Boston 'pen suddenly writes happy endings

Red Sox relievers didn't surrender any runs in final 3 Div. Series games

ALCS notebook

Baseball Playoffs

October 10, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Former Orioles closer Mike Timlin is part of a Boston Red Sox bullpen that spent most of the regular season catching heat for its repeated failures.

The New York Yankees wear pinstripes. The Red Sox should have tan lines.

But Timlin is leading a resurgence that goes a long way toward explaining how the Red Sox advanced to the American League Championship Series and won Game 1 in the Bronx.

Boston relievers didn't allow any runs in the last three games of the AL Division Series, enabling the Red Sox to rally from a 2-0 deficit to eliminate the Oakland Athletics. They tossed three shutout innings Wednesday night, though two inherited runners scored off Alan Embree.

With a perfect eighth, Timlin has retired all 16 batters he's faced in the postseason.

He's been so good, Joe Torre became suspicious. The Yankees' manager requested that plate umpire Tim McClelland check Timlin's cap Wednesday to make sure he wasn't hiding a foreign substance.

"It was just rosin," Timlin said. "I have no idea what Joe wanted. If he'd been closer to me, I'd have asked him."

Suddenly, it appears that nothing can rattle the Boston bullpen.

"We're just confident in what we're doing," Timlin said.

The Red Sox went with a closer-by-committee at the beginning of the season and didn't get the desired results. They traded for Byung-Hung Kim, who was kept off the ALCS roster because of a tender shoulder and a poor history against the Yankees.

"This has taught me that when I go through a winter and go into spring training, I want to have a closer," Boston manager Grady Little said. "We tried the system early in the season and it wasn't successful for us. When we placed Kim in the bullpen in June, our season started clicking along a little better.

"I think ideally you need to have a closer."

Lineup change

The Yankees' lineup is expected to change again for Game 3 in Boston, with Enrique Wilson replacing Aaron Boone at third base or Nick Johnson as the designated hitter.

Wilson, a backup infielder, is 10-for-20 lifetime against Pedro Martinez, and Torre will take any advantage he can get against the three-time Cy Young Award winner.

Former Oriole Karim Garcia made his first postseason start last night, replacing Juan Rivera in right field. That was the only change after the Yankees were held to three hits Wednesday, two coming off Tim Wakefield in six-plus innings.

"I'm not going to overreact to Tim Wakefield," Torre said.

Ramirez flexes muscle

Bronx native Manny Ramirez continues to climb the postseason home run chart. Hopefully, he does it quicker than his trips around the bases.

Ramirez, who gave Boston a 4-0 lead in Game 1 by clearing the right-field fence in the fifth inning, is tied with Babe Ruth for the fifth-most homers in playoff history with 15.

Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle are tied for first with 18, followed by Jim Thome and Bernie Williams with 17.

Ramirez showboated again after homering off Mussina. He irritated the Athletics by walking to first and pointing into his dugout after hitting a tiebreaking, three-run homer off Barry Zito.

Derek Lowe drew the A's ire with his gyrations after getting the final out, and Kim made an obscene gesture to the Fenway Park fans who booed him during introductions.

"We've gotten ourselves in a position where we are playing good baseball, we are entertaining a lot of people," Little said. "I know that we might not run a ship in Boston that's perfectly acceptable to every baseball fan in the country, but it's acceptable to me right now. It's acceptable to my players, and we're being successful."

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