The Baseball Desert

Monday, October 20, 2003

"Be My Number Two"

It's the title of a song by the great Joe Jackson (no, not that one, the other one...), but it could also be the title of Joe Torre's ode to Andy Pettitte. The Yankees have lost Game 1 of each of the three series they have played this postseason (against the Twins, the Red Sox and, on Saturday night, against the Marlins). After each loss, they have sent Pettitte to the mound in Game 2, and each time he has come through with a huge win. Pettitte pitched a great game in Yankee Stadium last night - he gave up just one unearned run over 8 2/3 innings and didn't allow a Marlin to get beyond second base over the first eight innings - and he notched up his 13th postseason win overall, which ties him for first place with Atlanta's John Smoltz.

In keeping with their 'small ball' reputation, the Marlins managed 'only' six hits, all of them singles. I say 'only' because although it doesn't look like much, it's in fact only one hit less than they got in Game 1, where they had 7 hits, good for a total of 3 runs. The difference last night was that the hits were spaced further apart and the Marlins had no stolen bases - they weren't able to get their guys beyond second base and score any runs, except in the ninth, when an Aaron Boone error allowed them to finally get on the board.

The Yankees finally looked like the Yankees last night - maybe they got over their Game 7 hangover. They took their game to the Marlins last night, rather than letting the Marlins dictate things. The first inning was once again a key - just like in Game 1, the Marlins had a runner on first with one out, but this time the runner (Castillo) broke late for second base. Ivan Rodriguez took a called third strike at the plate, and Jorge Posada threw to Soriano at second base to tag the runner coming in. A strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double-play - inning over... To further take away any momentum the Marlins might have had, the Yankees then came to bat in the bottom of the first and put three runs on the board, thanks to Hideki Matsui's two-out homer (the first World Series home run ever hit by a Japanese player). And even though these are the never-say-die, come-from-behind Marlins, it was always going to be an uphill struggle for them from that point, and Pettitte made sure that they didn't even come close.

So, the series is tied at one as the teams head down to Miami for the next three games. We've seen two completely different games in the series so far, so I'm not going to make any rash predictions as to who I think is going to win this thing or how far it's going to go (I'll leave that to the pros) - the Marlins got in a quick sucker-punch in Game 1 whilst the Yankees weren't really paying attention, but the Yankees countered with some big punches in Game 2. The Marlins aren't on the ropes - especially as they're heading home to Pro Player Stadium for Games 3, 4 and 5 - but they're going to have to keep their wits about them if they want to fight it out with the Yankees in the middle of the ring. This thing is just warming up and, as SI's John Donovan suggests, maybe the best is yet to come...