NEW YORK -- Tracing the tracks of their tears back to the ballpark in the Bronx where all the horrible things happened last October, the Red Sox returned to the American League Championship Series last night, fell behind, 8-0, then rallied mightily before again succumbing to the Yankees, 10-7.
Sox ace Curt Schilling, unbeatable most of the season, appeared to be suffering the effects of an ankle injury and was cuffed around for six hits and six runs in three innings, his shortest outing of the season. Meanwhile, Yankee starter Mike Mussina befuddled the vaunted Boston lineup for six-plus innings, retiring the first 19 batters he faced before giving up three runs on four hits in the seventh.
Mussina's sudden breakdown ignited a Boston surge that eventually cut the lead to 8-7 and put the tying run on third base with two outs in the eighth inning. At that point, it was time for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Pitching with a heavy heart after attending the funeral of two relatives in Panama earlier in the day, Rivera got Kevin Millar to pop out to Derek Jeter, and the Yankees closed the deal with two more runs in the bottom of the eighth.
''I came back here to pitch," said Rivera. ''I wanted to pitch. My teammates needed me in there."
So now the only thing standing between the Sox and an 0-2 deficit in this series is one Pedro Martinez, who has consistently been unable to beat New York and last month said, "I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy."
Though Martinez is one of the best hurlers of all time, the Red Sox are 11-19 in games he has started against the Yankees and his "daddy" quote is certain to fuel New York taunters and tabloids for the remainder of this series, perhaps longer. Having won 40 of 54 games (including playoffs) since Aug. 9, the raggedy Red Sox swaggered into New York intent on erasing the pain of the past and proving they are the best team in the American League. Instead, they fell behind, 8-0, and no doubt inspired some nervous, reactive members of their Nation to shrug and say, "Wait Till Next Year."
In the early frames, it was downright embarrassing for the self-styled "idiots" from the Hub. They appeared to be out of the game and still didn't have a hit after six innings. With all suspense apparently lifted, the evening temporarily turned into a pinstripe party as Yankee fans insulted the visitors with all form of signage, songs, and slogans.
But the resilient Red Sox rebounded. Second baseman Mark Bellhorn broke up Mussina's perfect game with a one-out double in the seventh, triggering a five-run rally capped by Jason Varitek's two-run homer off reliever Tanyon Sturtze. In the eighth, David Ortiz hit a booming two-out triple off Tom Gordon to cut the margin to 8-7.
Enter Rivera. In a series that needs no additional drama, the Yankee closer capped an emotional couple of days by protecting yet another lead on a day when he attended a funeral in his homeland. Rivera did not get to the ballpark until the middle innings and was embraced by his bullpen mates when he made it back to his place of work.
It didn't look as though the Yankees would need their ace closer until the always-thundering Sox pounded away. When it became an 8-7 game in the eighth, manager Joe Torre knew what he had to do.
Rivera did his job, then veteran teammate Bernie Williams gave him a cushion with a two-run double in the eighth.
Still, the Sox had a pulse and put the tying run at the plate in the ninth. Bill Mueller, who beat Rivera with a three-run walkoff homer at Fenway July 24, had no such success last night, grounding into a game-ending double play.
In Boston, Game 1 goes down as a tough start for the Red Sox, with questions about the health of Schilling, who has tendinitis in his right ankle and took a shot of the pain-killer Marcaine before the game.
"I knew I was going to be throwing the ball differently, but I've done it before," said Schilling. "After the second inning, I just couldn't reach back. If we'd sent anybody else out there but me tonight, we would have won the game."
"He didn't complain about any pain," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "The vibe in the dugout was actually pretty good even when we were down. We thought we could come back."
The loss puts a tremendous amount of pressure on Martinez, who has struggled against the Yankees. Since June 2000, the Red Sox are 6-17 in games Martinez has started against the Yankees. In his last appearance on the Yankee Stadium mound, Martinez gave up eight runs in five innings.
In New York, the first game of the ALCS elevated the legend of Rivera to new levels. Over the weekend, the cousin of Rivera's wife, and the man's son, were electrocuted while cleaning the swimming pool at Rivera's mansion in Panama. Rivera attended the funeral early yesterday, then flew to New York on a private jet.
"I didn't see him until I shook his hand at the end of the game," said Torre. "I certainly didn't want to bring him in in the eighth inning, but we had to do that. He's special. I don't think I trust anybody more than I trust Mariano. When he tells you he's OK, he's OK. Everything he's been through the last few days, being back in uniform was a chance for him to hide for an hour or so."
Tonight it's Pedro's turn, and there will be no place to hide.