The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament enters the semifinals. The moment with the most votes moves on to the finals against Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" speech. 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.
#3: Jim Leyritz's '96 World Series game-tying home run
The Yankees got off to a very sluggish start to the 1996 World Series; they got outscored at home 16-1 through the first two games against the defending champion Atlanta Braves. They got back on track in Game 3, however, as David Cone gave them a very gritty six innings while yielding just one run, and the offense was able to outlast Tom Glavine and the Braves' bullpen in Atlanta. With the series now 2-1 in favor of the Braves, the Yankees, like the first two games, struggled mightily, this time through the first five innings of Game 4. Kenny Rogers started for the Bombers, and, like his first two playoff starts that October, got shelled. "The Gambler" allowed five runs and seven base runners through just two innings. The offense, meanwhile, had a hard time picking up their starter, as the Braves' Denny Neagle held New York in check. At least through the first five innings, anyway.
Neagle retired the first eight Yankees he faced before allowing a single to the opposing starter Rogers with two down in the third. The Yankees were able to scratch together a handful of walks (three, to be exact) in the fourth, but a poorly timed Bernie Williams double play hurt the rally. In the sixth, however, things changed, as the Yankees, down 6-0 to begin the frame, strung together four straight base runners together (Derek Jeter single, Bernie Williams walk, Cecil Fielder single, and a Charlie Hayes single) to knock Neagle out of the game and make the score 6-3. The Braves' bullpen was able to stop the damage and escape further trouble.
Although Jeff Nelson pieced together two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh, the Yankees were running out of time to complete the comeback. The Braves attempted to put the nail in the Yankees' coffin by summoning their closer, Mark Wohlers, to record the final six outs. However, Hayes reached on an infield single that slowly rolled to third base and died in fair territory while Darryl Strawberry singled to left set the stage for Jim Leyritz to tie the game. Leyritz, who didn't even start the game, worked one hell of an at-bat against one of the best closers in baseball that year in Wohlers. With the count at 2-2, Wohlers hung a slider to Leyritz and the latter crushed it over the left field fence for a three-run home run to knot the game at six.
Though the Yankees were able to tie the game, the business wasn't finished quite yet. Thanks to more help from the Yankees' bullpen (namely Mariano Rivera and Graeme Lloyd), which was a very underrated part of this game, the team was able to take the lead in the 10th, courtesy of a bases loaded, pinch-hit walk by Wade Boggs. For insurance, Charlie Hayes reached on a Ryan Klesko error. With the score 8-6, Yankees, John Wetteland was able to wiggle out of trouble, though Paul O'Neill helped him out as the latter made a nice running catch to rob Terry Pendleton of a game-tying extra base hit to end the game.
If you believe in "momentum," Leyritz's game-tying three-run home run was surely a momentum-grabber that the Yankees would hold onto for good. After winning Game 4, the Yankees were able to win Game 5 in Atlanta (thanks to Andy Pettitte's masterful pitching performance) and Game 6 back in the Bronx to seal the franchise's 23rd World Series championship.
Entry written by Jesse Schindler on December 5, 2013.
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