Yankees pour it on in rain

After waiting out Beckett, delay, Yanks get 5 in 8th, 9th to reward Mussina, 6-1

Williams hits record 19th homer

Ex-Oriole goes strong 7, Rivera finishes off Marlins to give visitors 2-1 lead

World Series

October 22, 2003|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - The fresh-faced Florida Marlins showed last night why they have a very bright future if they keep their young pitching staff together, but the New York Yankees showed again why they are the most successful team of their generation.

The Yankees waited out impressive young right-hander Josh Beckett and emerged with a workmanlike 6-1 victory in Game 3 of the 99th World Series, putting the Marlins in the precarious position of needing to win the remaining two games at Pro Player Stadium to have a reasonable chance of earning their second world title.

Beckett carried a two-hitter into the eighth inning, but Hideki Matsui spoiled his evening with a two-out single that scored Derek Jeter with the go-ahead run in what likely will be remembered as the pivotal game of the best-of-seven Fall Classic.

Former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina, who had come under some criticism in New York after losing his first three postseason starts, delivered a strong seven-inning performance to earn his first World Series victory in three career attempts.

The sellout crowd of 65,731 endured a 39-minute rain delay and sat through the last few innings in a steady drizzle only to be rewarded with a typical late-inning Yankees comeback.

Jeter lined a one-out double down the right-field line to knock Beckett out of the game and Matsui flared a single to left off rookie Dontrelle Willis for the decisive run. Aaron Boone and Bernie Williams hit long home runs in a four-run ninth to create a big cushion for closer Mariano Rivera, but it wasn't necessary.

The ninth-inning rally just cemented Williams' status as the most productive hitter in postseason history. The home run was his 19th in postseason play, breaking the all-time record that he shared briefly with Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson. The three RBIs gave him 65 in the postseason, adding to his own record.

Mussina allowed seven hits and struck out nine to even his career postseason record at 5-5 and achieve a measure of vindication after a very difficult first half of October.

He was painfully aware of his record in this postseason, so there was a lot riding - both individually and collectively - on his performance last night. He was winless in three decisions, the only consolation a strong middle relief appearance in the decisive game of the American League Championship Series. He also was winless in two 2001 starts in the Fall Classic.

"No matter what happened up to that point, it was a new series," he said. "We managed to get through the other two [playoff series]. I made a small contribution to that and now I've made a small contribution in the World Series."

Everyone in the park was aware of what was at stake. The odd-numbered games in a best-of-seven series are all pivotal, but this was one the Marlins needed more than the Yankees.

They had their best pitcher on the mound. They had the Yankees on their home field for the first time. They need to make the most of the three games in South Florida, where they were 53-28 during the regular season.

The smart money says that the Marlins must win two of three at Pro Player to have a reasonable chance of toppling the Yankees dynasty. That's going to be pretty difficult now.

"We've been down 2-1 before," said manager Jack McKeon. "We were down 2-1 to the Cubs and we were down 3-1 to the Cubs, and we were in the same situation. We weren't swinging the bat very well and we were walking too many people. But we came back and we have a chance to do that again."

Beckett has been the point man for the Marlins' rotation throughout the postseason, even though he arrived in the playoffs with just 17 career victories at the major league level.

McKeon stuck him out there for the first game of the Division Series and Beckett engaged San Francisco ace Jason Schmidt in one of the best pitching duels in playoff history, giving up just two hits over seven innings on a night when Schmidt pitched a three-hit shutout.

Beckett also was the starter in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. He delivered a rocky performance on a night when the wind was blowing out at Wrigley Field, but it apparently did not shake his confidence. He came back in a sudden-death situation in Game 5 and pitched a two-hit shutout at Pro Player Stadium to begin what would be a dramatic three-game turnaround.

If that wasn't impressive enough, Beckett also pitched four innings of one-hit relief in the decisive Game 7.

It was against that backdrop that he took the mound last night and retired the first 10 batters he faced. Not bad for a 23-year-old kid who has been on the disabled list four times in the past two years.

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