Bambino-like Red Sox win opener, 5-2

3 home runs off Mussina stave off The Curse, Yanks

Wakefield takes 2-hitter to 7th

Overruled foul pole call reminds Torre of O's game

League Championship Series

October 09, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Rather than continue to be manipulated by a supposed curse, the kind that can torment a franchise for 85 years and be used to explain away every failure, the Boston Red Sox appear determined to pound it into submission.

They took a few more swings last night, raising some welts and the expectations of their loyal following.

Unwilling to yield to an unfavorable pitching matchup, a weakened lineup and constant reminders of their postseason glitches, the Red Sox hit three home runs off Mike Mussina and seized early control of the American League Championship Series with a 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium.

David Ortiz belted a two-run homer in the fourth, launching a 3-2 fastball into the upper deck to break a scoreless tie and drain some of the energy from a crowd of 56,281. Todd Walker and Manny Ramirez connected in the fifth, and Mussina was gone by the next inning.

Who figured that Tim Wakefield would outlast him, or that the Yankees would manage only two hits, singles by Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui in the second inning, before the Red Sox made their first pitching change in the seventh?

"The formula for the Boston Red Sox is, our offense is so good that if we get a quality start like we did tonight, we're going to be tough to beat," Walker said. "We have the quality pitchers to do it."

Because Pedro Martinez started Game 5 of the Division Series, he won't resurface until Saturday at Fenway Park. That left last night's assignment to Wakefield, whose knuckleball can confound hitters or the person throwing it, depending on where it flutters.

These teams have met only twice in the postseason, and on both occasions the Red Sox's rotation didn't line up how they wanted it. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS, journeyman left-hander Kent Mercker received the start because Martinez wasn't available.

The Yankees were happy to send out Mussina, who held Boston hitters to a .163 average during the regular season and started Game 1 of the Division Series. But Mussina fell to 0-2 in the playoffs, while Wakefield retired 14 in a row before walking Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams on nine pitches to begin the seventh.

"It looked like Mike was very comfortable to me, but he just wasn't throwing strikes," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He got himself in count trouble, and when you get yourself in a situation where you have to throw a strike, they're going to hurt you."

Said Mussina: "I wasn't as sharp as I would have liked. It was a struggle and they got on a couple of pitches."

Left-hander Alan Embree replaced Wakefield with the Red Sox leading 5-0.

Jorge Posada greeted him with a run-scoring double, and Matsui lifted a sacrifice fly.

Excluded from the playoff roster in 1999, Wakefield won his third game at Yankee Stadium this season.

"The most important one is tonight," he said.

Because Wakefield was pitching, the Red Sox started his personal catcher, Doug Mirabelli, rather than Jason Varitek, who had 25 homers this season and two more in the Division Series. The lineup already was missing leadoff hitter Johnny Damon, who suffered a concussion Monday night that is expected to keep him on the bench until the weekend.

Not that any of this generated much pity among the Bronx faithful.

The booing started as the Red Sox ran off the field after batting practice, the hostility reaching them before their feet hit the dugout steps.

Why wait until the first pitch, or even the pre-game introductions? The disdain that's always existed in this rivalry thickened in December after Red Sox president Larry Lucchino referred to the Yankees as the "Evil Empire" because they had the audacity to sign Jose Contreras, ending Boston's courtship of the Cuban pitcher. It became the latest chapter in a storied rivalry that ranks among sports' most intense, and at times comical.

The only Boston player to receive a warm greeting was former closer Byung-Hyun Kim, a favorite in the Bronx after blowing consecutive saves for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series.

Walker might become the latest enemy. He tied Nomar Garciaparra's club record with his fourth homer of the playoffs while also touching off a minor controversy.

Kneeling down while following the flight of the ball, right-field umpire Angel Hernandez signaled that it hooked foul and hit a fan's glove. As Red Sox manager Grady Little raced onto the field to protest, plate umpire Tim McClelland overruled Hernandez and motioned for Walker to round the bases.

Replays showed a male spectator, sitting in foul territory in the upper deck, reaching for the ball in front of the pole.

"We had one of those this year in Baltimore," Torre said. "We had the umpire go down the left-field line and call Aaron Boone's home run foul, and the plate umpire overruled it. I'd like to say it's unfair, but we benefited from it earlier this year."

"When I hit it," Walker said, "it was fair all the way."

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