Rivera, Mussina pitch Yankees past Red Sox in ALCS

Written by: Craig Muder

Aaron Boone got the headlines. Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera got the outs.

And the Yankees took home the American League pennant.

Boone’s 11th inning home run gave the New York Yankees a 6-5 win in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS – a game that started on Oct. 16 and dripped with drama for almost four hours.

The Yankees erased a 4-0 deficit thanks to three clutch relief innings from Mussina, who was making his first-ever big league appearance out of the bullpen.

Rivera also pitched three shutout innings – finishing with the same line as Mussina: 3.0 innings pitched, two hits, no runs or walks and three strikeouts.

“Today,” Rivera told The New York Times, “we played like a champion.”

The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run home run by Trot Nixon and a subsequent unearned run off of Roger Clemens, then extended the lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning on a Kevin Millar home run.

Following Millar’s home run, Nixon walked and Bill Mueller singled him to third – chasing Clemens and bringing Mussina into the game.

Pitching on just two days rest after starting Game 4, Mussina worked out of the jam by striking out Jason Varitek and getting Johnny Damon to hit into a double play. Mussina then blanked the Red Sox in the fifth and sixth to keep the game close.

“To get in there and do that with my heart pounding in my chest and be effective and get a strikeout and a double play to get out of that inning,” Mussina said, “and to pitch a couple more innings and give us a chance, that was big.”

Meanwhile, Pedro Martínez allowed just one run – a Jason Giambi home run in the fifth – over six innings. Giambi’s second home run of the game made it 4-2 in the seventh, but David Ortiz homered in the top of the eighth to give Boston a 5-2 advantage and leave the Red Sox just six outs from the pennant.

But in the eighth, a Bernie Williams single and Jorge Posada double tied the game, chasing Martínez and bringing Rivera into the contest in the ninth with the score tied at 5. Three scoreless Rivera innings later, Boone led off the bottom of the 11th with a home run off Tim Wakefield to send the Yankees to the World Series.

“He’s unbelievable, just unbelievable,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of Rivera, who was named the ALCS MVP. “We were going to ride him as long as we could.”

Mussina and Rivera were elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019, and Ortiz was inducted in 2022. They all joined Martínez in Cooperstown, with the Red Sox's ace having been inducted in 2015.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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