Russell: The Forgotten ALCS, Yankees-Red Sox

The Red Sox come to the Bronx with baseball’s best record. The Yankees are right behind them in the standings. Each team seems capable of winning over 100 games and, more importantly, the World Series. 
The atmosphere should be wild this weekend. 
“Any time these two franchises get together it’s usually a big deal,” Aaron Boone said on Friday afternoon. “
The crowds were raucous last month when the teams met here. “When they were here in May, it was special but I think it was a result of the games,” Boone said. “The games were well played, back and forth. So I think that happens organically, when the environment becomes special, it’s usually a result of two good teams playing well and being really competitive games.”
Boone obviously knows all about the rivalry. His home run off Tim Wakefield to win the pennant is in both Yankees and baseball lore. 
Between Bucky Dent’s game-changing home run in the 163rd game of the 1978 season, and Boone’s home run in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, there was another Yankees triumph over the Red Sox which kept a World Series goal alive but, for whatever reason, has been largely looked over. 
In 1999, the teams met in the playoffs for the first time. The year before, Boston won 92 games but still finished 22 games out of first. They lost to the Indians in the ALDS and had to watch the Yankees defeat Cleveland. 
The gap was a lot closer in 1999, with the 98-win Yankees winning the division by four games over Boston. The Red Sox came back from a 2-0 ALDS deficit to defeat the Indians in five games to set up a showdown with the Yankees, who had swept the Rangers for the second straight season. 
New York was favored but Pedro Martinez loomed over the series in a way similar to Mike Scott’s presence in the 1986 NLCS between the Astros and Mets. Martinez finished 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts. He came out of the bullpen in the decisive Game 5 in Cleveland and pitched six no-hit innings to eliminate the Indians.
And everyone remembered his performance at Yankee Stadium on September 10, when he struck out 17 batters, in complete game one-hitter. Boston won that game 3-1 with Martinez only allowing a Chili Davis home run and retiring the last 22 batters he faced. 
Martinez would start Game 3 at Fenway Park and would be due to pitch a potential Game 7. With the Cy Young winner tapped for Game 3, the onus was on the Yankees to win the first two games at home.  And the first two games have been forgotten classics. 
Orlando Hernandez, who had won 17 games in his first full season with the Yankees, was the Game 1 starter but Boston jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. Scott Brosius hit a two-run homer off Kent Mercker in the bottom of the second. In the bottom of the seventh, Brosius singled off Derek Lowe, moved to second on a bunt and scored on Derek Jeter’s single as Jason Varitek couldn’t control the throw home. 
The game would go into extra innings Jose Offerman led off the 10th with a single to right. John Valentin hit a grounder to third which looked like a tailor-made 5-4-3 double play but when Brosius threw to second, the ball popped out of Chuck Knoblauch’s glove. Second base umpire Rick Reed ruled that it was on the transfer, even though FOX replays seemed to show the Yankees received a huge break. Brian Daubach then grounded into a 1-6-3 double play. 
Bernie Williams led off the bottom of the 10th against Rod Beck. As Tim McCarver was saying Beck needed to be careful not to go after Williams with his 87 MPH fastball, Williams sent the second pitch of the at-bat over the wall in center to give the Yankees a 4-3 win.  
Boston still had a chance to steal the home field advantage in Game 2 as Ramón Martinez, Pedro’s older brother, dueled with David Cone. Tino Martinez broke a scoreless tie with a solo home run in the fourth and Nomar Garciaparra answered with a two-run homer in the fifth. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh and Ricky Ledee on second, Knoblauch tied the game with a double to left. 
After Tom Gordon walked Jeter, Rheal Cormier entered from the bullpen. Paul O’Neill singled to score Knoblauch with the go-ahead run. But the Yankees would need five pitchers to record the final six outs. 
Troy O’Leary led off the eighth with a double off the top of the wall against Mike Stanton. Jeff Nelson plunked Mike Stanley, and a bunt out the runners on second and third with one out. Nelson fell behind Lou Merloni 1-0, and then Joe Torre called on Allen Watson to throw three intentional balls to load the bases. 
Ramiro Mendoza came in and struck out pinch-hitter Butch Huskey for the second out. Offerman flew out to center to end the inning. 
In the ninth, Mariano Rivera allowed two singles to put runners on the corners with two outs. Damon Buford struck out to end the game and the Yankees had a 2-0 Series lead. 
Even when Pedro Martinez won Game 3, the Yankees still led in the series. New York would win the final two games by a combined score of 15-3 with the main highlight coming when Knoblauch put a phantom tag on Offerman as part of a double play in the eighth inning of Game 4. Hernandez was named the series MVP, and Jeter led the team with a .350 batting average. 
The Yankees would sweep the Braves in the World Series for their 25th championship. 
Because of all the pennants and titles the team won in that era, the individual playoff games themselves sometimes are not remembered as strongly. Those first two games of the 1999 ALCS were classics. 
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