Sunshine boys

Beckett does the rest, blanking Yankees, 2-0, as Florida takes its place in sun

Ace, 23, goes the route in 5-hitter

McKeon's gamble pays off, giving ball to ace, who goes route in five-hitter

World Series

October 26, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Josh Beckett made a genius out of 72-year-old manager Jack McKeon last night, and the Florida Marlins celebrated their second world championship in their 11-year existence.

The New York Yankees, looking as broken down and beaten as they have in ages, tried to summon their fabled ghosts, but apparently mystique and aura went on vacation after that riveting American League Championship Series victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career, Beckett tossed a five-hitter, while his teammates grabbed a fifth-inning lead against Andy Pettitte and never let go, claiming the sixth and deciding game of the World Series, 2-0, before 55,773 at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees hadn't seen a visiting team celebrate a world championship on their home turf since the Los Angeles Dodgers did it in 1981, and this was quite a sight.

Beckett tagged Yankees catcher Jorge Posada along the first base line on a squibber for the final out, and Florida's bench emptied, with the black-shirted players mobbing each other in the infield.

"He was ridiculous," Marlins left fielder Jeff Conine said of Beckett. "He was coming in on three days' rest and the question was if he should or if he shouldn't and then he went out and pitched the game of his life."

The Yankees walked sheepishly from their dugout to the clubhouse, and their fans stood in stunned silence while Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" blared over the stadium loudspeakers.

New Yorkers have seen this team reach the World Series six times in the past eight years, but the Yankees haven't won it since 2000. And on this night, the core group of players this team has counted on for so long - Pettitte, Posada, Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams - didn't get the job done.

"Joe Torre and those guys have done a tremendous job," McKeon said. "They scared the hell out of us. There's no question about it."

With a 3-2 lead in the series heading into the game, McKeon was prepared to draw plenty of criticism for starting Beckett, 23, if the Marlins had lost.

"If it's good, I am going to be a genius," he said. "If it doesn't work out, they will want my head."

If South Florida wants McKeon's head now, it's to build a statue.

This will go down as one of the bigger upsets in World Series history, but truth be told, the Marlins have played better than any other team in baseball since May, when McKeon replaced Jeff Torborg as manager.

After claiming the National League wild card, the Marlins upended the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and finally the Yankees to climb baseball's summit for the first time since 1997.

"We stuck it out," Beckett said. "Nobody thought we could beat San Francisco. Nobody thought we could beat the Cubs. Nobody thought we could beat the Yankees. and yet here we are."

Pettitte made it through the first three innings fairly painlessly. Mike Lowell hit a one-out double in the second inning, but Pettitte struck out Derrek Lee and Juan Encarnacion, ending that threat. Ivan Rodriguez pushed Yankees right fielder Karim Garcia to the outfield wall for the final out in the third.

Starting on short rest, Beckett didn't seem to have any trouble in the early going. His fastball was consistently hitting 95 mph on the radar gun. The Yankees put two runners on in the third inning, and the sellout crowd came to its feet, but Williams grounded into a double play, stopping that threat.

McKeon put himself on the line making the decision to start Beckett. History was not on his side. In the past five postseasons, starting pitchers were 5-17 with a 6.30 ERA when pitching with three days' rest.

"You'll believe me now that anything can happen," McKeon said. "This guy has the guts of a burglar."

It was still scoreless going into the fifth inning, when the Marlins mounted a two-out rally and took a 1-0 lead. Alex Gonzalez and Juan Pierre singled, and then Luis Castillo, who entered the at-bat hitting .130 for the postseason, lined a single to right field.

Garcia has a strong arm, but Marlins third base coach Ozzie Guillen remained aggressive, and sent Gonzalez home. The throw pulled Posada to the first base side of the plate, and Gonzalez made a spectacular hook slide, keeping wide enough to avoid Posada's sweeping tag and then reaching back with the fingertips of his right hand to touch the plate.

Backing up the play, Pettitte pumped his fist, thinking Gonzalez was out, but home-plate umpire Tim Welke called safe.

The Marlins only scored the one run in the inning, but Pettitte needed 35 pitches to get through it, including four on an intentional walk to Rodriguez, and by the next inning, Jeff Nelson was warming up in the Yankees' bullpen.

It wasn't panic time for New York. The Yankees still had 15 outs remaining, but they lost a little of the wind in their sails the next inning. A sacrifice bunt by Aaron Boone moved Garcia to second base, but Alfonso Soriano popped out to third base for the second out, and then Beckett struck out Jeter.

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