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No Glaring Weakness

Pettitte, October game face in place, again produces in clutch, staring down and shutting down Marlins in Yankees' 6-1 Game 2 win. Matsui, Soriano homer.

October 20, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The term "Yankee legend" is not used lightly in this town. In a century in pinstripes, the lore of the New York Yankees includes a grand gallery of champions and Hall of Famers.

In October, the month in which greatness is conferred upon Yankee players, Andy Pettitte starred again on Sunday.

"He's definitely made a case for himself as a Yankee legend," shortstop Derek Jeter said.

Pettitte rescued the Yankees for the third time this fall, closing within one out of a shutout in a 6-1 victory over the Florida Marlins. The World Series resumes Tuesday in Florida, tied at one game apiece.

Hideki Matsui hit the first World Series home run by a Japanese-born player. Alfonso Soriano, the Dominican native who played in Japan before signing with the Yankees, also homered.

But the undisputed star of the evening was Pettitte, the quiet and often overlooked Yankee starter. Unlike the mercenaries that populate the rest of the Yankee starting rotation, Pettitte never has pitched anywhere else. He might next year, with free agency an option, but the crowd of 55,750 joyously chanted his name, clapping in rhythm, and saluted him with several standing ovations.

Pettitte, an intimidating figure as usual, his intense eyes peering out from behind his glove and beneath a low-slung cap, earned his 13th postseason victory, tied with John Smoltz for the major league record. If he starts again in this series, he will start his 10th World Series game, a total exceeded only by Whitey Ford, Christy Mathewson and Waite Hoyt, Hall of Famers all.

Never before Sunday, however, had he won a World Series game at Yankee Stadium. On a night when the game-time temperature was 48 degrees and fans dressed in scarves and ski caps, Pettitte basked in the warmth of the crowd.

"It was a very special night," he said, "to be able to stay out on the mound in the ninth inning and have an opportunity to go for a shutout in the World Series."

No Yankee has pitched a World Series shutout since 1962. With two out in the ninth, third baseman Aaron Boone committed his second error of the game. Derrek Lee then singled to snap the shutout, and Pettitte departed after 111 pitches

"I don't know how much better his stuff can be," said Florida's Juan Pierre. "But, if it is, I don't want to see it."

Pierre, who sparked the Marlins' Game 1 victory by reaching base four times, got on base once in Game 2. But he is the least of Marlins' concerns this morning.

After the Yankees battered Mark Redman, the Marlins won't say who will start Game 4 or Game 6. Carl Pavano, the scheduled Game 4 starter, pitched one inning in relief Sunday. Florida Manager Jack McKeon said either Pavano or rookie Dontrelle Willis could start Game 4.

Should the series go to six games, the Marlins must decide whether Redman merits another start.

Redman lasted only three innings in his previous start, in Game 7 of the National League championship series, and the Yankees dismissed him in the third inning Sunday. He faced 13 batters, retiring five and giving up four runs, including the home run to Matsui.

The Yankees' left fielder arrived in America brandishing the nickname "Godzilla." He hit 50 home runs in Japan last year, his seventh straight season with 34 or more. In the regular season, he hit 16 home runs, no problem for Yankee Manager Joe Torre.

"I was a little concerned because it's tough to change not only leagues but countries and expect to be this big power hitter," Torre said. "I saw him in spring training and I saw a different person. He's more of a line-drive hitter, and I like that a whole lot better."

After leading the Yomiuri Giants to the Japanese championship last year, Matsui is hitting .327 in this year's playoffs, leading the Yankees by driving in 10 runs in 13 games. His large and adoring Japanese fan base hopes the World Series home run revs up the Godzilla image on this side of the Pacific Ocean. His homer did clear the 408-foot sign, in the deepest part of center field.

Matsui took a curtain call after his homer, in the first inning, then returned the spotlight to Pettitte.

The Yankees are three victories away from duplicating the Angels' path to the 2002 title -- lose the first game in each of the three rounds of the playoffs, then win each series. Pettitte won Game 2 each time.

And so the Yankees flew to Miami Sunday night, confident and relaxed. Jeter, asked what he knew of the Marlins' home, Pro Player Stadium, shrugged and laughed.

"I know they had a football game there today," he said.

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