NEW YORK – Boston blew away decades of defeat with four sweet swings. Believe it, New England, the Red Sox (search) are in the World Series. And they got there with the most unbelievable comeback of all, shaming the New York Yankees, the Evil Empire to the south.
David Ortiz, Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe made sure of that. Just three outs from getting swept out of the AL championship series three nights earlier, the Red Sox finally humbled the dreaded Yankees, winning Game 7 in a 10-3 shocker Wednesday night to become the first major league team to overcome a 3-0 postseason series deficit.
Cursed for 86 years, these Red Sox just might be charmed.
"All empires fall sooner of later," Boston president Larry Lucchino (search) said.
There is no torture this time, no hour of humiliation. Better yet to Boston fans, it's the Yankees left to suffer the memory of a historic collapse.
"It's very amazing," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Boston didn't need any of the late-inning dramatics that marked the last three games, leading 6-0 after two innings.
Ortiz, the series MVP, started it with a two-run homer in the first off broken-down Kevin Brown, and Damon quieted Yankee Stadium in the second inning with a grand slam on Javier Vazquez's first pitch.
After Derek Jeter sparked hope of a comeback with a run-scoring single in the third, Damon put a two-run homer into the upper deck for an 8-1 lead in the fourth.
Lowe, pitching on just two days' rest, silenced the Yankees' bats and their boasting fans, who just last weekend assumed New York's seventh pennant in nine years was all but a lock. He allowed one hit in six innings then Pedro Martinez started the seventh, his first relief appearance in five years, sparking chants of "Who's Your Daddy?"
Three hits and two runs got the crowd going, but the rally stopped there and Mark Bellhorn added a solo homer in the eighth for a 9-3 Boston lead.
Cheering from Red Sox fans could be heard in the ninth, and when pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra grounded to second baseman Pokey Reese for the final out, Boston players ran onto the field and jumped together in a mass huddle.
"The greatest comeback in baseball history," Red Sox owner John Henry said.
Yankees players slowly walked off, eliminated on their home field for the second straight season.
"They had a lot of heart. They never gave up," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "That team never dies. I give them a lot of credit."
The World Series will start at Fenway Park on Saturday night against St. Louis or Houston.
There were several hundred Red Sox fans behind their dugout on the third-base side, cheering wildly as Boston players gave one another bear hugs.
Trot Nixon ran out to the center-field bleachers to greet friends, then shook hands with more along the right-field line.
Now that the Babe's team has been beaten, Boston can try to reverse The Curse, win the Series for the first time since 1918 and bring happiness to the Hub which can scarcely believe the tumultuous turn of events.
From Fenway Park to Faneuil Hall, from Boston Common to Beacon Hill, the 11th pennant for the Red Sox, the first since 1986, will be remembered as the best for one reason: Beating New York in Yankee Stadium, site of last year's Game 7 meltdown.
This was for Williams and Pesky, for Yastrzemski and Yawkey, for Fisk and Rice and even Buckner and Nomar, just a few of the hundreds who suffered the pain inflicted by their New York neighbors in a rivalry that has become baseball's best.
None of the previous 25 major league teams to fall behind 3-0 even forced a series to seven games. The wild-card Red Sox became only the third of 239 teams in the four major North American leagues to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series and win, joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs (news) and the 1975 New York Islanders (news).
It had been 100 years since Boston last won a pennant in New York on the final possible day, a 3-2 victory in a doubleheader opener at Hilltop Park in 1904. New York overcame the Red Sox by winning the final two games of the 1949 season at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees won a one-game playoff for the AL East in 1978 behind Bucky Dent's three-run homer at Fenway Park, and Aaron Boone hit the 11th-inning homer that won Game 7 last year.
New York, which dropped to 10-2 in the LCS, will no doubt face a bitter winter, with owner George Steinbrenner likely to take charge of overhauling a roster that has been short of starting pitching since the spring.
Brown and Vazquez, who faded in the second half of the season, were booed by the sellout crowd of 56,129, accustomed to perpetual success from their pinstriped heroes. The Yankees won the AL East for the seventh straight year, and the Red Sox were runners-up each time.
The Yankees had a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning of Game 4 on Sunday night, only to have Bill Mueller single home the tying run off Mariano Rivera and Ortiz hit a 12th-inning homer against Paul Quantrill.
They held a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning of Game 5 before Ortiz's homer off Tom Gordon and Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly off Rivera, and Ortiz's winning single off Esteban Loaiza in the 14th.
Then Curt Schilling, his right ankle held together by three sutures, beat the Yankees 4-2 Tuesday night to tie the series 3-all.
The Yankees invoked all the bad memories they could for Boston before the game: Dent threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi Berra, and Reggie Jackson stood behind the cage during batting practice.
Just like last year, when the Red Sox went ahead 4-0 in the fourth inning of Game 7, Boston took an early lead.
Damon, who entered the game 3-for-29 (.103), singled past Alex Rodriguez at third base leading off and stole second. Manny Ramirez then grounded a single past Jeter at shortstop. Damon, who had to hold up to make sure the ball went into the outfield, was thrown out when left fielder Hideki Matsui relayed the ball to Jeter, who threw a strike to Jorge Posada, with the catcher blocking Damon at the plate.
That was the highlight for the Yankees.
Ortiz, who had three homers and 11 RBIs in the series, sent the next pitch into the right-field seats to put Boston ahead 2-0.
The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the second on Kevin Millar's single and walks to Mueller and Orlando Cabrera.
Vazquez, who gave up a team-high 33 homers, blew open the game. Damon, who hadn't homered since Oct. 1, lofted his first pitch down the right-field line, the ball landing in the front row. Jubilant Red Sox players poured out of the dugout, jumping and yelling.
Damon homered again off Vazquez in the fourth, after Cabrera walked, putting the first pitch of the at-bat into the upper deck in right.
Bernie Williams got to Martinez for an RBI double in the seventh and scored on a single by Kenny Lofton before pinch-hitter John Olerud struck out and Miguel Cairo flied out.