10/17/2004 3:28 AM ET
Heart of the lineup carries Yanks
Hitting explosion puts New York in strong series lead
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
|Hideki Matsui helped the heart of the Yankees' order pour on the offense. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Bauman: Yanks do it every which way
Record-setting night for Matsui
Hideki Matsui's two home runs: 56K | 350K
Sheffield's three-run homer: 56K | 350K
Bernie Williams' RBI single: 56K | 350K
BOSTON -- By the end of Boston Massacre II, after the New York Yankees had finished crunching numbers and Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, the truth was painfully obvious.
When this Bombers offense gets rolling downhill, it's best to get out of its way.
Green Monster, meet the 4-Headed Monster.
New York's 19-8, 22-hit annihilation was concentrated in the Nos. 2-5 hitters, a quartet which tendered the darndest collective performance anyone could ever recall in a championship-game setting.
"I've never seen anything like it," Reggie Jackson, properly wide-eyed, said in the visitors' locker room.
Reading from productive to just plain lethal, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams combined to:
score 14 runs.
collect 15 RBIs and
pelt Fenway Park with six doubles and four homers.
None of this is a misprint.
"With this lineup, anything is possible," Sheffield said, after just about anything did happen. "We were so focused to keep scoring, because we thought they'd keep scoring."
In a game in which the first three innings took 105 minutes and produced 12 runs, both teams came out swinging.
When Boston answered New York's three runs in the first with four of its own in the second, Rodriguez determined that "it was going to take at least 10 runs to win that game."
Why stop there?
|The Yankees and Red Sox tied or set several records in Game 3:||Postseason
|Hits, both clubs||37|
|XBH, both clubs||20|
|2B, team||8 (NYY)|
|Runs, player||5 (Matsui, Rodriguez)|
|Length||4:20||League Championship Series
|Runs, both clubs||27|
|Runs, team||29 (NYY)|
|XBH, team||13 (NYY)|
|Hits, team||22 (NYY)|
|Hits, player||5 (Matsui)|
|RBIs, player||5 (Matsui)|
|HRs, team||4 (NYY)|
"These guys played nine innings tonight and they got the most out of every at-bat," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "I could not have been more proud of them."
The Fenway Park press box needed an auctioner to keep up with the blitz of record-breaking and tying announcements.
The Yanks and the Sox combined on the early assault on the record books.
Before there were two outs in the top of the fifth, they had set an all-time scoring record for a regulation-length LCS game at 19, with the Yanks leading, 13-6.
The 19 runs broke the record of 18 set in 1992 by Atlanta and matched in 2002 by Anaheim, both winners by 13-5 scores over Pittsburgh and Minnesota, respectively.
It also equaled the most runs scored in any LCS game, in the Braves' 10-9 victory over the New York Mets in 11 innings in 1999.
The Yankees took it from there:
Their 19 runs set an LCS record. Boston's 23 runs in a 1999 Division Series record over Cleveland is the only higher total in postseason history.
Their 22 hits are a new ALCS record and matched Atlanta's total in a 1996 victory over St. Louis for the LCS mark.
Their eight doubles tied another postseason high, done twice in World Series games, most recently in 1925 (Pirates, against the Washington Senators).
Their 13 extra base hits (including four homers and a triple) nearly doubled the previous record of seven, by the Red Sox in 1999.
The two teams' combined total of 27 runs smashed the LCS record, and their 37 hits were a postseason record.
"One of those games that happens once in a while," said Don Mattingly, the team's proud batting coach, "except you don't see it happen in the playoffs very much. And not against these guys."
The individual assault on the books was as stunning.
Matsui (5-for-6 with five runs and five RBIs) set an LCS record and tied the postseason record for runs scored.
Ditto, A-Rod (3-for-5 with five runs and three RBIs).
Williams (4-for-6 with three RBIs) set three career LCS records and was virtually overshadowed.
"It was all offense," said Sheffield (4-for-5, three runs and four RBIs). "Guys were working counts, laying off good pitches.
|The Yankees' Nos. 2-5 hitters have 53 of the team's 76 total bases in the American League Championship Series. Hideki Matsui leads the pack with 19 and needs just one more to tie former Yankee Chris Chambliss, who racked up 20 total bases in 1976 for the most in an ALCS. More >|
"Every time we scored, we said, 'Let's score some more, keep them from getting any momentum.'"
And every time Matsui came to bat, the scoreboard operator had to reach for a new number. Godzilla treated 'em like the Boston Rodans.
Tossed the familiar line about hitting being contagious, Sheffield said, "Matsui is contagious."
What became a jaw-dropping display of Yankees might actually have started out as a mutual, seesaw affront to pitching.
The Yankees did not move into a permanent lead until Sheffield's three-run homer in the fourth off Curtis Leskanic broke a 6-6 tie.
Leskanic was one of six pitchers used by Red Sox manager Terry Francona in a vain attempt to turn off the Yankees hitting hose.
They would include Tim Wakefield, who had been the probable starter for Sunday's Game 4 until the Red Sox's situation turned dire.
Wakefield came on a batter after Sheffield snapped the evening's last deadlock with his launch over the Monster seats.
Neither starter -- Bronson Arroyo of Boston, nor New York's Kevin Brown -- had a minute of calm.
The Yankees broke on top with three runs in the first, two of them scoring on Matsui's homer over the right-field bullpens.
Fighting his control, Brown gave the lead back, and then some, in the second. With Trot Nixon's two-run homer as the key blow, the Red Sox scored four runs to take a 4-3 lead -- their first of the ALCS.
That lead lasted about as long as it takes to cook a New York minute egg. Rodriguez led off the third with a prodigious tying homer, and the Yankees scored twice more in the inning on Matsui's double and a balk by Ramiro Mendoza.
"After they closed the gap so quickly, it was a big home run just to tie it up," Rodriguez said. "We got some momentum back."
Touche, Red Sox. They tied it at 6 in their half of the third on Orlando Cabrera's bases-loaded double against his former Expos teammate, Javier Vazquez, who started the inning in Brown's stead.
The tally for the first three innings:
21 men on base
Those dozen runs were a three-inning LCS record. And the eventual game-time of 4:20 set another nine-inning LCS record.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.