Yanks hold off Sox, 10-7

Boston storms back, comes up short after Mussina's perfect 6 1/3


NEW YORK - Mike Mussina came eight outs from tossing a perfect game. Curt Schilling made a stunning exit after the worst postseason start of his career.

And after looking listless and hopeless for most of the game, the Boston Red Sox made a stirring comeback, forcing the New York Yankees to use Mariano Rivera, who didn't arrive at Yankee Stadium until 33 minutes after the game began.

Come on. Who expected anything less from Game 1 of the American League Champion ship Series last night? The Yankees saw an eight-run lead shrink to one in the eighth inning but held on for a 10-7 victory, with Rivera getting the final four outs on the same day he attended the funerals of two relatives in Panama.

Despite the loss, Boston saved a little face in what figures to be an entertaining rematch of last year's ALCS, which New York won in seven equally dramatic games.

This time, the Yankees built a 2-0 first-inning lead against Schilling. By the third inning, New York led 6-0 and Yankee Stadium was literally shaking, as a crowd of 56,135 chanted, "Who's your daddy?'

That's a reference to Pedro Martinez, who will take the mound for Boston opposite New York's Jon Lieber in Game 2 tonight. Martinez called the Yankees "my daddy' after giving up 14 runs against them in two September losses.

Now the Red Sox will look to Martinez to continue what they started from the seventh inning forward last night.

The Yankees, who got five RBIs from Hideki Matsui, matching an ALCS record, had complete control of Game 1 until the seventh inning. Schilling, who seemed to be experiencing big problems with his injured right ankle, came out after giving up six runs on six hits in three innings.

New York led 8-0 when Mussina allowed his first base runer. Using a brilliant knuckle- curve ball, he retired the first 19 batters he faced until Mark Bellhorn ripped a double into the left-center-field gap with one out in the seventh inning.

Mussina, a former Oriole who is no stranger to close chances like this, winced once the ball left Bellhorn's bat.

On Sept. 2, 2001, Mussina was one out from a perfect game against Boston, when Carl Everett singled up the middle, spoiling the chance.

Before that, Mussina had two close chances with the Orioles, retiring the first 25 Cleveland Indians on May 30, 1997, before Sandy Alomar got a hit, and retiring the first 23 Detroit Tigers on Aug. 4, 1998, before Frank Catalanotto got a hit.

This time, the Red Sox didn't let up once they saw Mussina flinch. Kevin Millar hit a two-run double, and Trot Nixon hit an RBI single, prompting Yankees manager Joe Torre to go to his bullpen with an 8-3 lead.

Tanyon Sturtze came on with two outs in the seventh, and immediately surrendered a two- run homer to Jason Varitek, bringing the crowd to a hush.

Rivera arrived at the stadium in the second inning after taking a five-hour flight from Panama on a private plane provided by the Yankees. As is his custom, Rivera remained in the clubhouse until the fifth inning, and he was standing and watching the action from the bullpen when Varitek hit his home run.

Tom Gordon, the Yankees" eighth-inning specialist, went to the mound to protect a three- run lead. But the Red Sox put two runners aboard, and with the left-handed-hitting David Ortiz coming to the plate, Torre stuck with Gordon instead of turning to Rivera, who has been so tough on left-handers throughout his career.

Ortiz launched a ball to left- center field, and Matsui tried to make a leaping catch against the wall, with the ball falling to the ground for a two-run triple.

All of a sudden, it was 8-7.

Torre hopped from the dugout and summoned Rivera, who entered to his customary tune, Mettallica's "Enter Sandman."

After throwing his first two pitches for balls, Rivera got Millar to swing and miss at a strike before hitting a lazy pop up to shortstop. The crowd heaved a huge sigh of relief, and Bernie Williams delivered a huge, two-run double in the Yankees" eighth, extending the lead back to three.

By the first inning last night, it was clear Schilling was not at his best. He tweaked his ankle last month in a start against the Orioles, and the big question coming into the game was how he would respond to a painkilling shot.

The Red Sox's medical staff tried to treat the injury with a numbing agent, similar to the one a patient receives at the dentist's office. Schilling even did a dry-run on Sunday, getting the same shot, and testing the ankle in a bullpen session that went very well, he said.

This time, there were problems from the beginning. Derek Jeter led off the first with a fly out to deep right field. Schilling ran the count full against the second hitter, Alex Rodriguez, and then he reached down to tie the shoe.

Rodriguez flied to right field, but the Yankees quickly mounted a two-out, two-run rally. With a 3-1 count to Gary Sheffield, Schilling came with a breaking pitch, and Sheffield wasn't fooled. He reached over the plate and lined the ball to left field, a stand-up double.

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