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Yankees Could Never Get It Started

American League: Wells is the latest New York pitcher to get clobbered by the Angels, and he gives them full credit.

October 06, 2002|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Yankee left-hander David Wells was cornered twice Saturday.

The first time, he was ambushed by the Angels, who rocked him for eight runs and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings in a 9-5 triumph that ended their first victorious postseason series and turned Edison Field into a rolling red sea of jubilant fans.

The second time, his back was to the wall and Wells was facing a pack of reporters, most of them from New York and all speaking in hushed tones in case he lashed out in anger after his team's season ended earlier than any of them had imagined.

But Wells stood tall in a locker room full of slumped shoulders and bowed heads. Speaking calmly and frequently praising the Angels, he succinctly summed up the Yankees' four-game division series elimination at the hands of the underdog Angels.

"They brought out the whupping stick," he said. "There was not much we could do.

"We pitchers just didn't do our job. That's the bottom line. They outpitched us and outplayed us. We didn't expect it, because we all had good vibes coming into this series, but the better team won."

Their vibes might have been good, but their pitches weren't.

As late as Saturday morning, Manager Joe Torre insisted pitching was his team's strength and would carry the Yankees--winners of four of the past six World Series--deep into another championship hunt. But as Wells discovered, to his dismay, he and his teammates were no match for the Angels' patience and resourcefulness.

No Yankee starter lasted longer than the 5 2/3 innings Roger Clemens pitched in New York's series-opening victory at Yankee Stadium. The starters' earned-run average was 10.38 (20 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings). The Yankees' team ERA was 8.21, more than double their 3.87 regular-season ERA.

"I can't see all four of us going out there with nothing," Game 2 starter Andy Pettitte said of his disbelief at the struggles endured by Clemens, himself, Game 3 starter Mike Mussina and Wells.

"We went out there pretty confident and feeling pretty good. As far as our starters, we just didn't get it done. We've gotten it done over the years and gotten to the World Series and mostly, the starters got the credit.... We took leads, they fired right back at us. They beat us in every facet of the game."

On Saturday, the fifth inning proved a turning point for Wells and the point of no return for the Yankees.

The Angels had tied the score, 2-2, on a leadoff home run by Shawn Wooten, and they began to peck away at Wells when singles by Benji Gil and David Eckstein put runners at first and third. Darin Erstad then lofted a popup into the cloudless blue sky, and neither center fielder Bernie Williams nor second baseman Alfonso Soriano could snare it.

"It was one of those in-betweeners," Wells said. "You think they'd be caught, but crazier things have happened."

Gil scored the go-ahead run, and the rout was on, with the Angels sending 13 batters to the plate.

"After that, everything just went to hell," said Wells, who was pulled after run-scoring hits by Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson and Scott Spiezio. "I got hit around a little bit and the next guy got hit, and the next guy.

"I hope they go all the way. I really do. You want the team that beats you to go all the way."

Said Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman: "Pitching is what makes or breaks us, and it wasn't there for us. We ran into a buzz saw of an offense. I think it was a combination of the Angel hitters being good and maybe our pitching not being as good as it normally is."

Normally, ending their season short of a World Series title leads to changes for the Yankees. Wells, asked if he expects owner George Steinbrenner to begin a purge, shook his head.

"I don't know. It's not for me to say," he said. "I had a great time this year, and as far as I'm concerned, I hope everybody would come back."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Getting Clipped

The Yankees' starting pitching let them down in American League division series against Angels:

*--* DIVISION SERIES Pitcher IP H R ER BB SO ERA HR P/I* Roger Clemens 5 2/3 8 4 4 3 5 6.35 3 20 Andy Pettitte 3 8 4 4 0 1 12.00 2 22 Mike Mussina 4 6 4 4 0 2 9.00 1 17 David Wells 4 2/3 10 8 8 0 0 15.43 1 13 Avg. Totals 4 1/3 8 5 5 0.8 2 10.38 1.8 18 REGULAR SEASON Statistics per start unless otherwise noted Pitcher (W-L) IP H R ER BB SO ERA HR P/I* Clemens (13-6) 6 1/3 5.9 3.2 3 2.1 6.6 4.35 0.6 17 Pettitte (13-5) 6 1/3 6.5 2.6 2.2 1.5 4.4 3.27 0.3 17 Mussina (18-10) 6 2/3 6.3 3.1 2.9 1.5 5.5 4.05 0.8 16 Wells (19-7) 6 2/3 6.8 3.1 2.8 1.5 4.4 3.75 0.7 15 Avg. Totals 6 1/3 6.4 3.0 2.7 1.7 5.2 3.95 0.6 17 * pitches per inning (rounded to whole number)

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