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Boston Pops Back Again

The Red Sox secure wild-card berth midway through beating the Yankees, 10-1, and end up earning a playoff spot against the White Sox.

October 03, 2005|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees finished, as it turns out, where they began, with a shrug and a wave separating them.

After three games at Fenway Park, where there's a different party every night, the 95-67 Yankees are champions of the American League East, the 95-67 Red Sox the wild-card qualifiers, and by Sunday evening everyone was packing to head west for the playoffs.

What began as a play-in game for the Red Sox morphed into a stay-at-home game for the Yankees and deteriorated into a clear-the-benches game for everybody, with the Red Sox winning, 10-1.

For their best-of-five division playoff series, the Yankees open in Anaheim on Tuesday and the Red Sox start Tuesday in Chicago. The home team here celebrated its inclusion in the postseason as the Yankees had the day before, with hearty handshakes and an emptying of all the green magnums left over from the Yankee fete.

Yeah, it keeps getting weirder, the Red Sox and Yankees, bound by a few miles of railway and a lot of miles of baseball.

They played to Game 7 of the American League championship series the last two seasons, last year leading to the Red Sox's first World Series title since 1918 and tens of millions more in off-season spending by Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.

If they see each other again, it would be in the championship series.

"If that happens," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said, bemused at the idea, "it'll be another shootout."

Just as Saturday was a day for the Yankees, Sunday became a day for the Red Sox, who won the first and third games of the series to finish two games ahead of the Cleveland Indians.

As Red Sox captain Jason Varitek batted in the fifth inning, the Red Sox leading, 6-0, the scoreboard revealed the Indians had lost, and fans stood and cheered.

"I heard [owner John Henry] let out a little yelp, kind of," Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said. "I figured it was that or [Tom] Brady threw for a touchdown."

The Indians' loss, their sixth in seven games to allow the AL East runner-up its opening, clinched for the Red Sox their postseason place, and a series against the 99-win White Sox. What remained to be decided was whether the Yankees would have home-field advantage against the Angels, a certainty with a Yankee win or an Angel loss. But the Yankees scored only once in six innings against Curt Schilling, and their pitchers -- the likes of Jaret Wright, Scott Proctor, Shawn Chacon and Felix Rodriguez -- gave up three home runs and eight walks.

Left to root for the Texas Rangers against the Angels, the Yankees were stunned to learn Ranger Manager Buck Showalter -- the former Yankee manager -- sat several key regulars mid-game, allowing the Angels to play back from a 4-1 deficit to win.

"I was surprised," Torre said. "I could see if the team was in the playoffs and you want to give a little rest."

The Rangers finished the game with Michael Young, Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock on the bench.

"He is the manager and he has the right to do as he chooses," Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "But there is a code of honor with so much on the line."

Mindful of opening at Yankee Stadium and saving his players a six-hour, overnight flight West, Torre played all of his regulars but Jason Giambi.

As the Red Sox lead grew, shortstop Derek Jeter was the first to leave, but to ice a knee bruise suffered in a first-inning slide into second base. By the sixth inning, most of the front-line Yankees were on the bench or in the clubhouse, and Francona was plucking starters from the field one at a time, allowing them glory-filled walks to the dugout. They, like the Yankees, had endured injury and crisis to arrive at 95 wins.

Even now, the Red Sox bullpen is viewed as a potential trouble spot, Schilling does not appear ready to be the pitcher he was in the last postseason, and Pedro Martinez has been replaced by David Wells. Francona expects to start Matt Clement in Game 1 of the division series, followed by Wells, Tim Wakefield and Schilling. But they pulled goggles over their eyes and celebratory caps over their heads and flew again into the playoffs, to the place where they became self-dubbed Idiots, proudly.

"I think we had a lot more going on this year," center fielder Johnny Damon said. "But this team, we really don't care about much but each other. We're going into the playoffs expecting to win. This is what this team is about, winning."

*

Baseball playoffs

The rest of the playoff matchups in the American League and National League division series with the Game 1 starters. All times Pacific:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

San Diego at St. Louis

* Game 1: Tuesday

* Starters: Jake Peavy (13-7), San Diego vs. Chris Carpenter (21-5), St. Louis, 10 a.m. (ESPN)

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Houston at Atlanta

* Game 1: Wednesday

* Starters: Andy Pettitte (17-9), Houston vs. John Smoltz (14-7), Atlanta, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Boston at Chicago

* Game 1: Tuesday

* Starters: Matt Clement (13-6), Boston vs. Jose Contreras (15-7), Chicago, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

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