When you think about the 2003 ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox, there’s one game and one moment in particular that comes to mind. That one may or may not be soon appearing in this 25 Best Playoff Games series very soon. However, that game was the final and decisive one of a seven game series. You don’t get that far into a series without there being twists and turns along the way.
One of those twists and turns came in an eventful Game 3 in Boston.
Final Score: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
Game MVP: Roger Clemens
After the teams split the first two games in New York, the series shifted to Fenway Park for Game 3 for a marquee pitching matchup. With the teams going four and five games respectively in their ALDS, they couldn’t start the ALCS at the top of their rotations. As a result, the Game 3 matchup ended up giving us Roger Clemens versus Pedro Martínez. The 2003 season was not Clemens’ best, but he had previously indicated that it was going to be his final season in the big leagues. While that ended up being extremely not true, it was thought at the time that this could be his final start at Fenway Park, a place he had a lot of history at on both sides of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry. As for Pedro, he’s Pedro.
Despite purported Pedro crusher Enrique Wilson starting and hitting leadoff, Martínez threw a scoreless first inning before being given a lead. Manny Ramírez drove home two runs with a single, putting Boston in front early. The Yankees got one run back in the second when soon to be unexpected main character Karim García recorded an RBI single.
The following inning, Derek Jeter tied things up with a home run.
The fourth inning is when things really started to go wild. The Yankees’ lineup quickly got going against Pedro, with Jorge Posada and Nick Johnson getting on base for Hideki Matsui, who drove home Posada with a ground-rule double. García came up next, and he took a pitch right in the numbers on the back, leading to a staredown between him and Martínez.
When all that settled down, Alfonso Soriano then came up with the bases loaded, and grounded into a double play. A run did score on the play, but the most notable part of it was arguably García sliding hard into second, causing tensions to flare again. As that was happening, words were exchanged, with Pedro pointing towards his head, which the Yankees, understandably, took as a threat.
Ramírez then led off the bottom half of the inning against Clemens. With the count 1-2, Ramírez took exception to a high pitch from Clemens, causing yet another flare up. (It should be noted that the pitch was mostly high and not crazily inside on Manny, but admittedly, we’re biased here.) This caused benches to clear, and in the kerfuffle came one of the most infamous moments in Yankees-Red Sox rivalry history.
As the teams jawed at each other, Yankees’ bench coach Don Zimmer charged at Martínez, who sidestepped him and somewhat put his hands on him to send the 72-year old tumbling to the ground. Zimmer was attended to by the Yankees’ trainers, and eventually things settled down, and the focus turned to baseball...at least for a little while.
After allowing the two runs in the first, Clemens impressed after that. From the second through the fifth inning, he retired all but one of the batters he faced, helping the Yankees as they rallied and eventually took the lead. He ran into some trouble in the sixth as Johnny Damon singled and Todd Walker walked to start the inning. He eventually got out of it, including getting Ramírez to ground into an inning-ending double play. That would be it for Clemens, as he finished with a final line of six innings pitching, having allowed two runs on five hits, while striking out seven.
Boston got one run back in the seventh when Felix Heredia and José Contreras combined to allow a couple runners before Contreras eventually got out of the inning. At that point, Joe Torre took no risks and went to Mariano Rivera for a potential two-inning save. Rivera cruised with an eight pitch eighth with the Yankees unable to get him any insurance runs in the top of the ninth.
Between the two halves of the ninth, another scuffle broke out. García and reliever Jeff Nelson got into it with a Fenway groundskeeper in the Yankees’ bullpen, which ended up with all three men getting charged. García was cut on his hand during the incident and would have to come out of the game.
Back on the field, Rivera threw another 1-2-3 inning to give the Yankees a 4-3 win and a 2-1 lead in the series.
There were still bigger things yet to come in this series, but Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS certainly provided one of the wilder games in the history of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.