- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2003

NEW YORK — Aaron Boone set off bedlam in the Bronx last night with a leadoff home run in the 11th inning to give the New York Yankees a 6-5 victory over the Boston Red Sox for a trip to the World Series and their 39th American League pennant.

Boone, who didn’t start Game7, homered on the first pitch from knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who had two wins in the series and was making his first relief appearance.

The Yankees had been five outs from losing when Jorge Posada blooped a tying two-run double off a tiring Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning.

New York will start the World Series at home tomorrow against the Florida Marlins, who beat the Chicago Cubs in a Game7 on Wednesday night.

New York trailed 4-0 in the fourth inning and 5-2 in the eighth as Roger Clemens made an early exit in what looked to be the final game of his storied career.

But the Yankees bounced back, rekindling all those painful memories that have haunted so many Red Sox fans — thoughts of Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner and decades of New York domination.

For the Yankees, who haven’t won the World Series since 2000, this was their fifth pennant in six seasons.

These old foes played 26 times this season — a baseball first — and it went extra innings. Yet, the final words of the ultimate chapter revealed it was the same old story, one that the Red Sox perennially curse: pinstripes in the World Series, despair back in Boston.

Only the names change in the annual fight between New York and New England, never the result.

Mariano Rivera didn’t allow a run in his first three-inning appearance since Sept.6, 1996. It capped a triumphant night for a New York bullpen that had failed so often. This time, it allowed just one run in eight innings, and Rivera walked off with the MVP award.

Wakefield, who relieved to start the 10th, had baffled New York with his knuckleball in Games1 and 4 and started with a scoreless inning.

Boone, acquired from Cincinnati on July31, then homered into the left-field seats, setting the old ballpark shaking. There wasn’t a doubt from the moment it left his bat.

It was the first pennant-winning, extra-inning homer for the Yankees since Chris Chambliss’ ninth-inning shot against Kansas City in 1976.

Rivera went right to the mound, dropping to the ground and pounding the pitching rubber with his right hand. He seemed to be sobbing by the time coach Willie Randolph got to him and hugged him.

The Yankees waited for Boone at home plate, hopping with excitement, and mobbed him when he arrived.

“Wow. I can’t even talk,” Boone said. “It’s unbelievable. Mo … so many heroes today. Unbelievable. This is awesome. Like Derek told me, ‘The ghosts will show up eventually.’”

Rivera had probably pitched his final inning. Jose Contreras, who wasted a two-run lead in Game6, was starting to warm up in New York’s bullpen. Rivera had thrown 48 pitches.

“I see those guys coming back, coming back, coming back, and I think ‘I’ve got to hold this,’” he said.

“That’s behind me. You just have to put it behind you.”

Trot Nixon’s two-run homer in a three-run second inning and Kevin Millar’s solo shot in the fourth chased Clemens, who walked off slowly in what then appeared to be the final appearance of his storied career.

Jason Giambi, dropped to seventh in the batting order for the first time since July 1999, started the comeback with solo homers in the fifth and seventh innings.

A parade of New York relievers — including Mike Mussina in the first relief appearance of his major league career — held Boston scoreless until David Ortiz made it 5-2 with a homer in the eighth on David Wells’ first pitch of the game.

Derek Jeter then sparked the eighth with a one-out double over Nixon in right, and Bernie Williams singled him home. Hideki Matsui followed with a double down the right-field line — on an 0-2 pitch — that put runners on second and third, and Posada looped a hit to center that scored both runners, with Matsui slapping the plate as he slid in and his teammates coming out of the dugout. Posada wound up on second base as no one covered the bag.

Martinez, who had thrown 123 pitches, was removed in favor of left-hander Alan Embree, who retired Giambi on a flyout. Mike Timlin came in and intentionally walked pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra and Karim Garcia unintentionally, loading the bases for Alfonso Soriano.

He hit a ball off the mound, and it bounced to second baseman Todd Walker, who raised his glove, grabbed it and threw to second for the forceout.

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