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Fluttery Gets Them Anywhere

Just as in his strong Game 1 outing at New York, Wakefield's knuckleball again baffles the Yankees in a 3-2 Red Sox win at Fenway that evens series.

October 14, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — The New York Yankees might not have seen the last of Tim Wakefield in this series. His dancing, darting knuckleball might spook them yet again before the week is out.

Pedro Martinez, the Boston ace, has lost. Derek Lowe, last year's 21-game winner, has lost. But Wakefield has won twice, accounting for both Boston victories in an American League championship series now tied at two games apiece.

With Wakefield stopping the Yankees on one run through seven innings and Todd Walker and Trot Nixon backing him with home runs, the Red Sox won, 3-2, Monday and turned the series into a best-of-three. After the chaos of Game 3, calm prevailed in Game 4, aside from an amusing interlude involving Yankee reliever Jeff Nelson.

Lowe starts Game 5 tonight. Martinez is scheduled for Game 7, if necessary. So, since the knuckleball lightly taxes the arm, why not Wakefield in Game 6, on one day's rest? Wakefield said he had never started on one day's rest but would be willing to try.

"Let's see how I feel in the morning," he said. "Right now I can say yes, but my adrenaline is rolling right now."

Dave Wallace, Boston's interim pitching coach, noted that Wakefield had been used as a starter and reliever in the first round of the playoffs and could be used in relief for the rest of this series. He indicated a Game 6 start, in place of John Burkett, would be a longshot for Wakefield.

"I don't think we're ruling anything out," Wallace said. "But he's 37 years old, he gets fatigued and he's pitched a lot of innings. It would be a real stretch. Maybe, like in the Oakland series, he could come in for an inning or two."

Nelson, under investigation that could result in charges of assault and battery stemming from Saturday's fight with a Red Sox grounds crew member in the Yankee bullpen, warmed up during the eighth inning as a raucous sellout crowd chanted, "We Want Nelson!" The Yankees summoned Nelson, to thunderous boos.

After his first pitch, Boston Manager Grady Little asked umpires to check Nelson's glove and belt buckle for illegal substances. They did and found nothing, and Nelson wrote off the episode as retaliation for a similar inspection the Yankees requested of Boston reliever Mike Timlin in Game 1. Nelson, a 12-year veteran, said he had never previously been checked by umpires.

"I've never cheated, and I'm glad," he said. "It would be a rough few days to be called an attacker and a cheater at the same time, two things I've never done."

The bullpen reliability that escaped the Red Sox for most of the regular season has emerged in the playoffs. Timlin, now the setup man, worked the eighth inning and has retired 27 consecutive batters, dating to the regular season. Scott Williamson, who became the closer by default last week, gave up a home run to Ruben Sierra in the ninth inning but still struck out the side for the save.

While the Red Sox used Wakefield in Game 1 only because Martinez and Lowe were unavailable, the Yankees had their preferred starter ready. But Mike Mussina has lost to Wakefield twice -- and has given up five home runs in 14 innings.

Walker, in an unexpected power surge reminiscent of fellow second baseman Adam Kennedy of the Angels in last year's playoffs, has five home runs in 28 postseason at-bats. In the second half of the regular season, he hit five home runs in 211 at-bats.

"I can't explain it," Walker said, "except I'm more focused right now than I've ever been in my life."

Good timing, to be sure, with the production from the superstars on both teams anything but a sure thing. The Yankees' No. 3 hitter, Jason Giambi, is hitting .154 in the series. The Red Sox's No. 3 hitter, Nomar Garciaparra, is hitting .118. Neither has an extra-base hit.

But Walker is hitting .500, with as many hits as Garciaparra, designated hitter David Ortiz and AL batting champion Bill Mueller combined.

"That's what the postseason is about," Boston's Kevin Millar said. "Scott Spiezio hit a three-run home run last year. Teams don't want the big boys to beat you, so the guys who aren't the big-name guys have to step up."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Postseason Power

Boston's Todd Walker hit his fifth playoff home run Monday in a 3-2 win over the the Yankees. Most home runs in a single postseason:

*--* No. Player, team Year 8 Barry Bonds, San Francisco 2002 7 Troy Glaus, Angels 2002 6 Rich Aurilia, San Francisco 2002 6 Jim Thome, Cleveland 1998 6 Bernie Williams, N.Y. Yankees 1996 6 Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle 1995 6 Len Dykstra, Philadelphia 1993 6 Bob Robertson, Pittsburgh 1971 5 TODD WALKER, BOSTON 2003 5 Juan Gonzalez, Texas 1996 5 Fred McGriff, Atlanta 1996 5 Willie Stargell, Pittsburgh 1979 5 Davey Lopes, Dodgers 1978 5 Reggie Jackson, N.Y. Yankees 1977

*--*

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