The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament enters the second round of the 2000-present bracket. Vote for the moment that deserves to move on in the poll below.
#1: Aaron Boone's Game 7 home run
Game 7. Yankees-Red Sox. If you're a fan of the greatest rivalry in sports, then 2003 was as good as you can hope for. The Yankees had won 101 games under Joe Torre behind one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. The starting rotation led by Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and David Wells led the major leagues in innings pitched, FIP, and fWAR while their closer, some guy named Mariano Rivera, had a pretty decent season too with 40 saves and a minuscule 1.66 ERA.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, had hired a new General Manager in Theo Epstein, and signed little-known free agent backup DH David Ortiz a few weeks before the start of spring training. Ortiz went from starting the season as a part-time player to hitting 31 home runs and finishing fifth in the MVP voting, much to the delight of Red Sox fans.
The Yankees and Red Sox were neck-and-neck throughout much the 2003 season before the Yankees pulled away with the division title in the final two months. The ALCS was about as heated as this rivalry has been in a long time, from both the fans and the players. This was highlighted during Game 3 in Boston, where tempers flared and the benches cleared. Going into Game 7, the Yankees and Red Sox were dead even in head-to-head matchups throughout the season.
The game itself did not start off well for Yankee fans. Pedro Martinez was lights out early on while Yankees starter Roger Clemens struggled to get into rhythm. The Yankees were already down 4-0 when Mussina relieved Clemens with two on and nobody out in the top of the fourth to get out of the jam. Jason Giambi was able to get to Pedro with a pair of solo home runs in the fifth and seventh innings to cut it to 4-2, but Ortiz responded with a home run in the eighth to extend the lead back to three. After Nick Johnson popped out to lead off the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox were five outs away from the World Series. That's when the magic began.
Derek Jeter doubled to right and scored on a single by Bernie Williams to cut it to 5-3, prompting Boston manager Grady Little to go out to the mound, presumably to bring in a lefty to face Hideki Matsui. Instead, he left Pedro in the game, and two doubles later from Matsui and Jorge Posada, the game was tied at five. Little's decision to leave Pedro in the game was a big talking point for Red Sox fans in a classic second-guess situation.
The game went into extras, as Rivera came on in relief as the game remained tied through the ninth and tenth innings. The Yankees were running out of time after Rivera pitched his third inning of relief. Nobody knew if Rivera could pitch any more, and Jose Contreras was going to be the next guy out of the bullpen. Thankfully, we never had to see that happen, as with Tim Wakefield on the mound, Aaron Boone came to the plate to lead off the bottom of the 11th.
Boone didn't even start the game for the Yankees. He was sat down for Game 7 in favor of Enrique Wilson, who had a history of success against Pedro. Boone entered earlier as a pinch-runner before taking over at third base, and was getting his first at bat of the game. He connected on Wakefield's first pitch of the inning, homering over the left field wall and sending the Yankees to the World Series, breaking the hearts of plenty of Red Sox fans in the process. In a special moment, his brother Bret Boone was in the booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver as he hit one of the biggest home runs in Yankees history.
Entry written by Chris Kirby on December 9, 2013.
#4: Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit
When Derek Jeter began the 2011 season struggling mightily, the world had declared that he was finished. Critics wrote him off, fans were already thinking about shortstop replacements for the long term, and the New York Times published an ode to Jeter's career for his 37th birthday--seemingly in the past tense. It mourned the loss of a Yankee icon and reminded the reader that our heroes must get old and unfortunately this reminds us of our own mortality. But it seems they forgot he was still an active player, and that he was still Derek Jeter. And Derek Jeter does not and would not exit his career with a whimper. After Jeter's calf injury put him on an extended disabled list stint, he went down to Tampa to work on his swing with his former coach Gary Denbo. They made great strides and Jeter was ready for the regular season again.
On July 9, 2011, Derek Jeter sat at 2,999 hits. From what Jeter had told the media, he wanted the spotlight off of him so he could return to being a productive member of his team. That task would not be easy as the Tampa Bay Ray's ace David Price was on the mound. In the 3rd inning, Jeter made history; he whacked Price's hanging breaking ball over the left-center field wall and thus also came Michael Kay's famous home run call as Jeter made "history with an exclamation point". But he did not stop there, as is typical Jeter fashion. Jeter finished the day going five for five and had the game winning hit. He became the only Yankee to ever reach 3.000 hits, only the second player to hit a home run as his 3,000th hit (Wade Boggs), the second to have five hits on the same day as his 3,000th (Craig Biggio), and only the second to be a regular shortstop when hitting his 3,000th (Honus Wagner). That's a lot of history.
Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit was just the cherry on top of what was an unbelievable career. And yes, his career is not over yet, but I feel that it is already at the point of reminiscence. But what makes this moment all the more remarkable was how even after everyone had decided he was a has-been, Derek Jeter decided to prove us all wrong and give us one of the greatest moments of his career.
Entry written by Matthew Provenzano on December 12, 2013.
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