Yanks over Sox for 3-2 series lead

By defaultuser
October 16, 2003


Back in spring training, people in the New York Yankees’ organization wanted to strangle David Wells.

Seven months later, they all want to hug him.

The 40-year-old lefthander, whose wacky irreverence often overshadows his pitching prowess, won his second game of this postseason on Tuesday to lead the New York Yankees to within one win of their 39th American League pennant.

Wells held the Boston Red Sox to a run over seven innings as the Yankees won Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, 4-2, leaving a stunned Fenway Park crowd of 34,619 quietly heading for the exits, wondering whether they had seen the last of their beloved team, in the flesh at least, for 2003.

The Yankees lead the best-of-seven series, three games to two. They can eliminate the Red Sox and advance to the World Series for the sixth time in eight years with a win on their home soil in Game 6 on Wednesday.

In addition to having their home fans behind them, the Yanks will have postseason workhorse Andy Pettitte on the mound. The lefty is 2-0 with a 1.98 earned run average in this postseason. His career record in the AL Championship Series is 6-1.

The Red Sox altered their rotation to get Derek Lowe on the mound on Tuesday. That leaves the season on the shoulders of John Burkett in Game 6.

Burkett has never beaten the Yankees in 11 career regular-season starts against them. However, as a member of the Texas Rangers in 1996, he had a complete-game victory against the Yanks in an AL division series.

“We can’t take anything lightly,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “Burkett has been down this road before. He has experience. Yeah, he gets whacked around now and then. He may not have knockout stuff like a lot of pitchers. But he has calmness and know-how.”

Two controversial figures _ Wells and Karim Garcia _ came up huge for the Yankees on Tuesday.

Wells gave up just four hits and pitched out of difficult jams in the third and fifth innings.

Wells began the season by angering teammates and Yankees officials with a tell-all book in which he claimed to have been half-drunk while he pitched his perfect game in 1998. Wells also scuffed several of his teammates in the book.

Torre and most others in the Yankees organization have forgiven Wells for his transgressions. Fifteen regular-season wins and two in the postseason have a way of smoothing things over.

“We’re all in this for one reason–to win,” Torre said. “Tonight was–I can’t tell you how huge it was. David was terrific.”

Reggie Jackson, a front-office adviser with the Yankees, and a man who knows a little about controversy, agreed with Torre.

“We all love him today, don’t we?” Jackson said of Wells.

Garcia met his infamy in Game 3 on Saturday when he hopped into the Yankees’ bullpen to join a fight that reliever Jeff Nelson was having with a Red Sox groundskeeper. Garcia cut his left hand in the fracas and, like Nelson, will likely face criminal charges when this series is over.

Garcia was not added to Tuesday’s lineup until after batting practice, when Torre saw that the cut on his hand was not affecting his swing.

After Garcia’s two-out, two-run single in the second, the Yanks got another run-scoring single from Alfonso Soriano as they opened up a 3-0 lead against Lowe.

Wells was brilliant in pitching out of a jam in the third inning. The Red Sox had runners on second and third with no outs, and Wells retired Johnny Damon, Todd Walker and Nomar Garciaparra to end the threat.

Two innings later, with his team up, 3-1, Wells got dangerous Manny Ramirez to bounce out to third base on a curveball.

An inning earlier, Ramirez had hit a Wells change-up over the Green Monster.

Wells is one of those prime-time athletes who love the glow of a big game. He is 10-2 in the postseason.

“I live for this stuff,” he said. “I love being the guy on the mound, trying to shut the other team down.”

Wells had help from his defense and his closer. Leftfielder Hideki Matsui and the middle-infield tandem of Soriano and Derek Jeter made important plays behind the Yankees pitcher.

Wells may also have had some help from another source. He worships Babe Ruth and buys into the curse said to have been placed on the Red Sox after Ruth’s sale to the Yankees in 1919.

“I believe in it,” Wells said. “I just try to follow suit and try to keep the theory alive.”

Posted to the web by: Cecelia Francisco

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