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Schilling, Sox ring bell for Game 710/20/2004 2:30 AM ET
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- They seemed to be clinging onto fading hopes over the weekend at Fenway Park, as the board on the door exiting the Red Sox clubhouse offered a simple message. "We can change history. Believe it!"
The author, whoever it might have been, has already been turned into a prophet. And his words stretched to the Bronx.
Simply by riding Curt Schilling's gritty performance and Mark Bellhorn's three-run homer to a 4-2 victory over the Yankees in Tuesday night's Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox are now in a class all by themselves in the annals of Major League Baseball history.
Of the 25 previous teams that trailed a best-of-seven postseason series 3-0, none had ever forced a Game 7. Until now.
The Sox hope more history awaits them Wednesday night when they try and become the first team in their sport to win a seven-game series after losing the first three. The reward would be a trip to the World Series, a stage no Red Sox team has ventured to since 1986.
"For the last three days, we kept showing up saying we had to win today," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "And because of that, we'll show up [Wednesday] and say the same thing. Come to the ballpark and it's the most important game of the day."
Not to mention the season.
As for Tuesday's entertaining contest, it was another nail-biting win for the Sox, but they didn't need extra innings this time. Nor did they need yet another clutch hit from David Ortiz.
The Red Sox hopped on Schilling's back, and somehow the big righty's ailing right ankle -- which will be operated on as soon as this season ends -- didn't buckle.
"I can't explain to you what a feeling it was to be out there and to feel what I felt," said Schilling, who badly wanted to avenge his subpar loss in Game 1, when the ankle was a hindrance and he gave up six hits and six runs over three innings.
Schilling gave the Sox seven clutch innings (four hits, one run, no walks and four strikeouts) on a night the bullpen was positively spent.
"Curt was awesome," said Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. "He's got a lot of guts. He went out there and threw well. What can we say? We wouldn't be in this situation without him. He's definitely appreciated here, and all throughout New England right now."
But Schilling had plenty of company in making this victory possible.
If not for the slumping Bellhorn's opposite-field blast to left in the fourth, it might not have been enough.
"It's pretty big for me," said Bellhorn. "My first time to be involved in something like this, it makes you try a little bit harder sometimes. My teammates, they just kept pumping me up and building my confident and for me to do something like this is pretty good."
Closer Keith Foulke, who has been nothing short of heroic in this series, had Sox fans biting their nails by walking Hideki Matsui to open the ninth. He walked Ruben Sierra with two outs, giving Tony Clark a chance to give the Yankees the pennant with one swing. But Foulke, who had thrown 72 pitches in Games 4 and 5, found a way. He got Clark swinging on a 3-2 pitch.
Now, the Sox and Yankees are set to tangle in Game 7 for the second consecutive October. This time, the Red Sox are desperately seeking a different outcome, one that would be the stuff of legend.
The Sox didn't name a Game 7 starter, but it is expected to be either Derek Lowe -- pitching on two days' rest -- or Tim Wakefield, who will be just two days removed from going three innings in relief to win Game 5. Either way, expect nearly every Sox pitcher to be available, including Pedro Martinez.
All in all, Game 6 was a magical night for the Sox. The only thing that marred it was Yankees fans getting a little unruly in the late innings. Upset by a controversial call in which Alex Rodriguez was ruled out for interfering with a tag by Bronson Arroyo, a large amount of debris was thrown on to the field. By the top of the ninth inning, there was a sizable contingent of security manning foul territory on both base lines.
The Red Sox worked Jon Lieber for 50 pitches through the first three innings, but were victimized by two double-play balls.
With the game still scoreless in the top of the fourth, Kevin Millar ignited a two-out rally with a double down the line in left. Jason Varitek then put together a pivotal, 10-pitch at-bat, ripping an RBI single up the middle. Orlando Cabrera kept things going with a single to left.
Up stepped Bellhorn, who lofted one to deep left. At first, it was ruled a two-run double by left field umpire Jim Joyce. But after a conference with the rest of his crew, the call was overturned to a three-run homer. Television replays clearly backed the reversal, as the ball actually hit a fan in the front row before bouncing back into play.
"That's what we needed," Damon said. "Lieber is a good pitcher, a smart pitcher. Bellhorn got a good swing."
And it swung the game. Schilling had a 4-0 lead. The Yankees finally established something in their half of the fourth, with Rodriguez leading off with a single up the middle and Gary Sheffield reaching on an infield hit. But Schilling sent down the next three hitters in succession, keeping the Yankees off the board.
"I don't think any of us have any idea what he went through to pitch tonight," said Francona. "For him to go out there and do what he did, his heart is so big."
What Schilling did was save the bullpen on a night Francona had few options after the 26 innings of the previous two games.
There was just one blemish to his evening, and that occurred when Bernie Williams launched a solo homer to right with one out in the seventh, cutting the Boston lead to 4-1.
After Schilling's departure, Francona went to Arroyo to start the eighth. He gave up a double to Miguel Cairo and then an RBI single to Derek Jeter, making it a 4-2 game and bringing the tying run to the plate in Rodriguez.
Then came some controversy. A-Rod hit a tapper in front of the mound. Arroyo charged it and then tagged Rodriguez. The ball came loose and went down the right-field line, and Jeter came flying around to score. But the umpires conferred as they did earlier, and agreed that Rodriguez had interfered with Arroyo by intentionally knocking the ball out of Arroyo's glove with his left hand. Rodriguez was ruled out and Jeter was instructed to go back to first.
"A-Rod, he wasn't really that close to me, I kind of relaxed, and he just karate chopped me in the left arm," said Arroyo. "He kind of hit me in the forearm, I think he was trying to hit the glove and the ball just shot out. It was so obvious I thought there was no way, all the umpires who were out there, one of them had to see it. He's a competitor. Game 6, they're down, it was desperate measures for desperate times."
Meanwhile, Arroyo settled back down, getting Sheffield on a foul pop to Varitek.
Foulke, despite the fact he hasn't had any rest, was able to do the rest.
"We have a one-game playoff in front of us and we have to outplay them," said Varitek.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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