YANKS DO IT AGAIN!
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
NEW YORK, Oct. 17, 2003 -- The hopes of a battered city rose up after midnight this morning with a towering home run blasted into the bleachers by soft-spoken hero Aaron Boone, capping a miraculous comeback that saw the New York Yankees sprint from behind late in the game against relentless right-hander Pedro Martinez and capture the American League pennant from the Boston Red Sox 8-5 in the 11th inning.
The Yankees watched glumly as Martinez, the object of scorn and derision ever since he threw 72-year-old Yankee coach Don Zimmer to the ground in a bench-clearing brawl in the fourth game on Saturday, seemed impervious through the early innings, giving up only one hit until well into the game, while Red Sox sluggers made short work of the great Roger Clemens and four other pitchers, ending with a woeful David Wells giving up a critical home run to Sox fielder Jose Ortiz on his first pitch, giving Boston a late and dangerous 5-3 lead.
Jason Giambi, he of the scarred upper lip and unshaven cheeks and the build of a perfect batter, slammed a fast ball into the stands in the fifth inning to make it 4-1, and did it agaisin with two outs in the seventh; Alfonso Soriano then hit a grounder that stranded two runners on base.
Three runs down, the Yankees scored again in the eighth against the tiring, slowing, worried Martinez, on back-to-back hits. A doubl;e by Derek Jeter a single by Bernie Williams, and then a double Hideki Matsui, whose grounder headed into the deepest, darkest corners of right field.
Then came Jorge Posada, whose bat had been largely silent throughout the playoffs, hitting the biggest double of his career to tie up the game and send a seventh ALCS game into extra innings for only the fourth time in history.
The Red Sox talked Martinez back into the dugout, where he sat glowering darkly long after the game had ended. A nervous Mike Timlin took his place, walked hitter Ruben Garcia on purpose and then Karim Garcia by accident, loading the bases. But Alfonso Soriano hit a liner that bounced high off the mound and was caught with a stunning leap by Todd Walker to end the inning, but not the game.
Replacing the big, burly Wells was the taut, slender and dark Mariano Rivera, perhaps the most intense man and one of the fastest hurlers in all of baseball, who gave up just one hit in his first two-inning stretch since 2000, blanking some of Boston's best hitters.
Both teams went hitless in the 10th. Aaron trotted to the plate to lead off in the 11th, and immediately knocked a Tim Wakefield pitch out of the park.
The eruption of New Yorkers' pent-up joy was long and deafening, as along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his predecessor Rudy Giuliani in the stands, the battered City of New York rose up once again as champions and cheered their hero home.
This is what they call a game; this was baseball.
In a city that is always alive after midnight, there is plenty of time to celebrate a midnight victory; the bars of New York close at 4am. Maybe it was just time for the Boston team to go beddie-bye. But where else can a fan go out at 2 a.m. and still find the whole city on its feet?
The Yankees face the Florida Marlins in the opening game of the 2003 World Series on Saturday in Yankee Stadium, about 41 hours from now.