2003: AL wild card champions
In 2003, the Red Sox banded together and made it to the postseason with new, but previously unproven, acquisitions David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, and Bill Mueller, among others. The Sox fell behind the A’s in the ALDS 2-0, but, just like in 1999, rallied back to win the next two games and force a Game 5 in Oakland.
That game would be remembered for centerfielder Johnny Damon being taken off the field on a stretcher after colliding with second baseman Damian Jackson, but Pedro Martinez was able to beat Barry Zito to win the series for the Red Sox and set up another ALCS against the Yankees.
After winning Game 1, the Red Sox stumbled and lost the next two games. Game 3 was characterized by a massive brawl after Roger Clemens threw a high and tight pitch to Manny Ramirez. The brawl turned even more chaotic when 72-year-old Yankees coach Don Zimmer charged Martinez and Martinez grabbed him by the head and threw him to the ground.
The teams went back and forth over the next three games, forcing a Game 7 in New York that would pit Martinez against Clemens again. The Red Sox led 5-2 heading into the eighth, but, in a decision that ultimately cost him his job, manager Grady Little left Martinez in the game after allowing two hits to lead off the inning, and the Yankees tied the game.
The score remained tied into the 11th inning, when starter Tim Wakefield was brought in for a second inning of relief after pitching a scoreless 10th. Aaron Boone, who had pinch-run earlier in the game, came up for his first at-bat of the game, and took the first pitch he saw deep for a pennant-winning home run that assured Boone’s place in Red Sox infamy along with Bucky Dent.