ALCS living up to the hype

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

Did someone say this was a terrible series?

No one is saying it anymore.

The Boston Red Sox edged the New York Yankees 5-4 in 14 innings in Game 5 of the ALCS at Fenway Park last night.

This win came some 15 hours after the Sox won 6-4 in 12 innings in Game 4.

"It's Groundhog Day," Yanks manager Joe Torre said.

Like the previous game, David Ortiz ended it, this time with a single. Like Game 4, when Ortiz hit a two-run walk-off homer, the game last night went on and on before the music stopped on an Ortiz broken-bat blooper to centre.

And like before, when the Sox relievers tossed 6 1/3 innings allowing one run, they worked eight scoreless innings last night.

The win went to knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who pitched three scoreless innings.

"To get shutout innings for that long is unbelievable," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We're two evenly matched clubs. The games take on a life of their own."

Wakefield didn't have it easy as he struck out Gary Sheffield and the ball sailed past Sheffield's bat, catcher Jason Varitek's glove and to the screen. Sheffield reached first.

A Hideki Matsui grounder erased Sheffield at second.

Then the fun started. As Wakefield faced Jorge Posada, a knuckler danced to the screen again.

"The first ones got away to put Matsui in scoring position," Wakefield recalled.

Matsui moved up and Posada was walked intentionally.

Doug Mirabelli is Wakefield's customized catcher, not Varitek, so this was not familiar territory for Varitek.

"I didn't think of putting in Mirabelli," Francona said. "One foul tip and (infielder) Pokey Reese would be doing the catching."

Varitek looked extremely shaky, like someone doing log rolling and trying to catch a butterfly by the wings with his fingers. As Bob Uecker used to say: "The best way to catch a knuckleball was wait until it stopped rolling and then pick it up."

That happened again as Wakefield faced Ruben Sierra, moving Matsui to third.

The Fenway faithful prayed.

Asked about facing Sierra, Wakefield let out the first post-season "whoof" we've ever heard.

"Whoof," Wakefield said rolling his eyes, as in that was a close one.

BEAR DOWN

"I looked at Jason, he looked at me and it was, 'it's okay, I'm all right, you're all right, we have to try to bear down and get a strike out.' I trust Jason's hands more than anyone else other than Doug Mirabelli."

Sox fans didn't know about the look.

How 'bout this chain of Sox slayers: Babe Ruth, Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, Aaron Boone and another Varitek passed ball -- his fourth of the inning to allow the lead run to score -- on a pitch thrown by Wakefield.

Wakefield struck out Sierra to end the threat. It was going to be his final inning.

"He was pitching on fumes," Francona said. "You saw really two teams competing on heart."

Wakefield, who was ready to pitch the 13th inning in Game 4 before Ortiz's walk-off homer, wound up with the win.

"Coming home down 2-0 and losing the way we did (19-8) to fall behind 3-0 and winning these two games," Wakefield said, "well, it showed the depth, the heart, the character and the guts of this team."

Weather permitting, Game 6 goes at Yankee Stadium tonight. Curt Schilling is set to face Jon Leiber with the Yanks holding a 3-2 lead.

"This is a chance to get one step closer to the Series, pick my teammates up and make up for Game 1," Schilling said. "This has been electric the past two nights. It was a phenomenal two nights, the way everyone contributed.

"It's like round 13 of a 15-round heavyweight fight."


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