Middle of order powers Yankees

BOSTON (AP) -- The Yankees kept circling the bases, embarrassing Boston's beleaguered pitching staff. By the time the long, long night ended with a devastating 19-8 romp over the Red Sox, the dreaded New Yorkers were just one game away from a shocking sweep.

Game 3 Breakdown


Gary Sheffield. While it's difficult to pick only one Yankees player -- especially with the way Hideki Matsui swung the bat -- Sheffield is the one by the slimmest of margins. He was 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBI. His pivotal three-run homer in the fourth snapped a 6-6 tie and put the Yankees in command.


Pick a Red Sox pitcher. Heck, why not choose each one who pitched? Boston used six pitchers, all of whom weren't even close to being effective. Just an awful effort overall by the Red Sox staff.

Turning Point

With one out and the bases loaded and the Red Sox trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the third, Orlando Cabrera lined a double to the wall in right-center. Jason Varitek scored from third as did Kevin Millar from second, but in an attempt to give his team the lead Bill Mueller was thrown out at the plate. At that moment, the momentum was sapped from the Red Sox. Johnny Damon was next up and grounded out to end the inning, leaving the score tied at 6-6. The Yankees went on to score five runs in the top of the fourth, and never gave up the lead after that.

It Figures

The Yankees scored an ALCS-record 19 runs. And those 19 runs were the most ever allowed by Boston in postseason franchise history.

On Deck

The Red Sox are in an impossible spot, heading into Sunday's Game 4. Trailing three-games-to-none, Derek Lowe will start for Boston. It'll be his first start -- and just second outing -- of the postseason. He pitched one inning of relief and earned the win in the ALDS-clincher over the Angels. Orlando Hernandez will start for the Yankees in his first outing of the playoffs.

Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez turned Game 3 of the AL Championship Series into one big round of batting

practice Saturday night.

Sheffield broke a 6-all tie with a three-run homer off Curtis Leskanic in the fourth inning. Matsui had five hits, five RBI and five runs scored, and Rodriguez homered and scored five times.

It didn't stop there.

Bernie Williams had four hits and three RBI, setting LCS career records for hits (47), total bases (77) and RBI (29).

"We feel like we have a lot of momentum," Rodriguez said. "It doesn't matter who we're facing or who is pitching."

New York, which has won six straight postseason games, had 22 hits in all, eight of them doubles. That was more than enough

offense on a night Javier Vazquez relieved an ineffective Kevin Brown to get just his second win in more than two months.

"To be up 3-0, I think we're surprised by the fact that we've done that," Torre said.

No major league baseball team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, and 20 of the 25 that lost the first three games went down in four straight. The Yankees now have four tries

to get the one victory they need for the seventh AL pennant in nine

seasons since Joe Torre took over as manager, their 40th overall.

"You can forget about history," New York captain Derek Jeter said. We want to come back and play another good game."

Orlando Hernandez will try to close it out Sunday night for the Yankees, with Boston starting Derek Lowe. Tim Wakefield, originally slated to start Game 4, gave up five runs in 3 1-3 innings in this one.

"They're doing exactly what we thought we would be doing this series," Boston's Johnny Damon said. "We thought we'd be up 3-0

right now. ... I think we're definitely upset, definitely stunned."

The game took 4 hours, 20 minutes, the longest nine-inning game in postseason history, and the combined 37 hits also set a record.

"Right now, we're not even thinking about what we've done,"

Sheffield said. "We have to win one more ballgame to get to where

we want to get to."

Even when the Yankees took an 11-6 lead in a five-run fourth, the crowd of 35,126 at Fenway Park stayed put, knowing the Red Sox had nearly overcome an eight-run deficit in Tuesday's opener. But New York kept scoring and the fans grew quiet, as if doom already

had descended on a town that wants nothing more than to shake The


That may be tough.

"It starts looking a little daunting if you start looking at too big of a picture," Boston manager Terry Francona said.

The hits and runs came so quickly it was hard to keep track how many the Yankees put up. The person running the hand-operated board fell behind in the ninth inning, and couldn't replace the panels fast enough.

The night's Big Three -- Sheffield, Matsui and Rodriguez -- did plenty of damage on their own, going 12-for-16 with five doubles,

four homers and 12 RBI. The 19 runs were the second-highest total

in a postseason game.

Despite the lopsided score, the Red Sox actually had a chance. Orlando Cabrera's bases-loaded double made it 6-all in the third, but Bill Mueller was thrown out trying to score on the play.

After that, it was all Yankees -- by a lot.

"You don't expect to score like that," Jeter said. "No lead

is safe in this park."

There were 170 pitches in the first three innings, which took 1:45 to play. Brown and Boston's Bronson Arroyo didn't make it to

the third.

Vazquez, with just one win in 10 starts since Aug. 6, had made just one prior relief appearance in his career. He allowed the

two-run double to Cabrera and a two-run homer to Jason Varitek in

the seventh, but shut down Boston for three innings in between.

"He looked like he was jumpy at first, but once he gathered

himself, those zeroes he put up there were like gold for us,"

Torre said.

Vazquez allowed seven hits in 4 1/3 innings before Paul

Quantrill and Tom Gordon finished up.

"I just wanted to contribute," Vazquez said. "If they kept

scoring runs, they would have had momentum, like our hitters had."

Sheffield, who had four hits and four RBI, turned the game in the fourth, when the score was tied 6-all. Mendoza hit Miguel Cairo

with a pitch leading off, and Leskanic relieved with one out and

walked Rodriguez. Sheffield then homered over the Green Monster.

The scoring began 13 pitches in, when Rodriguez doubled home Jeter. Matsui's two-run homer into the right-field bullpen made it 3-0.

Sheffield threw out Manny Ramirez at third base to end the

bottom half following David Ortiz's single to right, but the Red

Sox beat up on Brown in the second. They went ahead 4-3 on Trot Nixon's two-run homer into the right-field seats, an RBI single off

first baseman John Olerud by Damon, who had been 0-for-9 in the

series, and a run-scoring error by Jeter, who allowed Ramirez's

hard grounder to shortstop to kick off his glove.

Boston's lead lasted four pitches into the third. Rodriguez, who

got into a brawl with Varitek after Arroyo hit him with a pitch

July 24, homered onto Lansdowne Street.

"We knew it was going to take at least 10 runs to win the game at that point," Rodriguez said.

Game notes:
The only teams among the major North American leagues to

overcome 3-0 deficits were both in the NHL: Toronto in the 1942

Stanley Cup finals against Detroit and the New York Islanders in

the second round against Pittsburgh in 1975. ... The only team to

score more runs in the Boston was Boston, which beat Cleveland 23-7

in the first round in 1999. ... Olerud left with a bruised left

instep. He stumbled out of the batter's box when he grounded out in

the sixth. X-rays of Olerud's foot were negative.