Players give peace a chance

BOSTON -- If you enjoy bench-clearing brawls, bullpen riots and midget bowling -- and when you get right down to it, who doesn't? -- you were out of luck when the Red Sox and Yankees resumed their series Monday night. Heck, two batters were hit by pitches and no one so much as gave anyone the evil eye.

No beanballs. No tear gas. No elderly coaches charging the field in their walkers.

Where's the passion?

True, Boston manager Grady Little pulled a little gamesmanship when he had reliever Jeff Nelson's glove checked (for what? sandpaper or brass knuckles?) in the eighth inning, but that was the extent of the controversy. With riot police surrounding Fenway Park, security forces defending the New York bullpen and everyone braced for a repeat of Saturday's baseball-palooza, the Yankees and Red Sox played an old-fashioned, G-rated, ready-for-Pixar ballgame.

And a darn good game it was. It had home runs and close plays and wonderful starting pitching, and it went right down to the end again before Boston secured a 3-2 series-tying victory.

Who knew baseball could be so entertaining without albino tigers?

"This isn't Little League, and we're not going to carry a grudge three days after the fact," Boston second baseman Todd Walker said. "You can't be hitting your body just to prove a point. We have respect for them, and they have respect for us."


Walker is a former Twins first-round draft pick who was pictured in GQ magazine before he played his first major-league game. His career hasn't panned out quite the way most people assumed it would -- the Red Sox are his fourth team in as many years -- but all of a sudden he's Mr. October. His fourth-inning shot to right that gave Boston a 1-0 lead was his fifth home run of the postseason.

"If you play this game long enough, you learn not to panic," Walker said of earlier struggles. "I wish someone had told me that in 1995 when I was in Minnesota and going 0-for-25. I thought I was terrible. But everybody goes through that.

"I'm going up there with more focus than I've ever had in my life. I feel like I've stepped to another level because the games are so important."

Important? With the right combination of wins and losses, the Red Sox and the Cubs could both clinch World Series berths Wednesday. If that happens, it will be so big that it will push Ben and J-Lo back with the tire ads.

But hold on, let's calm down a minute. Like Don Zimmer and Pedro Martinez in Game 3, we're letting ourselves get carried way too far away by the moment. The Yankees are still the Yankees and the Red Sox are still the Red Sox, so it's foolish to spend much time speculating on Boston winning the series at this point. Not with David Wells, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens lined up and a return to Yankee Stadium set for Wednesday.

Still, the Yankees are going to have to play better than they did Monday to end their 707-day World Series drought. Like their division opener against Minnesota, this was another game when the Yankees failed to play like the Yankees. With a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, they left the bases loaded in the fifth inning (when they failed to take advantage of center fielder Johnny Damon's weak arm on a possible sacrifice fly), made an error in another and failed to take advantage of two leadoff walks, a leadoff single and a leadoff hit batter in four others.

Then again, maybe they were just distracted by the threat of arrest.

New York's biggest failure was in the seventh inning when second baseman Alfonso Soriano didn't turn the pivot quick enough on a possible double play that could have ended the inning. Instead, Jason Varitek -- yes, Jason Varitek -- beat the throw to first base, allowing Kevin Millar to score from third for an important third run. "That was the biggest play of the game," Millar said.

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield made sure it was by matching his Game 1 victory with another doozy, frustrating the Yankees for seven-plus innings.

The Yankees starting pitching is strong and deep enough that they don't need to monkey with their rotation, but Wakefield is pitching so well that, should this series advance to a seventh game, the Red Sox ought to skip Pedro in favor of him, saving tiring Martinez for relief.

And you know they're going to need great relief. Monday's game was Boston's ninth this postseason, and five were decided by one run and two others by two runs. These guys aren't going to have any cuticles left if this keeps up.

"One of these days, we'll have to bust out and score about 10 runs because my heart can't take this much longer," Walker said.

"It's the only way we've played for the past two months," Millar said. "I can probably take it for another three games. This is what it's all about. This is what motivates you on the hot days in Florida. This is what you think about when you're lifting weights. This is what it's all about, and if you can't handle this, you don't belong here."

So keep the defibrillator handy. The series resumes this afternoon, all tied up 2-2 and with anything possible. Tempers have calmed down enough that rabies shots are no longer required (but still advised).

Still, you never know. Remember, George Steinbrenner hasn't weighed in yet.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.