Rivera stretching out before closing kick

With his role expanded, Yankees' star reliever goes two innings again

ALCS notebook

Baseball Playoffs

October 15, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - The more important the games become in the postseason, the more New York Yankees manager Joe Torre leans on his skinny closer.

Mariano Rivera went two innings again yesterday and allowed his first run since Aug. 20. It came in the eighth with the Yankees leading 4-1, and Rivera finished up for his 29th career save in the playoffs.

While Boston Red Sox manager Grady Little has sorted through his bullpen all season for a late-inning stopper, Torre continues to rely on Rivera while expanding the pitcher's role.

In the American League Division Series, Rivera twice threw two perfect innings to help eliminate the Minnesota Twins. He also retired all six batters he faced in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series.

Rivera has allowed one run and two hits in nine playoff innings, walking none and striking out seven. He has four saves.

"We have a lot of respect for that guy," Little said.

Rivera surrendered a leadoff triple to Todd Walker in the eighth and a grounder to Nomar Garciaparra that ended his scoreless streak at 23 1/3 innings, including 15 regular-season appearances.

"He gave up a run," Torre said. "I hope that's always a surprise."

With a routine ninth, Rivera pushed the Red Sox to the brink of elimination. For someone lacking in muscle, he can give a pretty good shove.

"Mo is a unique individual," said David Wells, who went seven innings yesterday before Rivera took over. "He comes right at you. He's not going to trick you. He throws hard and he's coming up with a pitch every year. I can't wait for him to start throwing the curveball because when he does that, all hell's going to break loose. When the starters do their job, when they go deep into the game and they see Mo, we're all smiles."

Torre: Mussina `team man'

Torre defended Mike Mussina yesterday after the former Oriole took verbal jabs at his teammates after the Game 4 loss, which left him 0-3 this postseason.

Mussina was mostly agitated that second baseman Alfonso Soriano couldn't turn a double play that would have ended the seventh inning. Catcher Jason Varitek beat the throw to first as a run scored.

"I don't bear all the responsibility," Mussina said. "I can only control 60 feet, six inches. The other stuff has to be attended to by other people, not me."

Asked about Mussina's comments, Torre said, "I don't think anybody was in a great mood last night. I know I wasn't.

"Mike is a very honest person. He's going to tell you about his frustrations. He's going to come out and maybe not necessarily sound right sometimes. Mike is as much a team man as anybody is on our ballclub."

Three fines appealed

Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Karim Garcia appealed the fines imposed on them after Game 3 by Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline.

Bob DuPuy, chief operating officer, will hear the appeals at an undetermined date.

Martinez was fined the most, $50,000, after hitting Garcia in the fourth inning and later throwing Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground. Zimmer was fined $5,000.

Garcia, who was fined $10,000, slid hard into second baseman Walker after being hit. Ramirez, fined $25,000, cleared both dugouts and benches after taking exception to a high pitch from Roger Clemens and walking toward the mound.

Free pass for pitchers

Both teams got through yesterday's game without making accusations that an opposing pitcher was cheating.

The Yankees had umpires check Boston reliever Mike Timlin's cap in Game 1. They found nothing but rosin on the bill. In apparent retaliation, Little had Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson searched in Game 4. Nelson had to undo his belt buckle and hand over his glove.

"Maybe the fact that I've had more experience managing, it only took one umpire for me to check somebody," Torre said. "Grady had to get three to say, `Is it all right to check him?' "

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