This series delivered yet another blow to Red Sox fans' hopes of winning a World Series for the first time since 1918. The series seemed evenly matched, with the lead being held first by the Red Sox, then by the Yankees. The Sox forced the series to a full seven games, with the seventh game setting another major league record for the rivalry between the two teams: it marked the first time two major league teams have played more than 25 games against each other over the course of a single season. The Red Sox also set an ALCS record with twelve home runs in the series.
New York won the series, 4–3.
Wednesday, October 8, 2003 at Yankee Stadium (I) in Bronx, New York 8:07ET MLB on FOX
Tim Wakefield shut the Bronx Bombers down for six innings in Game 1, allowing only back-to-back one-out singles to Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui in the second. Mike Mussina pitched three shutout innings before allowing a leadoff single to Manny Ramirez in the fourth, then David Ortiz homered to put the Red Sox up 2–0. Next inning, Todd Walker and Manny Ramirez each hit solo home runs off of Mussina to put the Red Sox ahead 4–0. In the top of the seventh, Jeff Nelson allowed a two-out single to Ramirez and hit Ortiz with a pitch before Kevin Millar's RBI single made it 5-0 Boston. In the bottom of the inning, Wakefield walked Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams before being relieved by Alan Embree, who allowed an RBI double to Posada and sacrifice fly to Matsui to make it 5-2 Boston. However, the Yankees would not score again as the Red Sox took a 1-0 series lead.
Thursday, October 9, 2003 at Yankee Stadium (I) in Bronx, New York
After leaving the bases loaded in the first, the Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the second off of Andy Pettitte when Jason Varitek hit a lead off double, moved to third on Trot Nixon's single, and scored on Damian Jackson's single. In the bottom of the inning, Derek Lowe issued a leadoff walk to Jorge Posada and one out later, Nick Johnson's home run put the Yankees up 2-1. Next inning, Lowe allowed three consecutive one-out singles, the last of which by Bernie Williams scored Derek Jeter to make it 3-1 Yankees. In the fifth, Williams doubled with one out and scored on a single by Hideki Matsui, who was tagged out at second to end the inning. Varitek's home run in the sixth off of Pettitte made it 4-2 Yankees. In the seventh, Lowe allowed a two-out single to Jason Giambi and walked Williams before being relieved by Scott Sauerbeck, who allowed a two-run double to Posada to make it 6-2 Yankees. Their lead held, tying the series at 1-1 heading to Boston.
Saturday, October 11, 2003 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts
Game 3 was highly anticipated, a classic matchup between Sox ace Pedro Martínez and former Sox pitcher Roger Clemens, who, on the cusp of retirement, was thought to be pitching his last game at Fenway Park. Early on, Karim Garcia was hit in the back by a Martinez fastball. Words were exchanged and Martinez threateningly gestured towards Yankee catcher Jorge Posada. When Garcia was forced out at second, he slid hard into Todd Walker. The following inning, Manny Ramírez took exception to a high Clemens pitch and charged the mound. Both benches cleared, but the resulting brawl turned surreal when 72-year-old Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer charged Pedro Martínez. Martinez sidestepped and brushed the charging Zimmer down. Zimmer then stumbled and fell onto the ground as Yankee trainer Gene Monahan and various Yankee players attended to him. After the thirteen-minute delay, during which Fenway Park stopped all beer sales for the remainder of the game, Clemens struck out Ramirez and proceeded to pitch effectively as the Yankees held a lead. The game would not end quietly: a Fenway groundskeeper got into a scuffle with Yankee reliever Jeff Nelson in the middle of the 9th inning in the bullpen area.
In the bottom of the first, Clemens allowed a leadoff single to Johnny Damon and subsequent double to Todd Walker. After Nomar Garciaparra struck out, Manny Ramirez's double put the Red Sox up 2-0. The Yankees cut it to 2-1 in the second off of Martinez when Jorge Posada hit a leadoff double and scores on Karim Garcia's single two outs later. Derek Jeter's home run next inning tied the game. In the fourth, Posada drew a leadoff walk, moved to third on Nick Johnson's single, and scored on Hideki Matsui's ground-rule double. After Garcia was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Alfonso Soriano hit into a double play that scored Johnson and put the Yankees up 4-2. In the bottom of the seventh, reliever Felix Heredia issued a leadoff walk to David Ortiz. Jose Contreras relieved Heredia and allowed a single to Kevin Millar that moved Ortiz to third. Ortiz scored when Trot Nixon hit into a double play to make it 4-3 Yankees. Their lead held, though, putting them up 2-1 in the series.
Monday, October 13, 2003 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts
Game 4 was postponed from Sunday to Monday due to rain; The Red Sox went up 1-0 on Todd Walker's second home run of the series in the fourth off of Mike Mussina. In the top of the fifth, Tim Wakefield allowed back-to-back one hit singles before Derek Jeter's double tied the game and put runners on second and third. Bernie Williams walked with two outs to load the bases, but Jorge Posada lined out to left to end the inning. In the bottom half, Trot Nixon's home run put the Red Sox up 2-1. They loaded the bases in the seventh off of Mussina on a double and two walks with one out when Jason Varitek hit into a force out at second, narrowly beating Alfonso Soriano's throw to first to avoid a double play and allow Kevin Millar to score to make it 3-1 Boston. Ruben Sierra's one-out home run in the ninth off of Scott Williamson made it 3-2 Boston, but Williamson struck out David Dellucci and Soriano to end the game and tie the series at 2-2.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts
The Yankees loaded the bases in the third off of Derek Lowe on two walks and a hit when Karim Garcia's single scored two, then Alfonso Soriano's single scored another. Manny Ramirez's leadoff home run in the fourth off of David Wells made it 3-1 Yankees. They made it 4-1 in the eighth when Bernie Williams reached on a force out at second, moved to third on Jorge Posada's single and scored on Hideki Matsui's groundout off of Alan Embree. In the bottom of the inning, Todd Walker hit a leadoff triple off of Mariano Rivera and scored on Nomar Garciaparra's groundout to make it 4-2 Yankees. Rivera, though, shutout the Red Sox for the rest of the game, leaving the Yankees one win away from the World Series.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003 at Yankee Stadium (I) in Bronx, New York
Jason Giambi's one-out home run in the first off of John Burkett put the Yankees up 1-0, but Jason Varitek's leadoff home run in the fourth off of Andy Pettitte tied the score. The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out on two walks and a single before David Ortiz's single scored two and Kevin Millar's single scored another to put them up 4-1. In the bottom of the fourth, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui hit back-to-back one out singles before Nick Johnson's double and Aaron Boone's groundout scored a run each. Nomar Garciaparra's error allowed Karim Garcia to reach base before Alfonso Soriano's two-run double put the Yankees atop 5-4 and ended Burkett's night. Posada's home run next inning off of Bronson Arroyo made it 6-4 Yankees. In the top of the seventh, Garciaparra hit a leadoff triple off of Jose Contreras and scored on Matsui's errant throw to third. Manny Ramirez then doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on David Ortiz's single to tie the game. After allowing a one-out single to Bill Mueller, Contreras was relieved by Felix Heredia, who struck out Trot Nixon, but threw a wild pitch that put runners on second and third. After intentionally walking Jason Varitek to load the bases, Heredia walked Johnny Damon to force in a run and put the Red Sox up 7-6. They added insurance in the ninth when Mueller doubled with one out off of Jeff Nelson. Gabe White relieved Nelson and allowed a home run to Nixon to make it 9-6 Red Sox. Scott Williamson retired the Yankees in order in the bottom half for his third save of the series, forcing a Game 7.
Thursday, October 16, 2003 at Yankee Stadium (I) in Bronx, New York
In the Martinez–Clemens rematch of Game 3, Clemens allowed a one-out single to Kevin Millar before Trot Nixon's home run put Boston up 2-0. After Bill Mueller struck out, Jason Varitek doubled and scored on third baseman Enrique Wilson's throwing error to first on Johnny Damon's ground ball. Millar's leadoff home run in the fourth made it 4-0 Boston. Nixon then walked and moved to third on Mueller's single to knock Clemens out of the game. In the first relief appearance of his career, Mike Mussina proceeded to clean up Clemens' mess by striking out Jason Varitek and inducing a Johnny Damon double play. His three innings of scoreless relief, and two solo home runs in the fifth and seventh innings by Jason Giambi, kept the Yankees in the ballgame. But in the eighth inning, with the Red Sox leading 5–2 (after David Ortiz homered in the top half off of David Wells, things unraveled for Boston. Sox manager Grady Little left a tiring Martinez in for the eighth, a controversial move which is still discussed years later. Little had two relievers who had shown some effectiveness in the games leading up to the seventh game—Scott Williamson and Mike Timlin (who had not allowed a single hit in the playoffs)—in the bullpen. However, both Williamson and Timlin had experienced stretches of ineffectiveness during the season, while Martinez had Hall of Fame credentials. Critics of the move note that Martinez had experienced diminished effectiveness in the late innings of games in which he had thrown more than 100 pitches. After the Cy Young Award winner Martinez assured his manager he still had something left, he gave up a double to Derek Jeter and a single to Bernie Williams, prompting Little to go out to the mound. To the surprise of many, Little left Martinez in the game, leaving lefty Alan Embree in the bullpen with the left-handed Hideki Matsui coming to the plate. Martinez gave up a double to Matsui and a bloop double to Jorge Posada to tie the game, sending it to extra innings. Mariano Rivera came in for the ninth and pitched three shutout innings.
Tim Wakefield pitched a scoreless tenth for Boston and in the bottom of the eleventh faced Aaron Boone, who had entered earlier as a pinch-runner. On Wakefield's first pitch of the inning, Boone launched a walk-off home run into the left field seats. Fox Sports displayed a collection of images thereafter: tears welling up in the eyes of Aaron's brother, Seattle Mariners infielder Bret Boone (the guest announcer), ALCS MVP Mariano Rivera running to the mound and collapsing on it in joy, Boone jumping on home plate, and Rivera being carried off on his teammates' shoulders.
2003 ALCS (4–3): New York Yankees over Boston Red Sox
The series is widely considered to be one of the worst losses in Boston sports history. The loss was crushing for Red Sox fans, many of whom blamed Little for leaving Martinez in the game and not going to his recently dependable bullpen, since Martinez had experienced difficulty pitching effectively beyond 100 pitches. In his book Now I Can Die in Peace, Bill Simmons writes that the Boston owners and Theo Epstein had ordered Little to remove Pedro from the game when he finished the seventh inning and/or topped the three-digit pitch count. Martinez was sure he would not be called on for the eighth inning, but agreed to do so when his manager asked him. After the game, Little reportedly and prophetically told his pitcher "Petey, I might not be here anymore." Little defended his move by saying that he felt a tired Martinez was a better option than anyone else on the team. Defenders of Little also noted that the Red Sox offense collapsed in the game, as the club scored only two runs in the last nine innings of the contest and also noted the poor defensive play of Johnny Damon in center field during the crucial inning. Others have noted that by staying with a physically fragile pitcher in an ultimate game with two runners on base, a two-run lead, a rested pitcher who had performed well in the postseason ready in the bullpen and the other team's MVP on deck, Little did exactly what Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston did with Sandy Koufax in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series, which Alston's Dodgers won. Little's contract was not renewed after the season and he was replaced by Terry Francona. Little went on to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers before ironically being replaced by Joe Torre.
Aaron Boone's home run that clinched the pennant for the Yankees often draws comparisons to another famous Yankee home run against the Red Sox in the postseason: specifically, the one Bucky Dent hit in a one-game playoff between the two teams that decided the American League East division title in 1978. However, the Yankees won the World Series that year, doing so against the Dodgers. As with Dent, Boone has had the expletive "Fucking" assigned as a middle name by Red Sox fans in the following years.
Until the final game of the pennant race, some baseball fans had been hoping for a rematch of the 1918 World Series: a showdown between the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, one of only two major league teams to have played for a longer period of time since winning the World Series (the other was the Chicago White Sox, who went on to win the Series in 2005). The Cubs reached the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins. As with the Red Sox, they had a three-run lead and were only five outs away from reaching the World Series, although this was in Game 6, when the Marlins scored eight runs in that inning and won the game 8–3. The Marlins would win Game 7, 9–6, to advance to the World Series, where they defeated the Yankees four games to two.
The following year, Boston and New York met again in the ALCS, with Boston becoming the first team in major league history — as well as just the third team in American professional sports history — to come back to win a playoff series after being down three games to none; they then swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series to win their first championship since 1918 and thus end the Curse of the Bambino.
In the 2005–06 offseason, the rivalry between Boston and New York revived the Yankees loss to the Marlins in the 2003 World Series when they traded Josh Beckett, the pitcher who pitched a complete game shutout against the Yankees in the deciding game of the World Series to the Red Sox.Trot Nixon—.333 average, three home runs, five RBI
David Ortiz, Manny Ramírez, Jason Varitek, Todd Walker—two home runs each.
Tim Wakefield—Won Game 1 and Game 4 for the Red Sox, and very likely would have been the ALCS MVP had Boston held on to win the series.
Jorge Posada—.296 average, four doubles
Mariano Rivera—eight innings, 1.12 ERA, two saves (Series MVP)
Mike Timlin and Alan Embree (combined)—ten innings, four hits, zero earned runs
Mike Mussina and Rivera—six innings, six strikeouts, four hits, and zero earned runs combined in relief during Game 7.
Jason Giambi—Before the eighth inning rally in Game 7, Giambi had provided the Yankees' only offense with two solo home runs off Pedro Martínez.
Aaron Boone—Hit an eleventh inning walk-off home run in Game 7.