July 23, 2004: Kevin Millar homers three times, but Red Sox lose to Yankees

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

MilarKevinBoston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar was apparently seeing the ball well in this Friday night game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. He homered three times, off three different pitchers, but all three came with the bases empty and were not enough to overcome an uncharacteristically poor start by Curt Schilling, a five-run Yankees’ outburst in the sixth, and some clutch outs from New York’s veteran relievers. The result was an 8-7 Yankees win.

The Yankees came to Boston in first place in the American League East, 8½ games over the second-place Red Sox. It was as big a lead as they’d held all season. Three weeks earlier, New York had swept Boston in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. A season earlier, the Yankees had beaten the Red Sox in a crushing seven-game ALCS.

A New York Times writer declared, “[T]his has been the year that nothing seems to work out for the Red Sox.”1 Of course, hardened Red Sox fans—used to hearing taunting “19-18” chants in 2004, as the club’s stretch without a World Series championship was in its 86th season—might say that every year is one when things fail to work out.

The starting pitchers on July 23 were both veteran right-handers—Schilling for Boston and Jon Lieber for New York. In games started by either Schilling or Pedro Martínez, the Red Sox were 27-12, but they were 25-31 in other games. Before this date, Schilling had started 10 games at Fenway Park and the Red Sox had won every single one of them.

Schilling had first pitched in the big leagues with Baltimore back in 1988, the season the Red Sox traded him to Baltimore as part of a package for veteran starter Mike Boddicker. He’d been in the National League from 1991 through 2003, a five-time All-Star, and had been 4-0 in the postseason for the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks, getting the win in a 9-1 Game One victory over the Yankees, and being named co-MVP of the World Series along with Randy Johnson. In 2004, his first year for Boston, the 37-year-old Schilling was to this point 12-4 with a 3.04 ERA.

After nine seasons in the NL with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs, Lieber had missed all of 2003 after Tommy John surgery. Back on the mound with the Yankees in ’04, the 34-year-old Lieber had compiled a season-to-date record of 7-6 with a 4.82 ERA.

Schilling surrendered the first run of the game, a two-out solo home run in the first inning by right fielder Gary Sheffield—the 399th homer of the right-handed slugger’s career—that landed just below the Coke bottle advertising atop the left-field wall. In the bottom of the inning, Lieber kept the ball in the infield other than a single to center by DH David Ortiz.

After three Yankees went down in order in the second, the Red Sox edged ahead. Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, celebrating his 31st birthday, reached on an infield single to third base. Right fielder Trot Nixon doubled into the right-field corner, driving in Garciaparra. Millar flied out to right field, but third baseman Bill Mueller hit a two-run homer over the New York bullpen in right field and the Red Sox led, 3-1.

Yankees DH Bernie Williams doubled in the third but was the inning’s only baserunner.

When Kevin Millar came up again in the bottom of the fourth, he hit a solo home run into the first row of the left-field Monster Seats, making it 4-1. Millar had been having a disappointing season. He hadn’t homered from June 19 through July 19. He’d only had five on the season—the year after he’d hit 25.2 His bat was starting to come to life, as he now had home runs in three straight games.

Schilling had pitched three scoreless innings after Sheffield’s first-inning homer, but three singles in the top of the fifth produced another run for New York. Catcher Jorge Posada singled to lead off, left fielder Hideki Matsui followed him, and after a fly-ball out, center fielder Kenny Lofton singled in Posada. Schilling walked Bernie Williams, loading the bases, but then struck out Derek Jeter and got Sheffield to ground into a force play at second, keeping it a 4-2 game.

Lieber had a relatively uneventful fifth and then saw his teammates bust through with five runs in the top of the sixth. Third baseman Álex Rodríguez reached on an infield single to the left side. It took 10 pitches, but first baseman Jason Giambi drew a base on balls. On the eighth pitch he saw, Posada grounded a single into center and drove in A-Rod.

After Matsui hit into a force out that left runners on first and third, Rubén Sierra pinch-hit for second baseman Enrique Wilson and reached on another infield single, this one to first base. Millar fielded the ball, but no one had covered the bag. Giambi scored the tying run. Lofton doubled to right field and drove in Matsui for a 5-4 Yankees lead.

At this point, Schilling had thrown 112 pitches, 33 of them in the sixth inning alone. Manager Terry Francona summoned reliever Mike Timlin. Bernie Williams doubled to right, driving in two more (both charged to Schilling), and the Yankees led, 7-4.

Yankees manager Joe Torre changed pitchers in the sixth, bringing in righty Paul Quantrill, who had begun his career with the Red Sox in 1992. This was his first year with the Yankees. After Nixon flied out, Millar came up to bat and hit another solo home run, his second of the game, this one completely out of the park, 10 or 15 feet inside the left-field foul pole. It was the only run Boston scored, but they’d cut the lead to two: Yankees leading, 7-5.

Posada singled in the top of the seventh but got no farther than first base.

After the seventh-inning stretch, with Quantrill back for his second inning, center fielder Johnny Damon singled. On a hit-and-run, catcher Jason Varitek—batting left-handed—slapped a double right down the line in left field, and Damon scored.

Félix Heredia relieved Quantrill and walked Ortiz. The potential tying and go-ahead runs were on base with none out, and Tom Gordon came in to face Manny Ramírez. A 6-4-3 double play took some steam out of the threat. Gordon hit Garciaparra with a pitch but got Nixon to fly out to left. It was now 7-6, New York.

Curtis Leskanic took over from Timlin for the eighth and got three outs on a fly ball, lineout, and groundout.

Millar led off the bottom of the eighth, facing Gordon. He homered—again to left field, off the Sports Authority billboard atop the Green Monster—on the second pitch, tying the game, 7-7. Schilling was off the hook.

Mueller reached on an error. Mark Bellhorn hit the ball back to Gordon, who threw to second base for the force play. Damon swung at the first pitch and doubled to left-center; Bellhorn stopped at third. But Gordon struck out Varitek on six pitches and Ortiz on seven to preserve the tie.

Keith Foulke came in to pitch the ninth. Jeter flied out, but Sheffield doubled to left field. Álex Rodríguez singled to left and Sheffield scored, giving the visitors an 8-7 edge.3 A-Rod stole second as Foulke was pitching to Tony Clark, who had come in to replace Giambi at first base back in the seventh. Clark struck out. Posada grounded the ball to third base and A-Rod, who had been off on contact, was tagged out.

Mariano Rivera took over, charged with holding the one-run lead. That he did. Ramírez flied out to left. Garciaparra grounded out, third to first. Nixon hit a foul popup for the third out, caught by Posada behind home plate, 3 hours and 25 minutes after the first pitch.4 It was Rivera’s 35th save of the season and the 318th of his career.

Millar’s three-homer game was the most for any Red Sox batter in 2004, but they had produced only three runs and the Yankees had prevailed. It was their fourth win in a row over the Red Sox.5

Schilling took it on himself. “For the most part, I was the only guy who came up short. … For me to trip and fall down in a game like this, it’s inexcusable, it’s incredibly disappointing.”6 He praised his teammates, saying, “We played tenacious and with intensity. If we play every night like that, we’re going to go to the World Series.”7

Joe Torre said, “I think these two clubs play like the seventh game of the World Series all the time.”8

With the win, the Yankees added another game to their division lead at 9½ games. By August 6, it had increased to 10½, and New York still held a 10-game lead as late as August 16.

From August 16 on, Boston rallied with 34 wins in 45 games, coming within two games of the top spot in September, but the Yankees ultimately won the division by three games. The Red Sox earned the wild-card slot, leading to a historic ALCS showdown between the longtime rivals.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted,, and a video of the game at

Photo credit: Trading Card DB.



1 Bill Finley, “Schilling Not So Automatic This Time, Even at Fenway,” New York Times, July 24, 2004: D3. Finley was referring to Schilling’s home-ballpark pitching record and to his holding a 4-1 lead after four innings, which otherwise seem to augur a win.

2 Finley said Millar had been getting booed at Fenway. With the season more than half over, he had only 28 RBIs, after driving in 96 runs the year before.

3 Rodríguez, who had almost signed with the Red Sox in the offseason, said, “’When the game ended, I felt like it was my first official big hit to make me a Yankee. It felt pretty good.” Tyler Kepner, “This Time, Rodriguez Returns to Haunt Boston,” New York Times, July 24, 2004: D1.

4 A night later, the clubs played another one-run thriller—this time won by the Red Sox, 11-10, in 3 hours and 54 minutes. Mueller’s three-run homer in the ninth off Rivera gave Boston the walk-off win.

5 Though Red Sox had won six out of seven games against them back in April, the Yankees had won consecutive games on June 29, June 30, and July 1. Only one Red Sox batter had previously hit three homers in a game against the Yankees: Mo Vaughn on May 30, 1997.

6 Marc Carig, “Pitcher Comes In Loud, Clear,” Boston Globe, July 24, 2004:

7 Mike Fine, “Those Yankees Just Keep on Coming,” Quincy (Massachusetts) Patriot Ledger July 24, 2004: 29, 31.

8 Fine.

Additional Stats

New York Yankees 8
Boston Red Sox 7

Fenway Park
Boston, MA


Box Score + PBP:

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