Wakefield, Red Sox tie up Yanks, 3-2

Knuckleballer floats by N.Y., out-duels Mussina to even series in Game 4

Peace is restored at Fenway

Mussina gives up 2 HRs, has yielded 5 in series

League Championship Series

October 14, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - The moment of truth, or perhaps it was a truce, came late in the afternoon while the Boston Red Sox began to vacate the field so their opponent could take batting practice. Players on both teams got close enough to land punches. Elderly coaches were placed in harm's way again.

The seconds seemed to pass like hours, but everyone made nice. The Red Sox walked undisturbed into their clubhouse. Manny Ramirez didn't charge the mound, Pedro Martinez didn't drill anyone in the back.

Keeping with their usual routine, the New York Yankees separated for pre-game running and infield drills. Their only swings came inside the cage.

It wasn't until much later that another truth became apparent: The American League Championship Series won't end in Boston.

Tim Wakefield continued his postseason mastery of the Yankees last night, and the Red Sox hit two more home runs off Mike Mussina to take a 3-2 victory in Game 4 at sold-out Fenway Park.

Both teams have won twice in the series, which concludes its New England run today before shifting to the Bronx tomorrow.

Todd Walker drove a 2-2 pitch from Mussina into the right-field seats in the fourth inning to break a scoreless tie. He became the first Boston player with five homers in a single postseason.

"I'm more focused now than I've ever been in my life," Walker said, "because you're battling every at-bat, and more specifically, every pitch."

Trot Nixon homered in the fifth to give Boston a 2-1 lead, and Wakefield kept the Yankees stymied with his knuckler. The harder they swung, the worse they missed.

"He has come through very big for us in the two games he's started, and it couldn't happen to a better fellow," manager Grady Little said. "We're just glad he's on our side right now."

Though they'd never admit it, the Red Sox figured they caught a break with Sunday's rainout. They could skip John Burkett and bring back a pitcher who won Game 1 with the usual slop.

"It was moving quite a bit in New York," Wakefield said of his knuckleball, which has limited the Yankees to three runs in 13 ALCS innings. "But it didn't have as much depth."

Asked about his availability, Wakefield said, "Right now I feel great, but I may be running on adrenaline. I always have my spikes on so we'll see how I feel tomorrow."

The only run off Wakefield came in the fifth when Derek Jeter's sharp grounder deflected off third base and rolled into left field for a double that scored David Dellucci. Wakefield was removed after walking Jason Giambi to begin the eighth.

"I have a great deal of respect for him," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "You can start him and relieve him and he's pretty durable. He's a class act."

Pinch hitter Ruben Sierra homered off Scott Williamson in the ninth, but the Red Sox closer struck out Dellucci and Alfonso Soriano to end it.

"It was probably one of the most exciting games I've been a part of my whole career," said Wakefield, an 11-year veteran who's 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA lifetime in four LCS starts.

The sun shined for most of the day, a sharp contrast to the rains that fell Sunday and gave players more time to get settled after Game 3 spun out of control.

Security was increased inside and surrounding the ballpark after both benches and dugouts emptied Saturday during a fourth-inning melee that brought fines to three players and Yankees 72-year-old bench coach Don Zimmer.

The FBI and National Guard patrolled Fenway Park last night. Police were visible on motorcycles and horseback.

Both teams apparently took the hint.

Reliever Felix Heredia hit Walker in the eighth, but nothing came of it. Jeff Nelson was booed after replacing Heredia - a reminder of his scuffle with a Fenway groundskeeper in Game 3. The Red Sox had umpires check his uniform and glove for foreign substances, but the Catonsville native got in the last word, a civil one, by inducing a double play from Nomar Garciaparra.

Mussina appeared to have his good stuff early, but his winless streak in the postseason grew to six starts. He hasn't won since the 2001 ALCS in Seattle.

Torre made a pitching change with two outs in the seventh after pinch hitter Jason Varitek beat the relay on a potential double-play grounder to score Kevin Millar.

"By rushing in from the bullpen," Little said, "I think he got his legs loose enough to do just that."

Mussina allowed six hits and struck out 10, but the homers pushed his series total to five.

"When you're a good pitcher and you throw a lot of strikes, you're going to give up a lot of home runs," Torre said. "You go after people."

The first two batters reached against Wakefield before Giambi lined into a double play. Bernie Williams walked, but Jorge Posada struck out looking. Wakefield already was hanging on by the same grip he uses to throw his signature pitch.

"Sometimes," he said, "it's better to have luck on your side than talent."

He escaped another jam in the third after Dellucci took a knuckleball off his right elbow, making no effort to avoid it. Dellucci stole second and moved to third on a passed ball with two outs.

With the Red Sox's infield shifted to the right side, Giambi flied to left field.

Giambi is hitting .154 with no RBIs in the series. Given a chance to break a 1-1 tie in the fifth, he came within a few feet of a three-run homer, then flied to shallow center field. Tagging at third base, Soriano couldn't test Johnny Damon's weak arm.

ALCS by the numbers

5 Home runs this postseason for Todd Walker.

0-3 Mike Mussina's record this postseason.

.067 Alfonso Soriano's batting average this series.

4-0 Tim Wakefield's career record in LCS.

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