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10/07/08 1:53 PM ET

ALCS an All-East event for fifth time

Red Sox-Rays a new look as Yankees miss out this year

An American League Championship Series centered entirely on the East Coast is not a novelty in itself, but this year's matchup promises to have a unique flavor when the tilt gets under way on Thursday.

From Tropicana Field to Fenway Park, this year's ALCS marks the fifth time in Major League history that the representation of the Junior Circuit has fallen on the eastern seaboard, with the defending world-champion Boston Red Sox taking on the upstart AL East-winning Tampa Bay Rays.

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Under the catwalks of the Trop and within the Rays' storybook season lies the change of power in the East, as Tampa Bay waged a battle for superiority in the division before taking hold of the top spot for good on July 18.

Joe Maddon's club finished 32 games over .500 and built a lead as large as 5 1/2 games in the East on Aug. 31 before completing the regular season two games up on Boston and defeating the Chicago White Sox in the Division Series.

But the Red Sox will come in hot, having eliminated the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a four-game ALDS and avoiding a last-game flight across the country. On their way to the AL Wild Card -- their third since 2003 -- Terry Francona's squad won 95 games and tied for the division lead as late as Sept. 15, making up ground quickly on the Rays.

With the new kid on the block grinding against the twice-this-decade World Series champs, this will mark the first all-East ALCS in which the Yankees are left out in the cold. In a year of transition under new manager Joe Girardi, New York finished eight games out of the running at 89-73; if the Yankees want to watch this tilt, they'll do so from their living rooms.

A look back at the other all-East ALCS matchups:

1996: Yankees vs. Orioles: The Wild Card-winning Orioles handled the Indians to move to the next round, but weren't ready for 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier, who pulled in a Derek Jeter home run in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium. In the opener's 11th inning, Bernie Williams' walk-off home run downed Baltimore, but David Wells beat the Yankees in Game 2 to send the series to Camden Yards. There, New York reeled off three straight to win the series, hitting three homers to account for six runs in Game 5 as Andy Pettitte outdueled Scott Erickson. In Joe Torre's first year as manager, the Yankees went on to win their first World Series title since 1978.

YearEast champWild CardResult
2004YankeesRed SoxBOS in 7
2003YankeesRed SoxNYY in 7
1999YankeesRed SoxNYY in 5
1996YankeesOriolesNYY in 5

1999: Yankees vs. Red Sox: New York took the early lead in a 10-inning Game 1 thriller at Yankee Stadium and won on a Bernie Williams walk-off home run. The Yankees took a 2-0 lead to send the series to Boston, where the Red Sox rocked Roger Clemens in a 13-1 rout as Pedro Martinez struck out 12 in seven scoreless innings. But New York pounded out a 9-2 win in Game 4 and Orlando Hernandez made Jeter's two-run homer hold up as the Yankees won Game 5, 6-1. New York beat the Braves in the Fall Classic to secure its third title in four seasons.

2003: Yankees vs. Red Sox: With the Red Sox primed for their first World Series victory since 1918, a seven-game ALCS ended in heartbreak for the Nation as Aaron Boone homered off Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning of Game 7. The series turned ugly, marked by a benches-clearing incident in Game 3 at Fenway Park when Pedro Martinez threw 72-year-old coach Don Zimmer to the ground. Boston staved off elimination with a 9-6 win in Game 6, then knocked out Clemens early in Game 7. Holding a 5-2 lead, manager Grady Little left Martinez in to pitch the eighth inning and New York scored three times, tying the game. Taxed by the thrilling ALCS, the Yankees were then knocked off in the World Series by the Marlins.

2004: Yankees vs. Red Sox: Sweet redemption for the Red Sox, as they pulled off a miraculous comeback to defeat their arch rivals in a seven-game ALCS before sweeping the Cardinals to reverse the curse. The Yankees held a 3-0 series lead, defeating the Red Sox 19-8 in Game 3 -- 1918, anyone? -- before the tables turned. Series MVP David Ortiz hit a 12th-inning home run to win Game 4 and lined a 14th-inning RBI single to secure Game 5 before Curt Schilling pitched seven strong innings in the "Bloody Sock" game in Game 6. The Red Sox finished off the stunned Yankees with a 10-3 rout in Game 7; the Yankees have not returned to the ALCS since, while the Red Sox have won a pair of World Series titles and would need to hold off the Rays for a chance at their third of the decade.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.