BOSTON – The Yankees kept circling the bases, embarrassing Boston's beleaguered pitching staff. By the time the long, long night ended with a devastating 19-8 romp over the Red Sox, the dreaded New Yorkers were just one game away from a shocking sweep.
Sheffield broke a 6-all tie with a three-run homer off Curtis Leskanic in the fourth inning. Matsui had five hits, five RBIs and five runs scored, and Rodriguez homered and scored five times.
It didn't stop there.
Bernie Williams had four hits and three RBIs, setting LCS career records for hits (47), total bases (77) and RBIs (29).
"We feel like we have a lot of momentum," Rodriguez said. "It doesn't matter who we're facing or who is pitching."
New York, which has won six straight postseason games, had 22 hits in all, eight of them doubles. That was more than enough offense on a night Javier Vazquez relieved an ineffective Kevin Brown to get just his second win in more than two months.
"To be up 3-0, I think we're surprised by the fact that we've done that," Torre said.
No major league baseball team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, and 20 of the 25 that lost the first three games went down in four straight. The Yankees now have four tries to get the one victory they need for the seventh AL pennant in nine seasons since Joe Torre took over as manager, their 40th overall.
"You can forget about history," New York captain Derek Jeter said. "We want to come back and play another good game."
Orlando Hernandez will try to close it out Sunday night for the Yankees, with Boston starting Derek Lowe (search). Tim Wakefield, originally slated to start Game 4, gave up five runs in 3 1-3 innings in this one.
"They're doing exactly what we thought we would be doing this series," Boston's Johnny Damon said. "We thought we'd be up 3-0 right now. ... I think we're definitely upset, definitely stunned."
The game took 4 hours, 20 minutes, the longest nine-inning game in postseason history, and the combined 37 hits also set a record.
"Right now, we're not even thinking about what we've done," Sheffield said. "We have to win one more ballgame to get to where we want to get to."
Even when the Yankees took an 11-6 lead in a five-run fourth, the crowd of 35,126 at Fenway Park stayed put, knowing the Red Sox had nearly overcome an eight-run deficit in Tuesday's opener. But New York kept scoring and the fans grew quiet, as if doom already had descended on a town that wants nothing more than to shake The Curse.
That may be tough.
"It starts looking a little daunting if you start looking at too big of a picture," Boston manager Terry Francona said.
The hits and runs came so quickly it was hard to keep track how many the Yankees put up. The person running the hand-operated board fell behind in the ninth inning, and couldn't replace the panels fast enough.
The night's Big Three — Sheffield, Matsui and Rodriguez — did plenty of damage on their own, going 12-for-16 with five doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs. The 19 runs were the second-highest total in a postseason game.
Despite the lopsided score, the Red Sox actually had a chance. Orlando Cabrera's bases-loaded double made it 6-all in the third, but Bill Mueller was thrown out trying to score on the play.
After that, it was all Yankees — by a lot.
"You don't expect to score like that," Jeter said. "No lead is safe in this park."
There were 170 pitches in the first three innings, which took 1:45 to play. Brown and Boston's Bronson Arroyo didn't make it to the third.
Vazquez, with just one win in 10 starts since Aug. 6, had made just one prior relief appearance in his career. He allowed the two-run double to Cabrera and a two-run homer to Jason Varitek in the seventh, but shut down Boston for three innings in between.
"He looked like he was jumpy at first, but once he gathered himself, those zeroes he put up there were like gold for us," Torre said.
Vazquez allowed seven hits in 4 1-3 innings before Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon finished up.
"I just wanted to contribute," Vazquez said. "If they kept scoring runs, they would have had momentum, like our hitters had."
Sheffield, who had four hits and four RBIs, turned the game in the fourth, when the score was tied 6-all. Mendoza hit Miguel Cairo with a pitch leading off, and Leskanic relieved with one out and walked Rodriguez. Sheffield then homered over the Green Monster.
The scoring began 13 pitches in, when Rodriguez doubled home Jeter. Matsui's two-run homer into the right-field bullpen made it 3-0.
Sheffield threw out Manny Ramirez at third base to end the bottom half following David Ortiz's single to right, but the Red Sox beat up on Brown in the second. They went ahead 4-3 on Trot Nixon's two-run homer into the right-field seats, an RBI single off first baseman John Olerud by Damon, who had been 0-for-9 in the series, and a run-scoring error by Jeter, who allowed Ramirez's hard grounder to shortstop to kick off his glove.
Boston's lead lasted four pitches into the third. Rodriguez, who got into a brawl with Varitek after Arroyo hit him with a pitch July 24, homered onto Lansdowne Street.
"We knew it was going to take at least 10 runs to win the game at that point," Rodriguez said.Notes: The only teams among the major North American leagues to overcome 3-0 deficits were both in the NHL: Toronto in the 1942 Stanley Cup finals against Detroit and the New York Islanders in the second round against Pittsburgh in 1975. ... The only team to score more runs in the Boston was Boston, which beat Cleveland 23-7 in the first round in 1999. ... Olerud left with a bruised left instep. He stumbled out of the batter's box when he grounded out in the sixth. X-rays of Olerud's foot were negative.