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 lowering the hammer.

Just as he did in the AL Division Series, Pettitte found a solution in Game 2 last night, overcoming a shaky start to defeat the 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.

Nick Johnson put the Yankees ahead in the second inning with a two-run homer off Derek Lowe, and a single by Bernie Williams in the third increased the margin.

The rest was up to Pettitte, a 21-game winner during the regular season, and the New York bullpen.

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.

From there, Pettitte made only one mistake, 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.

Able to win Game 1 without Varitek and injured center fielder Johnny Damon, Red Sox manager Grady 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. Walker has limited range and committed two errors in the Division Series.

The move paid immediate dividends when Jackson stroked a run-scoring single in the second inning, but it almost backfired in the third when he dropped a line drive that might have resulted in a double play, then bounced a throw past shortstop Nomar Garciaparra while trying to get the force. The Yankees had the bases loaded with out one but couldn't add to their 3-1 lead.

"This is the same thing we've been doing for the last month or so," Little said. "Whenever Derek Lowe is on the mound, we know there's going to be a lot of activity on that infield."

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.

"We're still hopeful that he'll be able to play on Saturday," Little said.

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 manager Joe Torre to fix whatever was wrong with his club. The instructions must have read: Give Pettitte the ball.

A free agent after this season, he 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 ALCS competition, and his 1-0 win over Atlanta's John Smoltz in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series.

"We put him in that situation many times and he's come up big for us," Torre said. "My pitchers, I trust them all for Game 3 or Game 2 or Game 1. But Andy seems to be the one that has to carry a big load."

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.

So much for breaking 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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