Wells trips Texas, 2-0 His 8 shutout innings, Yanks' 2-run second bring win in opener

September 30, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees did not wilt under the burden of the great expectations that developed during their record-breaking 114-victory season. Quite the contrary.

They showed the Texas Rangers how they became the winningest team in American League history, scoring a hard-fought 2-0 victory last night in the opening game of their Division Series at Yankee Stadium.

Left-hander David Wells turned in another huge performance, giving up just five hits over eight shutout innings and adding a little more luster to a career year that already included a perfect game, five shutouts and an impressive 18-4 regular-season record.

He was not rewarded with an offensive bonanza, probably because it wasn't necessary. The Yankees -- the near-perfect baseball machine -- simply scrounged up a couple of runs in the second inning and then let the pitching and defense do the rest. They don't have to win big. They just win.

The sellout crowd of 57,362, the second largest to pack Yankee Stadium since it was refurbished in the mid-1970s, watched Wells strike out nine -- a personal postseason high -- and hold the heart of the Rangers' lineup (Rusty Greer, Juan Gonzalez, Will Clark and Ivan Rodriguez) to two singles in 13 at-bats.

"I was pumped up for this game, a house full of crazy fanatics, that's what you want behind you," Wells said.

Texas starter Todd Stottlemyre also turned in a strong performance, giving up just two runs on six hits over eight innings to take the loss.

"Talk about courageous outings," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "This was a classic one-on-one. David was running on fumes in the eighth, but he got the outs that he needed."

The series continues tonight, when left-hander Andy Pettitte attempts to give the Yankees a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series as he faces 20-game winner Rick Helling.

Rangers manager Johnny Oates knew what his club was up against. He said before the game that there would be little margin for error against the runaway American League East champions.

"I think in a short series like this, you're not allowed a lot of mistakes," Oates said. "The key for us is to get off to a good start and pitch well. You don't want to get behind at the start."

It quickly became apparent, however, that Wells wasn't going to let them get ahead.

The former Orioles left-hander walked Mark McLemore to lead off the game, then retired the next 10 batters in order and carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning. Not enough to build any real no-hit suspense, but the sellout crowd had to be wondering.

There has been only one postseason no-hitter -- Don Larsen's perfect game for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series. There was only one no-hitter this year -- Wells' perfect game on May 17 against the Minnesota Twins. Wells and Larsen went to the same high school in San Diego.

Before they could cue up the "Twilight Zone" theme, Texas left fielder Greer lined a ball off the glove of an airborne Derek Jeter with one out in the fourth for the first Rangers' hit of the game.

The Yankees shortstop didn't make the highlight reel play on that occasion, but he made one in the eighth, charging a slow bouncer by Greer and making a perfect throw to first to get an exhausted Wells out of his most challenging inning.

Wells had mixed results against the Rangers during the regular season. He gave up 12 runs in 8 2/3 innings in his first two starts against them, but pitched a five-hit shutout in an Aug. 21 start in Texas. He has gained a reputation for rising to the occasion in the postseason, and last night's performance only added to it, improving his playoff record to 5-0.

"This is crunch time," Wells said. "I thrive on that kind of stuff. When the postseason comes, I want to be the hero or I want to be the goat. I just get hungrier and hungrier. I think when it comes to playoff time, I get focused and I want the ball. I'm a fighter."

Stottlemyre, who was acquired by the Rangers from the St. Louis Cardinals at midseason, struggled in his only regular-season start against the Yankees, and he got off to a rocky start last night.

He hit leadoff batter Chuck Knoblauch with a pitch in the first inning and gave up a one-out double to Paul O'Neill that looked like it would put him at an early disadvantage, but a great relay from Greer to shortstop Royce Clayton to the plate gunned out Knoblauch to save the run.

The Yankees would have to wait until the second inning to get on the scoreboard, scoring twice on a walk, a couple of hits and some sleight-of-foot. Jorge Posada drew the one-out walk and Chad Curtis doubled into the right-field corner before Scott Brosius drove in the first run of the game with a single through the right side.

Stottlemyre settled down to strike out Knoblauch, but Curtis scored when Brosius broke for second on the third strike and kept the Rangers busy with the ensuing rundown until the run crossed the plate.

That would be all of the offensive production for either team. Stottlemyre recovered from the rocky start to hold the Yankees to just three hits over the next six innings, but the Rangers were unable to mount a rescue operation.

"What you saw tonight is what we've seen since he's been with us," Oates said. "You certainly can't fault the job he did tonight."

And Stottlemyre's father Mel, the Yankees' pitching coach, couldn't fault the result either.

"Tonight's game probably ended the best way," Mel Stottlemyre said. "My son pitched well and we won."

AL Division Series

N.Y. Yankees vs. Texas

(New York leads 1-0)

Last night: Game 1

New York 2, Texas 0

Today: Game 2

Texas (Helling 20-7, 4.41) at New York (Pettitte 16-11, 4.24), 8: 07 p.m., chs. 11, 4

Friday: Game 3

New York (Cone 20-7, 3.55) at Texas (Sele 19-11, 4.23), 8: 07

p.m., chs. 11, 4

Saturday: Game 4*

New York (Hernandez 12-4, 3.13) at Texas (Burkett 9-13, 5.68), TBA

Sunday: Game 5*

Texas at New York, TBA

*-If necessary

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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