched in the other dugout. And it stayed that way, despite all the history between the two teams and the rich recent past of Yankee success. Tony Clark, who played for Boston in 2002 and New York this year, had some interesting perspective.

"They did a good job. They performed the way they needed to in the last four games," he said. "We had some opportunities, but they played the way they needed to, which is why they're headed to the World Series."

The Sox did it on hostile ground, in a place that had broken their hearts time and time again. And they did it with style: Boston pulled out a close win on Tuesday night and roared out to a big lead in the clincher, stifling New York behind Derek Lowe's star-turn and the magical reawakening of Johnny Damon's limp bat. Still, the focus was on the team theme and the uncommon achievement.

"As far as doing something that's never been done before, I mean, that's for you guys to have some fun with," said Boston manager Terry Francona, speaking in a postgame press conference. "I mean, I understand it's special. We just wanted to win and move on. And the only way we could move on was to do it the way we did.

"We had to show up and win the game we were playing or we were going home. And we're playing the New York Yankees -- we know how good they are."

The scoring breakdown says it all: The Yankees dominated the first three games, outscoring Boston 32-16. In the next four, Boston turned things around to the tune of a 25-13 advantage. The true kickers were the one-run games, the extra-inning decisions that could've gone either way.

Facts machine
Since being named manager of the Yankees in 1996, Joe Torre has taken his club to the American League Championship Series seven times -- and he had won them all until Boston ended his streak this year. The Yanks didn't advance to the ALCS in 1997 and 2002, losing in the Division Series to Cleveland and Anaheim, respectively. Torre's ALCS record:
Year Opponent Outcome
2004BostonLost, 4-3
2003BostonWon, 4-3
2001SeattleWon, 4-1
2000SeattleWon, 4-2
1999BostonWon, 4-1
1998ClevelandWon, 4-2
1996BaltimoreWon, 4-1

"We had a couple of games, if you go back in the series, where we had situations the way we wanted it -- leads late in the game -- and we just couldn't close the deal," said Torre. "We certainly never took them for granted, even up 3-0, because we know how explosive they can be."

New York fell in the ALCS for the first time in seven tries under Torre -- they parlayed the other six chances into four World Series rings and two finishes as runner-up. Despite this year's ending, it's been a remarkable run. In fact, the Yankees have qualified for the postseason 10 straight times, the longest streak in franchise history.

"Right now, I'm shocked by the way it all ended," said Gary Sheffield, New York's right fielder. "We were one game away, but no one took it for granted. We knew it was going to be tough to close it out."

Bernie Williams agreed, and gave the Red Sox credit.

"Those guys kept playing the way we used to play. They have two great horses in Manny and David, but the rest of the team are tough outs, too. They gave our pitchers a run for their money. They just weren't going to be beaten."

Now they'll go back to the drawing board with next year in mind and a newfound hunger in their collective belly. Losing in the World Series to the best team in the other league is one thing -- failing four times in a row to dispatch their bitter rival is quite another. It will stick in their craw for the entire winter, even if they pretend that it doesn't matter.

"I haven't even thought about it. It's upsetting to lose, but as far as being the first team, I couldn't care less about that," said Derek Jeter. "They played better than us. That's basically it. You can come up with this or that, but the bottom line is that they beat us."

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

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