Martinez: Don't Blame Manager for Loss

Friday, October 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Another celebration for the New York Yankees, another year without a championship for the Boston Red Sox.

``This was our chance to get to the World Series, and we were so close,'' Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon said after the Yankees beat Boston 6-5 in 11 innings Thursday night to win the AL pennant. ``I think we're always going to have this game in the back of our minds.''

A game that started out so promising disintegrated in the eighth inning when Pedro Martinez ran out of gas and the Yankees rallied from a 5-2 deficit to tie it. Aaron Boone's homer to lead off the 11th kept the Yankees' hopes for yet another World Series title alive and assured the Red Sox of an 85th year without one.

``The fans in Boston have to be sad, like we are, heartbroken, like we are,'' Martinez said. ``But they have to be proud of us.''

In another stadium on the other side of the city, 17 years ago, the Red Sox lost another chance at a championship when John McNamara took Roger Clemens out after seven innings in Game 6 of the World Series.

The Boston bullpen imploded, the New York Mets won the championship and Bill Buckner's black hightops became a part of baseball history. The Red Sox haven't been back since.

This time, a Boston manager left his ace in too long.

Martinez cruised through the first six innings before giving up Jason Giambi's solo homer with two outs in the seventh. He gave up two more singles then struck out Alfonso Soriano to end the inning.

David Ortiz hit a solo homer in the eighth to give Boston a 5-2 lead.

Boston was five outs away from returning to the Series when Derek Jeter doubled and scored on Bernie Williams' single. Manager Grady Little came out to talk to Martinez, and it seemed as if the three-time Cy Young Award winner had done his job for the day.

But Martinez said he wanted the ball, and Little gave it to him.

``Pedro Martinez has been our man all year long, and in situations like that, he's the one we want on the mound over anybody we can bring in from that bullpen,'' Little said. ``Pedro wanted to stay in there. He wanted to get the job done just as he has many times for us all season long.''

Hideki Matsui hit a line drive down the right-field line for a ground-rule double that put the runners at second and third. Jorge Posada's looper landed in front of Damon as the runners came around to tie the game and Yankee Stadium erupted in cheers.

``There's no reason to blame Grady. Grady doesn't play the game, I do,'' Martinez said. ``If you want to judge me or criticize me or curse me or whatever, I will swallow that, because I am responsible.''

No one will curse at Martinez. The only curse they're worried about in Boston is the one that allegedly, absurdly haunts the franchise ever since Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees in 1920.

New York has won 26 titles since then, and thanks to Boone's 11th-inning homer off Tim Wakefield the Yankees still have a chance this year at another. The Red Sox have not won it all since 1918.

``This was a great year for the organization,'' first baseman Kevin Millar said. ``This was an unbelievable game, an unbelievable season. The sad thing is we lost.''