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Ending comes too soon
10/21/2004 2:44 AM ET
NEW YORK -- It wasn't supposed to end like this for the Yankees.

After winning the first three games of the American League Championship Series, most assumed that the 40th AL pennant in franchise history would be delivered before the team left Fenway Park.

But when Mariano Rivera blew Game 4 and Tom Gordon blew Game 5, the Red Sox seized the momentum and rode it to a four-game winning streak, ending the Yankees' hopes of a return to the Fall Classic.

"We had four games to win one, and we didn't do it," said Derek Jeter. "They were better than us, that's the bottom line. Those guys didn't give up."

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"If you don't pitch good, you are not going to win," Rivera said. "I couldn't do it. We didn't pitch well, and we didn't win."

For the Yankees, the loss was particularly stunning, given that it came in their home ballpark. After posting the best home record in the Majors during the season, losing two in a row at Yankee Stadium to close out the series was practically unthinkable.

"I never thought I'd be on this end of it. I thought I'd go into the offseason with a win," said Gary Sheffield. "Right now, I'm shocked by the way it all ended. We were one game away, but no one took it for granted. We knew it was going to be tough to close it out."

"In my career, we've dealt some pretty big blows to people," said Bernie Williams. "It feels kind of weird to be on the other side of the coin. We'll live to fight another day and, hopefully, next year will be better for us."

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

Game 7 was a one-sided affair from the start. Series MVP David Ortiz put the Sox on top early with a first-inning home run. Johnny Damon made it a six-run game with his second-inning grand slam, and the Yankees never got closer than five runs throughout the game.

"It's crushing for us. I don't have the words to describe how disappointed I am," said Alex Rodriguez. "If you open up that window up just a little bit, a team that good gains momentum."

"They performed the way they needed to in the last four games," said Tony Clark. "We had some opportunities, but they played the way they needed to, which is why they're headed to the World Series. This is going to sting for a while."

Spring Training is less than four months away, and the Yankees will be itching to get back to baseball after enjoying a few months with their families.

"This one will stick with us for a while," said Williams. "We had a great opportunity and we couldn't capitalize on it. Any time you lose a series, lose out on a chance to play in the World Series, it's disappointing."

"It's frustrating, because we felt that the winner tonight would win the World Series," said A-Rod. "This is something that's going to hurt all winter, but I think it's going to make us stronger for next year. We'll be back."

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

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