Pettitte gives Yanks shot in arm, 6-2 win

Starter's Game 2 victory gets series even at 1-1

Red Sox miss shot to take charge

Yanks' Johnson hits HR

Rivera closes door in 9th

League Championship Series

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

NEW YORK - Rather than wear the standard belt with his pinstriped uniform, Andy Pettitte should have stood atop the Yankee Stadium mound last night with an assortment of tools hanging from both sides. Maybe he could have exchanged his cap for a hard hat. Getting the scaffolding up would have been the tricky part.

His team needed fixing again, and even if he didn't bring his best equipment, he still had a job to do. Only an entire team was counting on him.

The New York Yankees were trying to make a quick recovery from Wednesday's Game 1 loss in the American League Championship Series. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez is set to face them this weekend in Boston. Talk about dropping the hammer.

Just as he did in the AL Division Series, Pettitte found a solution in Game 2 last night, overcoming a shaky start and getting a go-ahead, two-run homer from Nick Johnson to defeat the Boston Red Sox, 6-2, before 56,295.

The teams are even again as they head north. Game 3 is tomorrow at Fenway Park, where Roger Clemens makes his final appearance. Start spreading the drama.

Johnson put the Yankees ahead in the second with his blast off Derek Lowe, ending a 1-for-33 slump that included 16 hitless at-bats to close the regular season.

A single by Bernie Williams in the third increased the margin. Jorge Posada added a two-run double off reliever Scott Sauerbeck in the seventh after Boston had reduced the lead to 4-2.

"I work hard every day on my swing," said Johnson, who received some advice from Reggie Jackson about shortening his stance. "When game time comes, just let it fly and see what happens."

The Red Sox had six hits and a walk off Pettitte through two innings, but two double plays kept Boston's lead at 1-0. Seven of the first nine batters reached base. He already had thrown 39 pitches before coming out for the third.

"He was really wound up," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Pettitte made only one mistake after the second inning, which Jason Varitek turned into a bases-empty homer in the sixth.

Pettitte allowed three hits after the second and retired 16 of the last 20 batters before Jose Contreras entered with two outs in the seventh.

Contreras went 1 1/3 innings and didn't allow a hit. Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth to close the door on Boston.

"We didn't capitalize on our opportunity," Red Sox manager Grady Little said, "and [Pettitte] got into a rhythm thereafter, and the rest is history."

Working on extra rest, Pettitte, a 21-game winner in the regular season, had trouble locating his fastball.

"Tonight it was really tough for me to get back into my usual form," he said. "It was really a struggle for me all night. I was hoping after the first inning that I'd relax a little bit and not overthrow, but it was a battle."

Able to win Game 1 without Varitek and injured center fielder Johnny Damon, Little tried his luck again last night by benching second baseman Todd Walker, who has four homers in the postseason.

Little sought a defensive upgrade in Damian Jackson, who figured to stay busy with Lowe relying so heavily on his sinker. The move paid immediate dividends when Jackson stroked a run-scoring single in the second inning. He committed an error in the third that didn't result in a run.

The Red Sox should gain an advantage this weekend with Damon's expected return. He took part in pre-game stretching and batting practice, three days after suffering a Grade 2 concussion during a head-on collision with Jackson in the Division Series against the Oakland Athletics.

"He felt much, much better," Little said. "He'll work out tomorrow, and we'll make that decision."

The Red Sox could have used him last night. Perhaps an extra base runner here or there might have made the difference.

After the Minnesota Twins defeated the Yankees in Game 1 of the Division Series, owner George Steinbrenner challenged Torre to fix whatever was wrong with his club. The instructions must have read: Give Pettitte the ball.

A free agent after this season, Pettitte held the Twins to one run over seven innings and struck out 10 to change the momentum of the series.

The Yankees didn't lose again until Wednesday night, when knuckleballer Tim Wakefield keyed a 5-2 victory.

"Andy Pettitte fixed it," Torre said. "Nobody else fixed it."

He's used to getting his hands dirty. Pettitte has made 11 career Game 2 starts among his 27 postseason assignments. His 12 playoff wins tied him with Tom Glavine for second place on the all-time list. Delivering in the clutch has become routine, as evidenced by his 6-1 record in the ALCS.

"Andy seems to be the one that has to carry a big load for us," Torre said.

It got a lot heavier in the first inning, when the Red Sox collected three hits and a walk but didn't score. Gabe Kapler was thrown out trying to steal after Bill Mueller struck out, but the next three batters reached to load the bases. On his 22nd pitch, Pettitte got Kevin Millar to pop out.

Boston opened the second with a double by Varitek, who poked a two-strike pitch down the right-field line, and consecutive singles by Trot Nixon and Jackson. Kapler grounded to Derek Jeter, who stepped on second to begin a double play, and Mueller bounced out.

"I felt good to get out of that inning just giving up one run," said Pettitte, who expected Kapler to bunt.

"I knew I threw so many pitches through the first two innings. I was just trying to figure out how I was going to last."

The Red Sox lost a chance to break open the game, and the spirits of a Yankees team feeling the pressure to win or face the very real prospect of falling behind 3-0 in the series.

A two-out single by Hideki Matsui in the fifth gave New York a 4-1 lead.

ALCS by the numbers

1 Nick Johnson's hits in last 33 ABs before his HR.

12 Postseason victories by Andy Pettitte.

6 Red Sox hits in first 2 innings; result: 1 run.

1918 Chant by Yankees fans in ninth inning.

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