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Game Juan to Florida

Leadoff man Pierre applies pressure from the first at-bat and the Marlins, with no extra-base hits, fluster the Yankees on the bases for a 3-2 victory.

October 19, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The New York Yankees do not scare easily. They are not strangers to October.

But all the scouting reports in the world cannot fully prepare a team for the chaos presented by the Florida Marlins. By the end of Game 1 of the World Series, Juan Pierre had so spooked the Yankees that their second baseman scooted forward to defend against a possible bunt.

"I felt I was in their heads a little bit," Pierre said.

The Marlins won Game 1 on Saturday, 3-2, behind an offense that included a bunt single, a sacrifice bunt and no extra-base hits. Pierre, who stole 65 bases during the regular season, reached base four times as the leadoff hitter -- on a line drive, bunt single, walk and hit by pitch. He stole a base, scored a run and drove in two.

"We don't have that boom-boom, bam-bam team," Florida coach Ozzie Guillen said. "We've got to create runs."

The Dodgers used to win the World Series this way, four decades ago, behind Maury Wills and Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. The St. Louis Cardinals did it too, behind Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.

In that era, men were men and starters went the distance. The Marlins used a throwback offense but needed three pitchers, and the Yankees got the potential tying and winning runs on base in the eighth and ninth innings before Ugueth Urbina recorded a very shaky save.

The Yankees were not devastated in defeat. They lost the first game of the division series at home to Minnesota and the first game of the league championship series at home to Boston but rallied to win each series.

Andy Pettitte, who starts Game 2 tonight for the Yankees, won Game 2 against the Twins and Red Sox.

The Yankees are fortunate to have him, because his renowned pickoff move stops most American League teams from running against him. But no AL team runs this well or this often. The Marlins will put out a caution light tonight, but not a stop sign.

Said Florida pitcher Chad Fox: "They're not used to the kind of game we played tonight."

The first pitch of the World Series was a strike, with cameras flashing from every direction. The second pitch was bunted by Pierre, a single to the left of pitcher David Wells. The lumbering Wells had no chance to field the ball.

With first baseman Nick Johnson holding Pierre, Luis Castillo blooped a single over the head of Johnson and into shallow right field, a likely pop fly with the first baseman at normal depth.

But Pierre took third on the hit and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ivan Rodriguez, and so the Marlins led 1-0, thanks to a bunt single, bloop single and fly ball.

"We get a guy on base, and next thing you know someone bloops one and we've got everybody running," Fox said.

After Derek Jeter singled home the tying run in the third inning, the Marlins scored the two runs that stood up for victory in the fifth, again without crushing a ball. Jeff Conine walked, Juan Encarnacion singled and Alex Gonzalez bunted the runners over.

The Yankees played their infield in, less a lack of faith in their offense or a show of concern over a possible squeeze than an emerging frustration with Pierre. Yankee Manager Joe Torre said he was willing to concede the run but not willing to concede that an infielder playing at routine depth could throw Pierre out.

"He hits a normal ground ball and you have to scuffle to get him," Torre said. "Speed certainly changes your defense."

Pierre hit a line drive to shortstop, an easy catch for Jeter if he were at normal depth. The drive instead whistled into left field, with Conine and Encarnacion scoring.

The relay throw might have gotten Encarnacion, but third baseman Aaron Boone cut the ball off, a decision Torre attributed in part to the concern over keeping Pierre at first base and out of scoring position.

"If it's Conine that gets the base hit, you take a chance of maybe letting it go through," Torre said. "But, when you have one of the speed guys, you certainly don't want a merry-go-round."

Bernie Williams homered for the Yankees in the sixth inning, but the home team would not score again, on a night they went one for 11 with men in scoring position. And, with runners on first and third and two out in the third inning, Rodriguez, the Florida catcher, picked off Johnson at third base, a play third baseman Mike Lowell credited to "a certain amount of telepathy."

On this night, the jitters and stage fright appeared to reside within the dugout of the 26-time World Series champions, not among the Marlins, the National League wild-card playoff entrants.

"We don't fear anyone," Lowell said.

The Yankees can't stop Pierre, at least so far. The Marlins, according to Lowell, can't stop cracking each other up, with what he called "stupid humor, Slap Shot-type humor."

Said Conine: "To tell you the truth, I think half of our team doesn't know we're playing for the World Series yet. They don't seem to have been affected by the importance of the game or the pressure."



History Lesson

The visiting team Series record after a Game 1 victory:

21-17 (.553)

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