They don't just go quietly. That's not the Boston Red Sox way.
They can't just lose. They must tantalize.
It would be easier to take if they were pathetic. Instead, they are cruel.
Despite an eighth-inning rally that provided one last tease in a season filled with flirtation, the New York Yankees beat Boston 6-1 Monday night to win the first-ever postseason pairing of the longtime rivals.
"Right now," Boston catcher Jason Varitek said, "it would hurt if it was the Bad News Bears."
The Red Sox gave New England Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra, 94 wins in the regular season and an exhilarating first-round victory over Cleveland that set up a dream matchup with the hated Yankees.
And, after falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-7 American League Championship Series and spotting New York a four-run lead in what would be their final game, the Red Sox mounted one last rally to torture their long-suffering fans.
Loading the bases after Jason Varitek's leadoff home run in the eighth inning cut the deficit to three, the Red Sox brought the chilly Fenway Park crowd to its feet. But Ramiro Mendoza struck out pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg and got Trot Nixon to pop up, then pitched a perfect ninth to bring Boston's surprising season to an unsurprising end.
"I told these kids in there that I was really proud of them, the way they performed all year long. I think they really did a lot for this city," Red Sox manager Jimy Williams said. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out for us. So I tip my cap to the Yankees."
Boston hasn't won the World Series since selling Babe Ruth to New York in 1920. Since then, the Yankee have won 36 AL pennants and 24 World Series championships, with a chance at their 25th.
It has been so long since since the Red Sox won the World Series that Ruth's 82-year-old daughter, who threw out the first pitch Monday night, was a 1 year-old when her father pitched his first team to the title.
Julia Ruth Stevens came in from Arizona on a chilly night and proclaimed herself a Red Sox fan. She said she didn't believe her father has put a curse on baseball's unluckiest franchise, but she did notice the coincidence.
It would be impossible not to.
In 1946, it was Johnny Pesky allegedly holding the ball as St. Louis' Enos Slaughter raced around the bases to score the winning run. In '78, it was Bucky Dent's popup that reached the screen above the Green Monster and gave the Yankees the AL East title.
|Pedro Martinez did his part to reverse the curse.|
This time, the only bad luck was running into the Yankees.
In a series bound to inflame baseball's fiercest rivalry well into the next century, the deeper defending champions merely needed to wait for the days Martinez couldn't pitch and take advantage of some sloppy Red Sox fielding and, yes, an umpire's call or three.
And so, despite a surprising 94-win season and a first-round victory over Cleveland, Boston heads into the winter the way it has every year since the Babe bounced his baby daughter on his knee: Saying "Wait 'till next year."
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