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Sunday, September 04, 2005


Unfair? Maybe.

But we started this blog long after last year's ALCS. So here's a Labor Day Weekend Treat: Mike Celizic's commentary for MSNBC the day after Game 4. It's not statistically deficient, or boneheadedly anti-reason, or anything. It's just arrogant and full of dramatic irony. So, enjoy.

Dramatic win too little, too late for Red Sox

Game 4 heroics only delay inevitable Yankees' ALCS victory

By Mike Celizic contributor

Updated: 4:16 p.m. ET Oct. 18, 2004

So the Red Sox and the Yankees finally put on a game that can be considered – by those who were able to stay up to actually watch it – a classic. Too bad it won’t be enough to save this series.

It was nice of the Red Sox to show there was no quit in them, especially when, for three games, there hadn’t been any start in them, either. But when you lose the first three games of a series, history tells us it’s over, no matter how much grit you show in staving off the inevitable.

They saved their best for last, but all they proved is that what they do best is keep people awake way past their bedtimes.

If they had staged their wonderful comeback against Mariano Rivera and then struck in extra innings for the win in Game 2 or even Game 3, there’d be something to write about. But, no matter how exciting Game 4 was, the series is still 3-1 and the Red Sox pitching has proved itself to be even worse than what we thought Yankees pitching would be.

So the Red Sox have accomplished nothing other than to delay the inevitable and make their fans, who have already suffered for 85 years, suffer for yet another day or two.

Yet the Sox celebrated after David Ortiz went deep in the twelfth off Paul Quantrill as if they had just won the World Series, dancing and chanting and carrying on as if there were champagne waiting for them back in the clubhouse.

That’s probably why they are still in the position they are, which is as hopeless as that of a wounded lamb surrounded by wolves. The Red Sox approached this series as if beating the Yankees would be the most important thing they could ever accomplish in their lives.

The Yankees came in thinking that winning the World Series would be a nice conclusion to their season. Beating the Red Sox wasn’t a crusade, it was just another bit of business to be taken care of to get to where they wanted to go.

The Yankees don’t celebrate anything as enthusiastically as the Red Sox celebrated getting to a 3-1 deficit in a seven-game series. But then, these Yankees have never played so miserably for the first three games of a series. And the Yankees understand what deserves celebration.

You can’t blame the Red Sox for looking at a win that staved off the inevitable as their finest hour. After what happened to them in the first three games – and especially in that awful Game 3 massacre – they probably know they had better celebrate when they can, because the odds that they’ll lose are just slightly better than the odds that, come morning, the sun will rise to reveal that the Rocky Mountains are still standing.

So, rather than squander your time or mine on pondering what Boston’s too-little-too-late win means (It means we have to watch them at least one more day), it’s time to look at what we’ve learned about the Yankees in this series and what it means for the World Series, coming to a television near you this Saturday.

First among the discoveries is that Yankees pitching doesn’t stink nearly as badly as we thought it did two weeks ago. They’re better than a lot of us thought. Jon Lieber has gained strength and confidence. His last three outings have been masterful. Mike Mussina is capable of just blowing up, but he can also throw a gem – for five or six innings.

And against Boston, two decent pitchers have been plenty. Orlando Hernandez chipped in with a pretty good performance Sunday, which makes three guys who can get you to the best bullpen in the game.

And if the Yankees pitching still falters from time to time, their bats make up for it. A-Rod is finally the force he was supposed to be. Gary Sheffield is an RBI machine. Hideki Matsui is truly Godzilla. And Derek Jeter has yet to start hitting with his customary playoff consistency.

The Red Sox had to win Sunday night – or Monday morning, as it turned out. The Yankees didn’t. They just need to win one more, and it’s hard to see how the Red Sox can keep them from doing it. They’re not going to score off Mariano Rivera every night. And that’s what they have to do.

So nice try, Boston. Way to hang in there. For one game, you showed something. Too bad you waited so long to start playing the series.

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