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Yanks can't take advantage
10/18/2004 11:13 PM ET
BOSTON -- Someone had to lose, even if nobody stepped forward to win.

Both the Yankees and Red Sox had plenty of chances to break open Monday night's game, which ended up as the longest in ALCS history. A quick glance at the scorecard shows the dominant aspect of the game: Neither team was able to convert their many scoring opportunities, which doomed them to play until someone finally did.

That someone was David Ortiz, who fisted a game-winning single into center field in the bottom of the 14th inning. That shot came five hours and 49 minutes after the game started, and it was virtually the only difference between the two sides. New York went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and Boston clocked in at 2-for-13.

"Everybody's tired. Their team, our team," said Jorge Posada after New York's 5-4 loss. "We had opportunities, they had opportunities. We pitched good, they pitched good. There's not much you can say right now -- just look forward to tomorrow."

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Tomorrow means Game 6, which brings the Yankees back to their own stadium. They have two more chances to close out the Red Sox, who have two more chances to make history. No team has ever gone down three games and then come back to win a seven-game playoff series.

Then again, no team had ever gone through this kind of stress. The Yankees and Red Sox have played 26 innings in the last two nights, and those two games are the two longest in ALCS history. In truth, Monday night's game could've ended far earlier: New York left 18 men on base and Boston wasn't much better, stranding 12 runners.

"It was very hard to watch the last eight innings, or whatever it was after I came out," said Yankees starter Mike Mussina. "The last two have been tough to watch. We had chances ... left, what, 20 men on base? ... It just didn't work out."

Indeed it didn't, and the reason was fairly simple: The home team's bullpen blanked the Yanks during the crucial part of the ballgame, stranding eight runners from the eighth inning on. In fact, New York put up zeroes in 12 of the game's 14 innings -- eight of them after Pedro Martinez left the game.

"First of all, I was pleased for our ballclub. We used, basically, everybody," said Boston manager Terry Francona. "To get shutout innings out of your bullpen for that length of time -- it was an unbelievable performance. (Tim) Wakefield, right in the middle of it. Last inning, he was on fumes."

Short hops format/producers

Facts machine
For the third consecutive game, the time of game in the ALCS established a postseason record:
Game Time Record
3 4:20 Longest 9-inning game in postseason history
4 5:02 Longest extra-inning ALCS game in history
5 5:49 Longest game in postseason history

That may be the case, but the knuckleballer retired the side in order in his final frame. Wakefield got nine outs and only allowed one hit, striking out four Yankees against just one walk. His fluttering pitch still caused some awkward moments because Jason Varitek, not Wakefield's regular backstop, couldn't catch it at times. Still, the erstwhile starter was Boston's best weapon.

"You can't imagine how happy I am that he gets to end that game," said Francona. "I mean, I know he had a good knuckleball, but he was -- everybody was on fumes. So were they. I mean, you saw two really good teams that really competed with a lot of heart. Thankfully, we're at home and we won."

The Red Sox stranded three runners of their own in the last few innings, but they also came up with the two biggest swings of the game. Both came from Ortiz. One was a solo shot that brought Boston within one run, and the other was the final play of the evening.

Esteban Loaiza, New York's final pitcher, got nine outs before he gave up his first hit. Unfortunately for him and for his team it came with two outs and a runner in scoring position. Ortiz fought off a cut fastball and got it to center field, where it dropped in front of a charging Bernie Williams.

"It's just one of those things. Posada put the glove up there and I threw it. He just made contact, and with a broken bat," said Loaiza. "Other than that, he was fouling off a lot of sinkers away. Battling -- I felt like he was and I was. He won the battle right there, but on a good pitch."

So what happens next? Both teams have beleaguered bullpens, with closers that have worked excessively long stints for two consecutive days. Both teams used six relievers on Monday night, with seven of them throwing at least one full inning.

Everyone's exhausted, and momentum won't decide this series. Key hits in key situations will, and neither squad is conceding anything to the other.

"It took every ounce of whatever we had left to win tonight's game and last night's game," Wakefield said. "I'm proud of every one of those guys in there. It's just nice to be able to be going back to New York for Game 6 and Game 7."

"They've been tough. Obviously, they've been long games," said Posada. "There's not much we can do about it right now, just look forward to tomorrow."

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

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