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Baseball

ALCS: Bosox back in familiar spot

YANKS 4, RED SOX 2: David Wells, out to prolong curse, gets New York to brink of AL title.

By TOM JONES
Published October 15, 2003

BOSTON - More than 34,000 fans lingered inside Fenway Park for a few minutes, perhaps taking one last look, then solemnly and silently filed out of the old ballpark.

With the sun gone, temperatures dipping low enough for what New Englanders call "chowdah" weather and the leaves already turned, it felt like fall. It felt like the end of baseball season.

These same fans will sit glued to the television tonight, hoping against hope, crossing their fingers on each pitch, but right now they know their beloved Red Sox have set the stage for another October heartbreak, something of a rite of passage in these parts.

The Red Sox are one loss from elimination after the Yankees beat them 4-2 in Tuesday's Game 5 of the ALCS to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Unless the Red Sox can win two games in Yankee Stadium over the next two days, their season will end the same way it has every year since 1918: short of a World Series title.

"When you have to win two against a ballclub like that, it doesn't really matter where you're playing," Boston manager Grady Little said. "We know we've got our work cut out for us, and we'll do the best we can. ... "

"The clock is ticking on us."

If the Red Sox are looking for the slightest thread of faith, they can go back to the last round when they overcame a 2-0 deficit to win three straight and beat the A's.

But they aren't playing the A's. They are playing their archrivals and the team with so much postseason success it should include October in its pocket schedules. The Yankees' methodical approach to the postseason is the stuff of legend, and they added to it by taking two of three at Fenway.

They ignored Game 3's silliness and rebounded from a Game 4 loss to make a 4-2 victory against Boston's Derek Lowe, who was practically unhittable this season at Fenway, seem like a blowout.

The Yankees scored three in the second to suck the life right out of the Red Sox and Fenway Park. Karim Garcia, the subject of taunts after his fight in the bullpen in Game 3, delivered the key hit with a two-run single.

The rest of the game belonged to starting pitcher David Wells, who was his usual Boomer, big-lug self. With his bald head, unbuttoned jersey and baggy uniform, Wells mowed down the Red Sox even though he had not pitched in nine days. He scattered four hits over seven innings and allowed one run just a day after he joked Fenway should be blown up because of his lack of success there over the years.

He also took a moment Tuesday to remind everyone of the so-called "Curse of the Bambino" that allegedly has jinxed the Red Sox for nearly a century.

"I believe in it," Wells said. "Going out there and just doing what I love to do, and especially in this ballpark where it's pretty rare ... I was just trying to keep the theory alive."

The Red Sox problems, though, are better explained by the disappearance of their top players rather than a curse.

Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra is hitting .105 in the series and has one RBI. That came on a groundout in the eighth inning Tuesday. Manny Ramirez hit a homer Tuesday, but in the critical at-bat of the game, he left the bases loaded in the fifth.

American League batting champion Bill Mueller is hitting .118. Kevin Millar, who came up with the whole "Cowboy Up" theme, is a Cowboy Down at .118. And Lowe, who hasn't pitched that badly, is 0-2 in the series.

Meantime, the Yankees are one victory from their 39th AL pennant and have Andy Pettitte, who is 5-0 in his past five ALCS starts, pitching today against Boston's fourth starter, John Burkett.

"You can't take anything lightly," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

After the Red Sox won Game 4, hundreds of fans lined the streets outside Fenway to cheer the players as they left for home in their cars. After Game 5, a much smaller contingent gathered again. This time, though, it might have been to say goodbye.

[Last modified October 15, 2003, 01:33:50]


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