10/14/2003 7:50 PM ET
Yanks proving fittest for survival
BOSTON -- After 23 meetings this year, regular season and postseason, something had to separate the Yankees and Red Sox in this American League Championship Series.
In Game 5 of the ALCS, the two rivals' 24th meeting of the season, one element of separation seemed to emerge: The postseason experience factor. The Yankees have been there, done that so many times that a pivotal Game 5 in the most hostile of territories simply wasn't a big a deal.
And now we're headed back to New York for Game 6 with the Yankees holding a 3-2 advantage in the series and a decided advantage in the next game's pitching matchup, with lefty Andy Pettitte and his impressive postseason resume taking on Red Sox No. 4 man John Burkett.
Including the five ALCS meetings, the Yankees now lead the season series 13-11, and at the moment have the only series lead that really matters.
It's hard to say experience isn't a factor after watching Game 5. In the tight situations, the Yankees came through and the Red Sox didn't. When presented with scoring opportunities, the Yankees registered theirs but the Red Sox did not.
You can't pick on pitching, defense or hitting to separate the two teams, so it must be something intangible. Even though the Red Sox have a close-knit club that's been through a lot this year, the Yankees -- or at least a good number of them -- have been through every October situation conceivable the last eight years.
It's a very thin line, and it's not really a knock on the Red Sox. It's just the cumulative effect of almost a decade of being a perennial postseason team with players like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Pettitte and the incomparable Mariano Rivera there all or a big part of that road. Throw in veteran free agents the Yankees can afford, and it's a mix that's hard to beat.
No other team -- not the Red Sox, not anybody -- can match the Yankees when it comes to dealing with the intensity of October.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By John Schlegel / MLB.com