With the Yankees on the brink of winning their 10,000th regular season game, I wanted to take a look back at one of the best regular season games the Yankees played in the history of the franchise. I was fortunate enough to have been at this game, and can honestly tell you that the electricity felt within the stadium on this particular evening could’ve lit New York City.
On Thursday, July 1, 2004 a baseball game was supposed to be played between the first place Yankees and the second place Boston Red Sox. The Yankees had taken the first and second game of the series, and were looking for the sweep. The Red Sox had their ace on the mound in Pedro Martinez, while the Yankees send rookie left-hander Brad Halsey to the mound in his 3rd career start. While heading to the stadium for the game, I remember vividly talking with my friend about how we weren’t sure how the young starter would fare against a 3-time Cy Young Award winner.
Weather-wise it was a beautiful night in The Bronx. The Yankees took an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 2nd inning courtesy of a Tony Clark two-run homer that plated future Monument Park resident Jorge Posada. In the bottom of the 5th inning, the Bombers would add a run to their lead after a solo home run by Posada. Halsey was cruising through the 5 innings, allowing just two hits to a potent Red Sox lineup.
With the Yanks up by 3 heading into the 6th inning, Halsey started to falter. A ground-rule double by David Ortiz, followed by a 2-run home run by Manny Ramirez brought an end to an otherwise great outing for the young lefty. Paul Quantrill replaced Halsey and retired the side. The Red Sox would score another run in the top of the 7th to tie the game 3-3. Going into the bottom of the 9th, with the game still tied 3-3, the Yankees were able to load the bases with 1 out after an intentional walk to Tony Clark. Ruben Sierra would strike out, to be immediately followed by a Kenny Lofton ground out. We were heading to extra innings!
The great Mariano Rivera entered the game in the top of the 10th inning and shut down the Red Sox 3 up, 3 down. In the bottom of the 10th, the Yankees had runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. With Bernie Williams hitting, confidence was high at the stadium. He hit the ball on the nose right to 3rd base to end the inning. Another scoring opportunity wasted.
In the top of the 11th inning, Mariano Rivera showed a rare sign that he is human. After giving up back-to-back singles to start the inning, he intentionally walked Jason Varitek to face Kevin Millar with bases loaded and nobody out. Millar grounds ball right over the 3rd base bag. Alex Rodriguez dives to his right, fields the ball, touches 3rd base, then throws a strike to Posada at the plate who tags out Gabe Kapler. It is by far the best defensive play of A-Rods time in The Bronx… a play that gets no love.
The Yankees go down quietly in the bottom of the 11th, and now we enter the 12th. In the top of the inning the Yankees bring in Tanyon Sturtze to replace Rivera. With two outs, and runners on 2nd and 3rd, Trot Nixon steps to the plate, and… well, I’m not even going to bother explaining how incredible Derek Jeter is, just watch it!
Derek Jeter would exits the game in the bottom of the inning with a bruised shoulder, bloodied chin, and swollen cheek.
The Yankees would load the bases in the bottom of the 12th inning with 1 out. Once again, the scoring opportunity would go to waste as a force out at home and a strikeout would end the inning. Leading off the top of the 13th inning for the Red Sox was Manny Ramirez, who had already homered in the 6th. He leads off the inning with his 2nd homer of the game. A solo shot that gives the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.
In the bottom of the 13th, with the Yankees down for the 1st time, Posada strikes out, Clark grounds out. Ruben Sierra comes to the plate hoping to get something started, and he does with a single to center. Miguel Cairo follows with a double to right-center scoring Sierra to tie the game 4-4. John Flaherty comes up who is pinch hitting for Sturtze who took over the DH spot after Jeter exited the game. Flaherty works the count to 3-1, and on the next offering, he hits deep single over the left fielder to win the game for the Yankees and sweep the series.
I’ve been to a lot of Yankee games in my 32 years of life, and this game ranks as #1. The atmosphere throughout the 4 hour and 20 minute game felt like it was Game 7 of the ALCS. I feel that the battle between these two historic franchises hit it’s peak on this night in 2004. This is the only regular season game I ever attended where I actually felt the stadium shake. In my mind, this game was the great regular season win in Yankees history. What are your thoughts? Is there another game that you think is better? Leave a message in the comments below, or tweet at me @Brian_Capozzi.