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THE WORLD SERIES

The Rest Is History

Marlins will send Beckett to the Yankee Stadium mound against Pettitte in what could be a clinching Game 6. However, it's a weekend when every pitcher should be ready.

October 25, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The decision was so simple, the logic so obvious. As Florida Manager Jack McKeon announced that Josh Beckett would start Game 6 of the World Series for the Marlins tonight and Carl Pavano would start Game 7, if necessary, he shrugged.

"We're going to go with our two best pitchers," McKeon said.

Good idea, no? The New York Yankees are doing the same thing, with Andy Pettitte starting tonight and Mike Mussina ready for Sunday. Although the Marlins lead the World Series, three games to two, in position to clinch the World Series tonight, it is their manager who defies conventional wisdom.

"The most important decision you could ever make is who to pitch," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "I don't have to make that decision."

Torre is not abdicating. In a generation in which starting pitchers are trained to work on four days' rest between starts, Pettitte will have five. Mussina will have four, if there's a Game 7.

Beckett will have three. So will Pavano, if the Marlins lose tonight.

In the previous five years of postseason play, starters working on three days' rest won four games and lost 15, with a 6.59 earned-run average. McKeon said he did not consult statistics or history books, just Beckett, to make sure his arm felt fine.

"If I had Bob Gibson out there today on three days' rest, would anybody be asking me why I pitch Bob Gibson? Nobody," McKeon said. "That's the way we feel about Beckett."

Beckett, 23, has lightning in his arm and 17 major league victories. Gibson has a Hall of Fame plaque and 251 victories.

In words and in actions, the 72-year-old McKeon upholds the honor of Gibson's generation. He doesn't buy all this new-age stuff about pitchers who cannot succeed without a defined role, not only starter or reliever but long man or setup guy or closer.

On any given day, the Marlins' closer might be Braden Looper or Ugueth Urbina. In the National League championship series against the Chicago Cubs, Pavano relieved Brad Penny in Game 2, Penny and Pavano relieved Dontrelle Willis in Game 4, and Willis relieved Pavano in Game 6.

And, in the outing that most swayed McKeon, Beckett relieved Mark Redman in Game 7. Three days after throwing a two-hit shutout, Beckett pitched four innings of one-hit relief.

"The Cubs wanted no part of him," McKeon said.

The Marlins wanted no part of Redman starting again, not with Beckett available. In that Game 7 league championship series start, and in his Game 2 World Series start, Redman failed to make it to the fourth inning. Meanwhile, in his last three postseason appearances, Beckett has given up six hits in 21 innings, striking out 24.

The Yankees have no quarrel with McKeon's decision, seeing as how Pettitte started Game 2 of the World Series on short rest and took a shutout into the ninth inning. Besides, because the season ends no later than Sunday, the teams will have all arms on deck to replace an ineffective or fatigued starter.

"When you have two games left in the postseason, you have those two guys and everyone else following them," Torre said.

If the Marlins win tonight, or Sunday, they will become the first visiting team to clinch a postseason series at Yankee Stadium since the Dodgers won the World Series here in 1981.

"You don't want to come in here and watch another team celebrate on your field, that's for sure," Pettitte said.

McKeon probably loved that 1981 game, because Dodger closer Steve Howe worked -- gulp -- 3 2/3 innings for the save. Beckett probably has little recollection: He was 17 months old.

As Beckett grew up, though, he dreamed of playing in the World Series. He was always the hero, of course. His dreams can come true tonight, sort of.

"I was always the hitter in those dreams," he said. "I always wanted to hit the home run."

*

NEW YORK vs. FLORIDA

Best-of-seven series

* Game 1: Florida 3, New York 2

* Game 4: Florida 4, New York 3 (12 inn.)

* Game 2: New York 6, Florida 1

* Game 5: Florida 6, New York 4

* Game 3: New York 6, Florida 1

Marlins lead series, 3-2

*

GAME 6 TONIGHT

YANKEES' ANDY PETTITTE (3-0, 21-8) vs. MARLINS' JOSH BECKETT (1-2, 9-8)

Yankee Stadium, 4:45 PDT

TV -- Channel 11. Radio -- KSPN (710).

Update -- Pettitte last pitched six days ago, with an error by third baseman Aaron Boone preventing him from recording a shutout in Game 2. Beckett last pitched four days ago, striking out 10 and giving up three hits over 7 1/3 innings. In four postseason starts, Pettitte is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA. In five postseason appearances, including four starts, Beckett is 1-2 with a 2.67 ERA, and opponents are hitting .138 against him.

Bill Shaikin

*

* Game 7: If necessary

Sunday -- Florida (Pavano, 2-0, 12-13) at New York (Mussina, 1-3, 17-8), 5 p.m.

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