10/19/2004 1:14 AM ET
Lieber to go in Game 6 of ALCS
Righty tries to help Yankees advance to World Series
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
|Jon Lieber allowed a run on three hits and struck out three in seven-plus innings in Game 2. (Kathy Willens/AP)
BOSTON -- The most important man in the American League Championship Series wasn't even at Fenway Park during Monday's most important moments.
Jon Lieber hopped a flight back to the Big Apple before the game, making sure he had adequate rest for Tuesday's game. He missed another epic, the longest in ALCS history. Of course, it just displaced the one from Sunday night, leaving both the Yankees and Red Sox broken and battered.
With an exhausted bullpen and a drained dugout, New York's hopes likely rest on Lieber going deep into Game 6. Yankees skipper Joe Torre knows his relief staff was overextended in the last two days, but he also knows he can't worry about that in the next 24 hours.
"Everybody's available. ... There's no other way to be, basically," he said about his bullpen. "We have to find a way to get it done, and both clubs are pretty much on the same page when it comes to that. We have a couple ballclubs now that have had their catchers catching 26-27 innings here the last couple of days.
"So we have some decisions to make, but I think both clubs will be ready to play tomorrow."
Lieber will be too -- that was the whole point of his early flight. He's gone deep into a lot of games lately, and the Yanks need more of the same. The right-hander went seven-plus strong innings in Game 2, holding the Red Sox to three hits and one run. He was solid in the Division Series, too, pitching into the seventh inning and holding Minnesota to three runs.
Those were the first two postseason starts of Lieber's career, and he picked up right where he left off in September. The 34-year-old went 5-0 with a 3.12 ERA during the season's final month, closing hard down the stretch. His second-half ERA was nearly an entire run lower than the first half -- 3.94 compared to 4.77.
Still, this game will be a different animal. After trailing by three wins, the Sox have charged back within one game. They have the momentum, even if they're not playing in their home park. And they have a historical footnote beckoning them forward -- no team has ever come back from three games down to win a seven-game postseason series.
In fact, they're just the third team to even force a Game 6 after trailing 3-0. No team in that circumstance has even forced a Game 7, and Lieber's the only thing standing between Boston and history.
"I don't know. You tell me," said Jorge Posada, when asked about momentum. "We're going home. That's all I can say."
The Sox will start Curt Schilling, who has an ankle condition that will require surgery once his season is finished. He only lasted three innings in Game 2, but the Sox hope that he can rebound in Game 6.
Can Lieber get the job done? The Yankees, who have won six ALCS in the last nine years, have to believe he can.
"Well, we're very evenly matched. You know, we have a lot of intensity on both sides of this thing," said Torre. "It takes on a life of its' own. As I said, each game is a series in itself. I think, obviously, these last two games have proven that.
"Those ballclubs both want it badly, and they're going to keep battling right until somebody wins up going beyond."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.