- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2003

NEW YORK — The Boston Red Sox put aside curses and fatigue to burst ahead in the American League Championship Series.

David Ortiz, Todd Walker and Manny Ramirez homered off a shaky Mike Mussina, and the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 5-2 last night.

All the chants and signs reminding Boston of its 85-year title drought only seemed to spur on the Red Sox against their old rivals, who have dominated their Northeast neighbors for decades.

Tim Wakefield befuddled New York with his knuckleball, taking a 5-0 lead into the seventh before he got wild. Three relievers from Boston’s beleaguered bullpen completed the three-hitter.

“Our offense came through. It’s unbelievable,” Wakefield said.

After traveling from Boston to Oakland on Sunday night, then winning Game 5 on Monday night and flying back across the country, the Red Sox seemed bleary eyed when they arrived at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. But when it came time to play, they had the energy and emotion, not New York, which had been off since winning its first-round series at Minnesota on Sunday.

Wakefield, who retired 14 straight batters starting in the second, said he was going on adrenaline.

“I told all my friends don’t call me because I’m going to be sleeping in,” he said.

Ever since December, when Boston president Larry Lucchino called the Yankees the “Evil Empire,” the Red Sox have played off imagery from “Star Wars,” painting themselves as white knights trying to knock off the 26-time World Series champions.

Following their stunning comeback from a 2-0 deficit against the Athletics, Lucchino even predicted the Red Sox, who haven’t won the Series since trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 — supposedly bringing on the Curse — would have the Force on their side.

Yankees fans kept reminding the Red Sox of their title drought, taunting them by screaming “1918,” but it just seemed to fuel the Red Sox, who showed force at the plate and rapped out 13 hits, including four by Ramirez, who grew up close to Yankee Stadium.

Boston scored just 17 runs against the A’s in the first round.

“After that series in Oakland, we were certainly due,” Red Sox manager Grady Little said.

Derek Lowe tries to make it 2-0 tonight when he pitches Game 2 of the best-of-7 series against New York’s Andy Pettitte.

Boston, which finished second to New York in the AL East for the sixth straight season, had dropped 12 of its previous 13 games in the ALCS since its last World Series appearance in 1986, including a 4-1 loss to the Yankees in the 1999 LCS.

But the Red Sox struck back on the 47th anniversary of one of the most famous games in baseball and Yankee Stadium history — Don Larsen’s perfect game against Brooklyn in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.

Mussina, pitching on seven days’ rest since losing the first-round opener against Minnesota, wasn’t sharp at all, allowing three homers in a game for only the second time this year — and for the first time in 13 postseason starts. He dropped to 4-4 in postseason play.

While Mussina didn’t allow any runs in the second inning, he labored, going to 2-0 counts on four batters, including 3-0 on three.

Boston finally broke through in the fourth. Ramirez reached on a one-hopper to right side that Mussina just managed to deflect — similar to Cristian Guzman’s infield hit that led to Minnesota’s key rally in his previous start.

Ortiz, who had been 0-for-20 against Mussina, fell behind 0-2, worked the count full and then homered into the front of the right-field upper deck.

Walker made it 3-0 when he led off the fifth with a drive high off the foul pole in right field. While right-field umpire Angel Hernandez signaled it was foul, he was immediately overruled by plate umpire Tim McClelland — also behind the plate 20 years ago when he took a home run away from George Brett, a call later reversed by AL president Lee MacPhail.

Josh, an 18-year-old from Fair Lawn, N.J., who refused to give his last name, said the ball hit his right palm, which was red, and dropped straight down and didn’t hit the pole.

“It was a foul ball by at least six inches,” he said.

Walker said he couldn’t tell.

“But everybody who saw the replay said it was a home run,” he said.

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