I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Red Sox and Yankees are facing off in the ALDS. Because of different rules at different points in history, this is not a playoff matchup we have seen very often. Before 1994, only one team from each division could make the postseason, so it was impossible for both New York and Boston to make it that far. Then, from 1994 until 2011, teams from the same division couldn’t face off in the first round of the postseason, so that just made it that much more difficult to face off. Because of this, the upcoming ALDS is going to be only the fourth time these two teams have faced off in October, and it will be the first time since 2004. Does the history of this rivalry have any effect whatsoever on how the present day matchup will go? Absolutely not. Still, this rivalry is as fun as it is terrifying, so let’s take a quick look at the previous postseason matchups between these two squads.
1999: Yankees win 4-1
The Red Sox and Yankees faced off in the postseason for the first time ever in 1999, which also happens to be the first full season of baseball I remember watching. Coincidence? Probably! Anyway, the Red Sox were coming off an incredible ALDS against the Indians that featured an all-time performance out of the bullpen from Pedro Martinez in Game Five, and the Yankees were coming off a 1998 season which was one of the most dominant of all time. This series did not go according to plan. It looked like Boston would get off to a good start with a 3-0 lead after an inning-and-a-half in Game One, but Orlando Hernandez and Mariano Rivera shut them down after that and New York would eventually win on a walkoff homer from Bernie Williams. The Yankees won another one-run game in Game Two with another late-rally (this time in the seventh) to get the lead. Pedro got the start for Boston in Game Three and that was Boston’s one win of the series when they blew New York out in a 13-1 win. The Yankees took control back in the final two games, winning those contests by a combined 12 runs to take the series. The Red Sox were certainly underdogs in that series, but it was still a disappointing end to the season.
2003: Yankees win 4-3
This was an absolutely thrilling series, and it ultimately gave fans of a certain generation (aka my generation) the heartbreak necessary to fully appreciate what would happen the following year. This series felt different than the 1999 series, as this Red Sox team was legitimately great. They got off to a great start, too, They got four runs off Mike Mussina to jump out to a 4-0 lead in Game One, and they’d hold on for a 5-3 victory thanks to strong pitching all around. Derek Lowe would struggle in Game Two, however, and the Yankees tied the series back up with a 6-2 victory. In Game Three, the Yankees kept their momentum by scoring four runs off Pedro and getting strong pitching from their own side to win a close 4-3 game. Boston wouldn’t let the series get away from them, with Tim Wakefield pitching well and leading the Sox to a one-run victory of their own. After New York won another close one in Game Five, the Red Sox forced a Game Seven by jumping all over Yankees pitching in Game Six with a 9-6 lead.
Then, it happened and our hearts were broken. Game Seven was an all-time great game. The Red Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead, then heading into the bottom of the eighth they were up 5-2. That’s when Grady Little struck and ultimately lost his job. Pedro Martinez was clearly tiring, but the manager stuck with his starter and Martinez allowed three runs to tie the game. Eventually, the game would head into extras and Tim Wakefield was on the mound for the bottom of the eleventh. On the first pitch of the inning, the knuckleballer made a mistake to Aaron Boone, who hit one out to left field for a walkoff homer to send New York to the World Series. It was devastating. Boone, of course, manages the Yankees now so be ready to see clips of that homer about a million times during this series.
2004: Red Sox win 4-3
The 2003 ALCS was a great series, objectively speaking, but the 2004 ALCS was a historic affair that will forever be remembered in baseball lore. In fact, there was an outstanding 30-for-30, Four Days in October, about it. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it. Things got off to a terrible start for the Red Sox. The Yankees jumped out to an early lead in Game One, and while Boston rallied in the last few innings it was too little, too late. Game Two was more competitive and Martinez tossed a solid game this time around, but Jon Lieber shut down the Red Sox lineup. Game Three was the ultimate disaster, with the Yankees absolutely obliterating the Red Sox by a 19-8 score, and the series looked all but over.
Of course, that wasn’t the case. “Why Not Us” became the mantra of the team, and it somehow actually worked. The Red Sox were down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth in Game Four when Kevin Millar drew a walk. Then Dave Roberts came in to pinch run and stole the most famous base in Red Sox history. Bill Mueller then knocked him in, and history was made. The score was tied, they’d go to extras and in the twelfth David Ortiz won it on a solo homer. 3-1.
In Game Five, the Red Sox were down 4-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth. Ortiz came through again, leading the inning off with a homer to cut the deficit down to one. After Millar drew another walk, Roberts came in to pinch run again. This time he didn’t steal a base, but he’d move to third on a base hit and come in to score on a sacrifice fly to tie the game. This game would stay tied until the 14th, when Ortiz came up with two on and two out. Of course he came through again, smacking a base hit to win the game. 3-2.
Game Six was, of course, the infamous Bloody Sock game. For some off-the-field reasons Curt Schilling has lost plenty of appeal in the Red Sox community, but he undeniably came through in a huge spot in this game. He was the story of the game as he allowed just one run in seven innings, and a four-run fourth was all Boston needed to go home with a 4-2 win. Just like that, it was tied 3-3. Game Seven was coming.
In a way, Game Seven was anticlimactic. After all of the close games to complete this amazing comeback, the Red Sox just rolled in this one. Johnny Damon hit two homers including a grand slam in the second, Ortiz hit a two-run shot in the first. Derek Lowe allowed just one run in six innings. Boston would win 10-3 and head to the World Series. Of course, they’d sweep the Cardinals and win their first championship in 86 years. It was a decent October. Let’s do that again.