The 2004 American League Championship Series was a Major League Baseball playoff series played between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The series, a rematch of the 2003 American League Championship Series, started on October 12, 2004 and ended one minute after midnight Eastern Time on October 21. It seems likely to be remembered as the greatest comeback in baseball history. The Boston Red Sox became the first MLB team to come back and win a 7 game series after losing the first 3 games. Following the amazing comeback the Red Sox went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The victory ended one of the longest droughts in MLB history, as the Red Sox hadn't won the World Series since 1918.
Series MVP: David Ortiz, Boston
Game 1, October 12
Game 1 pitted the Red Sox's star pitcher Curt Schilling against Yankees ace Mike Mussina. Schilling had a 6-1 postseason career record, but the expected pitchers' duel quickly became a one-sided exhibition. Schilling had suffered an ankle injury during the 2004 American League Division Series and was thought to be OK, but he gave up six runs and lasted only three innings. Meanwhile, Mussina retired the first 19 Sox batters. The Yankees added two runs off of Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in the sixth. Hideki Matsui's single made the score 8-0 and gave him an ALCS record-tying 5 RBIs in the game.
However, the Red Sox shattered Mussina's bid for a perfect game with a rally of 5 runs in the seventh and added two more in the eighth, closing the gap to 8-7. With two outs and the tying run on third base, the Yankees called upon closer Mariano Rivera, who got Kevin Millar to pop out. The Yankees, stunned to see their lead nearly gone, scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth on a double by Bernie Williams. The Sox got two singles in the top of the ninth, but Bill Mueller grounded into a game-ending double play.
It was the end of a long, emotional day for Mariano Rivera, who started in Panama attending a funeral after a family tragedy. He flew back and arrived to Yankee Stadium to a standing ovation in the second inning.
|W: Mike Mussina (1-1) L: Curt Schilling (1-1) S: Mariano Rivera (1)|
|HRs: BOS – Jason Varitek (1); NYY – Kenny Lofton (1)|
Game 2, October 13
Game 2 featured Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox against Yankees' pitcher Jon Lieber. Again the Yankees struck first, with Gary Sheffield driving in Derek Jeter in the first inning. The 1-0 score held up for several innings, as Lieber and Martinez put together a classic pitcher's duel.
Martinez got himself into trouble in several innings, possibly distracted by chants of "Who's your daddy?" from the Yankee Stadium crowd. The chants were based on a remark Martinez had made after losing his previous start vs. New York on September 24: "What can I say — just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy. I can’t find a way to beat them at this point. ... They’re that good. They’re that hot right now — at least against me. I wish they would disappear and not come back." Martinez finally got himself in too deep. Shortly after making his 100th pitch of the night, considered his limit after meltdowns in Game 7 of the 2003 series and on September 24, Martinez walked Jorge Posada and allowed a John Olerud home run. This gave New York a 3-0 lead.
Again, the Red Sox rallied. They chased Lieber with two hits in the eighth and closed the gap to 3-1. With two outs and a runner on third, again the Yankees turned to Rivera, who struck out Johnny Damon to end the inning. In the ninth, Rivera struck out David Ortiz and Millar to end the game.
|W: Jon Lieber (1-0) L: Pedro Martinez (0-1) S: Mariano Rivera (2)|
|HRs: NYY – John Olerud (1)|
Game 3, October 16
With the series moving to Fenway Park, Game 3 was originally scheduled for October 15, but was postponed a day due to rain. The starting pitchers were Kevin Brown for the Yankees, and Bronson Arroyo for the Red Sox.
As in the first two games, the Yankees began the game by scoring in the first. Derek Jeter walked then scored from first on a double by Alex Rodriguez. Two batters later Hideki Matsui hit a home run to right field, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead. The Red Sox answered in the second inning, with a leadoff walk by Jason Varitek followed by a Trot Nixon home run to right field. A double by Bill Mueller, an infield hit by Johnny Damon (his first hit of the series), and a Derek Jeter error led to two more runs. The Red Sox led for the first time in the series, 4-3.
The lead was short lived as Alex Rodriguez led off the third inning with a home run over the Green Monster onto Lansdowne Street. Gary Sheffield walked, Hideki Matsui doubled, and Bronson Arroyo was replaced on the mound by Ramiro Mendoza. He immediately allowed a Bernie Williams RBI single and then balked, allowing Matsui to score. The Yankees now led 6-4 and replaced starter Kevin Brown with Javier Vázquez. However, the Red Sox responded by tying the game in the bottom of the inning, scoring two runs on an Orlando Cabrera double. After three innings the game was tied 6-6.
In the fourth inning the Yankees took the lead on a Gary Sheffield three-run home run into the seats on the Green Monster. After another double by Hideki Matsui, the Red Sox put in pitcher Tim Wakefield who volunteered to forgo his Game 4 Start. He got Bernie Williams to pop out but then intentionally walked Jorge Posada. Rubén Sierra hit a triple to score Matsui and Posada, giving the Yankees an 11-6 lead.
From that point on the Yankees were in control, setting a team record for postseason runs scored. The two teams combined for 37 hits and 20 extra-base hits, both postseason records, and at four hours and twenty minutes, it was the longest nine-inning postseason game ever played. Hideki Matsui had five hits and five RBIs, tying LCS records. Along with Alex Rodriguez, he tied the postseason record for runs scored with five.
|W: Javier Vázquez (1-0) L: Ramiro Mendoza (0-1)|
|HRs: NYY – Hideki Matsui 2 (2), Alex Rodriguez (1), Gary Sheffield (1); BOS – Trot Nixon (1), Jason Varitek (2)|
Game 4, October 17
Game 4 featured Yankees pitcher Orlando Hernández, the 1999 ALCS MVP, against Boston's Derek Lowe. For the first time in the series, the Yankees did not score in the first inning. However, the Yankees did score first when Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run home run over the Green Monster in the third. This hit resembled a home run he hit in Game Three, as it also came in the third inning and went out of the park onto Lansdowne Street. This would be followed by the ball being thrown back into the outfield by fans on the Street, Johnny Damon tossing the ball back over the fence, and the ball once again being tossed back before being pocketed by Umpire Joe West.
Hernández, who had not pitched in two weeks, struggled through the first four innings but did not allow any runs. In the fifth inning he pitched himself into a jam, walking two of the first three batters. With two men on and two out, Orlando Cabrera singled to right field, scoring one run. Manny Ramirez walked to load the bases, and then David Ortiz hit a single to center field, scoring two and giving the Red Sox a 3-2 lead, only their second lead of the series.
The lead would be short-lived as Hideki Matsui hit a triple in the sixth. Mike Timlin relieved Lowe, and Bernie Williams hit an infield single to score Matsui and tie the game. The Yankees would add a second run on a tough, bouncing ground ball hit by Tony Clark, starting in place of the injured John Olerud, to take a 4-3 lead.
Massachusetts native Tanyon Sturtze pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Hernández. Mariano Rivera, the Yankees star closer, entered the game in the eighth for a two inning save attempt. However, in the ninth inning, Rivera walked Kevin Millar to begin the inning. Dave Roberts pinch-ran for Millar. Rivera checked Roberts at first base several times before throwing a pitch to Bill Mueller. On Rivera's first pitch to Mueller, the speedy Roberts stole second, putting himself in scoring position. Mueller's single allowed Roberts to score, sending the game into extra innings, tied 4-4.
Both teams threatened for more runs in the 11th inning, but the game remained tied until the bottom of the 12th. Ramirez led off with a single against new pitcher Paul Quantrill, and Ortiz hit a two-run walk-off home run to right field. Ortiz became the first player with two walk-off homers in the same postseason; his first capped a Red Sox sweep of the Anaheim Angels in the American League Division Series.
|W: Curtis Leskanic (1-0) L: Paul Quantrill (1-1)|
|HRs: NYY – Alex Rodriguez (2); BOS – David Ortiz (1)|
Game 5, October 18
Game 5 began at 5:10pm on the evening of Monday, October 18, just 16 hours after Game 4 had ended the previous night. Mike Mussina led the Yankees against Boston's Pedro Martinez. The Red Sox drew first blood this time, as Ortiz drove in a run and Varitek walked with the bases loaded in the first inning to give Boston a 2-0 lead. Bernie Williams homered in the second inning to close the gap to 2-1, a score which would hold up for several innings.
Despite seven strikeouts by Martinez, in the top of the sixth inning, Jorge Posada and Rubén Sierra singled with one out. After Miguel Cairo was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Derek Jeter cleared the bases with a double, giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead. The Red Sox threatened in the seventh inning, coming up empty, but for the second straight night the Yankee bullpen couldn't hold the lead. Ortiz led off the eighth inning with a home run off of Tom Gordon, making it a one run game. Kevin Millar followed with a walk and was again replaced by pinch runner Dave Roberts. Roberts went to third on Trot Nixon's single. Gordon was replaced by Mariano Rivera with the lead still intact, but Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly tied the game, setting up another extra-inning marathon.
Each team got its share of base runners in extra innings. Boston's Doug Mientkiewicz doubled in the 10th and moved to third, but couldn't score. Two Red Sox led off the 11th with singles. Esteban Loaiza, who had struggled since being acquired for the Yankees mid-season, came out to pitch with one out and got Orlando Cabrera to ground into a double play. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield came out to pitch the 12th. Cairo singled and went to second on a Manny Ramirez error but was stranded there. In the top of the 13th Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who does not normally catch for Wakefield, committed three passed balls, but the Yankees stranded runners on second and third. Loaiza pitched well but in the bottom of the 14th, Damon and Ramirez walked, bringing up Ortiz with two outs. The previous night's hero did his job again, singling to center on the 10th pitch at 10:59pm to bring in Damon and set off another celebration at Fenway. Ortiz's continued heroics prompted FOX TV announcer Tim McCarver to gush shortly afterwards, "He didn't do it again, did he? Yes he did."
At 5 hours, 49 minutes, the game broke the record for longest postseason game by time (, previously held by Game 5 of the 1999 National League Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. As a surprising note, the two games are also joined in another way, as, along with the 1998 Braves against the San Diego Padres, the 1999 Mets and 2004 Red Sox are the only baseball teams to go down 0-3 in a series and force a Game 6. Neither of the Red Sox's predecessors won Game 6.
Boston pitching struck out 16 Yankees in Game 5.
|W: Tim Wakefield (1-0) L: Esteban Loaiza (0-1)|
|HRs: NYY – Bernie Williams (1); BOS – David Ortiz (2)|
Game 6, October 19
Game 6 was held on Tuesday, October 19 at Yankee Stadium. The starting pitchers were Curt Schilling of the Red Sox and Jon Lieber of the Yankees. The teams played the first few innings scoreless, but in the fourth inning, Boston struck first on a two-out single by Jason Varitek which drove in Kevin Millar. Then Mark Bellhorn, who had struggled the entire series, drove a pitch into the left field stands. A fan bobbled the ball, and it dropped back onto the field. Left field umpire Jim Joyce signaled that the ball was still in play. Boston manager Terry Francona ran onto the field to argue the ruling. The officiating crew huddled and ultimately overruled the call. Bellhorn had a three-run home run, and the Red Sox had a 4-0 lead.
Schilling, still injured from the ALDS and Game 1, pitched seven strong innings, allowing only one run on a Bernie Williams home run. To help stabilize the tendon in his ankle, Red Sox doctors placed three sutures connecting the skin with ligament and deep connective tissue next to the bone, effectively creating a wall of tissue to keep the peroneal tendon from disrupting Schilling's pitching mechanics. By the end of his performance, Schilling's white sock was soaked in blood, and he said later that he was completely exhausted.
Bronson Arroyo took the mound for Boston in the eighth, and with one out, allowed a Miguel Cairo double. Derek Jeter singled him in to close the gap to 4-2, before the series' most controversial play yet. Alex Rodriguez grounded the ball to Arroyo, who picked up the ball and ran to the baseline to tag Rodriguez out, but the Yankee slapped Arroyo's arm, knocking the ball loose. While the ball rolled down the baseline, Rodriguez went to second and Jeter scored. After another long conversation between the umpires, Rodriguez was called out for interference, and the Red Sox got out of the inning without further damage.
The call, though correct, incensed Yankee fans, who were already irate over the home run call in the fourth. As Torre and Rodriguez continued to frenetically argue with the umpires, many fans began to throw balls and other debris onto the field. Boston manager Terry Francona pulled his players from the field to protect them. After a delay, order was restored when NYPD officers took the field in riot gear. The presence of riot police on the field for a full inning is unprecedented in American professional sports and reflected the chaotic environment that evening. With that background, the Red Sox were retired in the top of the ninth. After Keith Foulke came in for the bottom of the ninth, Matsui and Sierra walked, bringing Tony Clark to the plate as the potential pennant-winning run, but Clark struck out swinging on a full count to end the game.
The Red Sox, the 26th team in Major League Baseball playoff history to face a 3-0 series deficit, became the first one to force a Game Seven. Only two North American professional sports teams, both in the National Hockey League, had ever made up a 3-0 deficit to actually win a 7-game series: the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders.
For inspiration for their ALCS comeback, the Red Sox sat around Yankee Stadium's visitors' clubhouse prior to Game 7 watching Miracle, the Kurt Russell movie about the 1980 U.S. men's gold-medal hockey team.
|W: Curt Schilling (2-1) L: Jon Lieber (1-1) S: Keith Foulke (2)|
|HRs: BOS – Mark Bellhorn (1); NYY – Bernie Williams (2)|
Game 7, October 20
Game 7 began at 8:30 pm in the evening on Wednesday, October 20 at Yankee Stadium. The starting pitchers were Derek Lowe for the Red Sox versus Kevin Brown for the Yankees. The game started on a strong note for the Red Sox, with a two-run homer in the first inning from David Ortiz. In the second, the Sox loaded the bases against Brown, causing Yankees manager Joe Torre to remove him and put in Javier Vázquez to face Johnny Damon. Damon hammered Vázquez' first pitch into the right-field seats for a grand slam, and added a two-run homer in the fourth. Damon had three hits in the game after only three hits in the rest of the series. Boston also enjoyed a solid performance from their starting pitcher, Derek Lowe, who allowed only one run and one hit in six innings of work. Pedro Martinez came on in the seventh inning to loud chants of "Who's Your Daddy?", which worsened as he gave up a sequence of hits and two runs. He eventually raised the velocity of his fastball to the mid-90s and shut down the rally. Mike Timlin and Alan Embree finished out the game. At 12:04 am on October 21st, Ruben Sierra hit a groundball to second baseman Pokey Reese, who threw to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to finish what is arguably the greatest comeback in the history of baseball. The Red Sox won 10-3, becoming the first team in Major League Baseball history to win a seven-game series after being down three games to none. David Ortiz was named the series MVP.
|W: Derek Lowe (2-0) L: Kevin Brown (1-1)|
|HRs: BOS – David Ortiz (3), Johnny Damon 2 (3), Mark Bellhorn (2)|
The post-game riots
The streets of Boston erupted in a celebration that quickly turned sour when mob mentality set in, resulting in riots that had tragic results, namely the death of Victoria Snelgrove. She was killed near Fenway Park by a less-lethal crowd control projectile fired by the Boston Police. It is believed that the system used was the FN 303, which is designed to achieve control primarily through blunt trauma, with an optional secondary payload, in this case pepper spray. According to eyewitnesses, the projectile hit Snelgrove in her eye causing her to bleed excessively. She died at 12:50pm EST at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. A video of the scene shows the crowd dispersing once they realized the severity of her injury as she lay face-down on the ground bleeding.
Boston Police Department Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole reported that the police believed to be involved were placed on leave, their names were withheld until after the investigation. The inquiry was led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, best known for prosecuting mob figures, including fugitive Winter Hill Gang leader James "Whitey" Bulger. O'Toole accepted the department's responsibility, however she has also blamed those who turned the event into a "near-riot". Officer Rochefort Milien was identified as the person who fired the shot that hit Snelgrove, after the police investigation. On May 2 2005, the city of Boston announced a $5.1 million settlement for her family's lawsuit.