Game 4 wrapup: Red Sox 3, Yankees 2
BOSTON -- An American League Championship Series that has already had plenty of drama officially starts anew Tuesday afternoon with Game 5. That kicks off a best-of-three finish for these epic rivals. First team to snag two wins is in the World Series. Loser goes home.
The Red Sox set up that tasty scenario by willing out a crucial win in Game 4. They rode a vintage performance by veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and solo shots by Todd Walker and Trot Nixon en route to a tense, 3-2 victory over the Yankees that knotted this series up at 2.
With the win, the Sox guaranteed a return trip to New York for Game 6.
"And hopefully we'll be going there up a game," said Sox center fielder Johnny Damon.
It was hardly surprising to see the Sox pull this one out. They've rallied back all year.
Sure, it was a letdown to lose Game 3 with ace Pedro Martinez on the mound. But as far as the Red Sox were concerned, that was old news by the time they took the field for Game 4.
"This team has been so positive," said Walker. "You don't let one day affect the next. That's what we've been like since Day 1 of this season. We've got a lot of heart and a lot of strength in this clubhouse. We're not going to give up. You'd think everyone would see that by now."
And now, they will try and ride this momentum into Game 5 when Derek Lowe, a Fenway Park machine all season, takes the mound against veteran lefty David Wells.
"Momentum is an inning-by-inning thing right now," said Walker. "You saw that in the Oakland series."
But Wakefield's momentum has been a constant with every knuckleball he has twirled in this series.
In this one, he went seven innings while allowing five hits and one earned run and registering eight strikeouts. He's earned both victories for the Sox in the ALCS while Mike Mussina has taken both losses for New York.
Lowe, John Burkett and Martinez are the three starters left for Boston in this series if it goes to the limit, but it's hard to believe you've seen the last of Wakefield in the ALCS.
"I feel great," Wakefield said, "but I may be running on adrenaline right now. I always have my spikes on, so we'll see. I could be available (for Game 5)."
The only force as steady as Wakefield the last few days for the Sox has been right-handed setup man Mike Timlin. He got three outs in the eight, and has mowed down all 22 men he's faced in the postseason.
"I'm just enjoying the atmosphere and the opportunity to play in postseason again," said Timlin. "I feel like I've been throwing the ball the same way all season. I don't think I've changed that much. I'm just attacking the zone."
So is Scott Williamson. The hard-throwing right-hander closed it out with his second save of the series, striking out the side. He did allow a solo homer to pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra, but that ended up being nothing more than a footnote.
"Wake did a tremendous job," Nixon said. "(Timlin) came in and did a great job and (Williamson) closed the door. Our pitching staff won the ballgame today."
Mussina and Wakefield were both nasty in the early innings. But the Red Sox jumped out first, as Walker smashed a solo homer to right to lead off the bottom of the fourth.
It was Walker's fifth of these playoffs, setting a team record for most home runs in one postseason. Nomar Garciaparra and John Valentin both hit four homers in the 1999 playoffs.
"I'm getting some good counts," Walker said. "I can't explain the home runs, but I'm trying to hit the ball hard and I'm trying to square it up as much as I can."
The Yankees weren't about to let a one-run deficit deflate them. They bounced right back in the top of the fifth. Derek Jeter hit one right down the line and got a big break, as the ball ricocheted off third base and into left field for an RBI double.
With runners on second and third and just one out, the Yankees had a golden chance to take the lead. But Jason Giambi lofted a flyout to center field that was too shallow to get the run home.
After Wakefield walked Bernie Williams to load the bases, he got Jorge Posada on a flyout to left to end the inning.
The Sox went right back in front in their half of the fifth, and again it was the long ball. This time it was Nixon's turn, as he belted a first-pitch, solo homer to center with one out. That gave the Sox five homers in this series against Mussina, who gave up 21 in his 31 starts during the regular season.
"I had a feeling he was going to try and beat me with a fastball inside," Nixon said. "I saw it come out of his hand real good, I had a nice, crisp picture of it. It was up in the zone a little, too."
Meanwhile, Wakefield was getting better as the game went on. He struck out the side in the sixth and then retired the Yankees on just four pitches in the seventh.
The Sox scrapped for some insurance in the bottom of the seventh. Kevin Millar drew a one-out walk and Nixon lofted a double off the Green Monster. The Yankees then walked Bill Mueller intentionally to set up bases loaded and one out.
With catcher Doug Mirabelli due up, Sox manager Grady Little called on Jason Varitek to pinch-hit. Varitek had to hustle in from the bullpen. But he still had enough speed to narrowly avoid getting doubled up on a grounder to short. The 6-4 fielder's choice brought home Millar to make it 3-1 Sox.
That run ended up being pivotal.
Wakefield led off the eighth by walking Giambi, and then exited to a loud ovation.
On came the ridiculously hot Timlin, who sent Williams, Posada and Hideki Matsui down in order before handing it over to Williamson.
By the end of the night, it was a new series.
"It's back to zero," Nixon said. "Best-of-three. You've got Wells, (Andy) Pettitte and (Roger) Clemens for them and we've got D. Lowe, Burky and Petey. Just go out there and play hard. Whatever happens happens."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.