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Baseball: AL playoffs

Sox sweep into ALCS

RED SOX 8, ANGELS 6 (10): David Ortiz's extra-inning homer lifts carefree club into its second straight ALCS .

By MARC TOPKIN
Published October 9, 2004

BOSTON - Amid the champagne showers and flying water show in their clubhouse Friday night, the Red Sox made a statement.

Having disposed of the Angels in dramatic fashion - a two-out, 10th-inning home run by David Ortiz for an 8-6 victory and a series sweep - the Sox had every chance to say how much it would mean to them to get a shot at revenge and an American League Championship Series rematch with the Yankees.

Instead, they took a different tact.

And, when you think about, an even sharper jab.

They said they didn't care at all.

"It doesn't matter, and that's the honest to God's truth," first baseman Kevin Millar said. "We've been saying all along we feel we're the best team going right now, and we feel we match up with anybody. We don't care about going through Yankee Stadium. We're playing for a ring. All we need is an opponent. We're not worried about who it is."

The Sox know they'll be there. The Yankees, they didn't mind pointing out, haven't made it yet.

"I know the angle of it works for you (reporters), but for us it doesn't," pitcher Curt Schilling said. "We're trying to win a world championship. I don't care how we get there, I just want to get there.

"The history of Red Sox-Yankees is awesome. And if they're good enough to get past the Twins and we play them, fine. If they're not, then we've got to beat the Twins."

With the confidence the Sox have right now, they believe they can beat anyone. Friday, they essentially had to beat the Angels twice to complete the three-game sweep.

Hernando High's Bronson Arroyo got the Red Sox off to a great start, allowing only three hits, and one run, through six innings as Boston built a 6-1 lead on a series of quiet hits and Anaheim miscues.

But he walked Jeff DaVanon to start the seventh and - even though he'd thrown only 91 pitches and the bottom of the order was coming up - Boston manager Terry Francona decided he was done, a decision now that looks like a huge mistake.

Two pitching changes and two pinch-hitters later, the Angels had a rally working, loading the bases with two outs. Mike Timlin, with a two-year, 12-inning postseason scoreless streak going, walked in one run, then four more on a grand slam by MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero.

As stunning as it was, the Sox swear they never gave up hope.

"We weren't losing," Francona said. "We weren't going to quit."

But sitting on the bench in the top of the 10th, Ortiz called his shot. "They better score now," the DH said, "cause I'm coming up."

The Sox had one on and two out, and it was Angels manager Mike Scioscia's turn to make an even bigger mistake, deciding reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who'd retired eight of 11 batters over two-plus innings, was done.

Scioscia brought in a left-hander, Game 1 starter Jarrod Washburn, to face Ortiz. It took only one pitch, a high slider. "He just made a mistake," Ortiz said.

The ball soared over the Green Monster, throwing Red Sox nation into a frenzy.

"That guy never ceases to amaze," GM Theo Epstein said. "In that kind of spot, he's the guy you want at the plate."

As the Sox poured champagne, drank beer, smoked cigars and threw buckets of water all over the clubhouse, they stuck to their mantra about how they didn't care if they played the Yankees.

The fans and the media, though, are focused on it. The front page of Friday morning's Boston Herald read: GO YANKS! We want to kick your butts on the way to the Series!

And, if you listened carefully enough to the Red Sox Friday, you could tell that maybe, just a little bit, they really did care.

"It doesn't make a difference," Arroyo said. "But New York would obviously be sweeter because you're always going to hear it if we don't beat those guys."

[Last modified October 9, 2004, 01:04:14]


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