Again, Pettitte puts Yankees back on track

6-1 victory ties series

left-hander equals mark with 13th postseason win

Matsui hits 3-run homer in first

World Series

October 20, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - When morning broke over the Bronx yesterday, the locals were on edge about their baseball team again.

The New York Yankees' triumph over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series was a distant memory. The tabloids were ripping ALCS hero Aaron Boone, and this team called the Florida Marlins was in town, threatening to take a commanding edge in the World Series.

Enter Andy Pettitte, the Yankees' equalizer.

Showing the same cold-hearted determination he used to win Game 2 in the first two rounds of the postseason, Pettitte came one out from pitching a shutout, and New York cruised to a 6-1 victory before 55,750 at Yankee Stadium.

So the World Series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 tomorrow night in Miami.

Hideki Matsui gave the Yankees their first lead of the Series with a three-run homer off Florida's Mark Redman in the first inning, and Pettitte matched the Atlanta Braves' John Smoltz for the all-time postseason victory lead, with 13.

"Somebody asked me if it amazes me or surprises me," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Pettitte's postseason prowess. "I guess I'd have to say no."

Pettitte allowed six hits in 8 2/3 innings, with seven strikeouts and one walk. With the crowd on its feet chanting, "An-dy Pett-itte!" the Marlins broke up his bid for his first career postseason shutout with an unearned run in the ninth.

Torre called on Jose Contreras for the final out, and Pettitte tipped his cap before heading to the dugout.

"I've seen [Pettitte] grow," Torre said. "I watched him pitch Game 1 of the World Series in '96 and get blown out of the tub [by Atlanta, 12-1]. He got beat up pretty badly.

"We chatted after that outing. He felt he had to do something because it was the World Series. He felt he had to change things. He learned on his own. He deals with the stress and pressure pretty well."

If the Marlins should let this Series slip away, the most way most prognosticators believed they would from the beginning, they will probably look back at the early events in Game 2 as the turning point.

A Florida victory last night could have been devastating for Steinbrenner Nation. The Marlins have Josh Beckett waiting for Game 3, and his last start was a two-hit shutout over the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

The Yankees had been in that position before. In the Division Series, they lost Game 1 against the Minnesota Twins, and Pettitte won Game 2, striking out 10 and allowing four hits in seven innings.

In the ALCS, the Yankees lost Game 1 and knew they would be facing Pedro Martinez in Game 3, but Pettitte stuffed the Red Sox in Game 2, allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings.

"All it's been doing is adding a little more gray hair to my head," Pettitte said, "going into Game 2 and being down one."

This time, pitching on three days' rest, Pettitte had a tough first inning, but the Marlins gave him a big break. With one out, Pettitte was already sitting on 20 pitches, but Ivan Rodriguez took his 21st pitch for a called third strike, and catcher Jorge Posada threw out Luis Castillo trying to steal second base for an inning-ending double play.

Once Matsui gave Pettitte the lead, everything seemed to fall into place.

Pettitte needed just five pitches to get through the second inning and then struck out the side in the third - Jeff Conine, Juan Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez - on 12 pitches.

"When [Matsui] hits the home run, I'm able to really start concentrating a little bit with some [fastballs] in the zone," Pettitte said. "I found out that I had a pretty good fastball. For being on three days' rest, I was just really thankful I felt as strong as I did."

For Redman, it was a struggle from the start. He walked Yankees leadoff man Alfonso Soriano on five pitches to open the first. But Derek Jeter struck out, and Redman caught Soriano trying to steal with a pickoff throw to first.

So there were two outs, and Redman could have gotten out of the inning unscathed. But he hit Jason Giambi with his next pitch, keeping the threat going.

Soriano and Giambi both entered the game batting .222 for the postseason, and Redman gave both of them a free ticket to first base.

For Florida, those were ominous signs.

Bernie Williams singled Giambi to third, and then Redman fell behind in the count to Matsui, 3-0. Torre gave Matsui the green light, and, boy, are the Yankees glad he did.

Matsui, who went 3-for-4 in Game 1, got a fastball over the plate and lined the ball over the center-field wall for a 3-0 lead.

"He's a pretty good player," Marlins manager Jack McKeon told reporters. "You get the count 3-0 and lay a fastball down the middle, I think you could be a pretty good hitter, too."

It was Matsui's first career World Series home run, and when the crowd remained on its feet, he took a curtain call.

The Yankees made it 4-0 in the second inning on Juan Rivera's run-scoring double. When two more batters reached in the third inning, McKeon had seen about enough. He pulled Redman and summoned discarded Orioles pitcher Rick Helling.

Helling pitched out of the jam, but in the fourth, Soriano connected for his first home run of the postseason, in 56 at-bats, and the two-run shot gave the Yankees a 6-0 lead.

"It was," Pettitte said, "a very special night."

Postseason wins

Pitchers with the most postseason victories, including their overall record and a breakdown of their Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series wins.

Pitcher...Rec. ...DS...CS...WS

J. Smoltz...13-4...5-0...6-2...2-2

A. Pettitte...13-7...4-3...6-1...3-3

T. Glavine...12-15...3-3...5-9... 4-3

G. Maddux...11-14...5-3... 4-8...2-3

D. Wells...10-3...5-1...4-1...1-1

D. Stewart...10-6...0-2...8-0...2-4

W. Ford...10-8...10-8

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