Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Yankees enjoy day of rest

Their in fifth ALCS in last six years

By Mike Fitzpatrick
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Now the New York Yankees know who's next - the tired and bruised Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees were back home Monday, resting up for the AL championship series while the Red Sox crisscrossed the country and scrambled to advance.

The imposing starting rotation is all lined up, and the first two games will be played at intimidating Yankee Stadium.

New York seems to have a big edge against the rival Red Sox.

"I don't know about unstoppable," closer Mariano Rivera said. "We're feeling good."

To say the least.

After finishing off the Minnesota Twins in four games, everything seems to be falling into place for the Yankees, who are in the ALCS for the fifth time in six years.

A well-rested Rivera looks untouchable again - he retired all 12 Twins he faced in a pair of two-inning saves.

Derek Jeter is off to another brilliant postseason, hitting .429 in the division series with a home run and four walks.

Bernie Williams batted .400 with two doubles and three RBIs, and leadoff man Alfonso Soriano hit .368 with a team-leading four RBIs.

Even Nick Johnson snapped out of an 0-for-26 slump Sunday with a key two-run double in the series-ending game against the Twins.

After playing poorly in a Game 1 loss at home, the Yankees quickly rediscovered their postseason moxie.

"That was my only concern, that these players remember who they were and what they're capable of doing," manager Joe Torre said.

The Red Sox had more pressing concerns before they could worry about the Yankees.

After Boston rallied past the Athletics at Fenway Park to win Game 4 Sunday, the teams traveled across the country for the decisive fifth game in Oakland on Monday night.

The Red Sox held on for a 4-3 win and headed right back to the East Coast for a workout at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday and the opener Wednesday night.

Furthermore, Boston ace Pedro Martinez pitched seven-plus innings Monday night, so he won't be ready to face the Yankees until Game 3 on Saturday.

And Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon was to spend Monday night in a hospital because of a concussion after a hard collision with second baseman Damian Jackson while chasing a popup. Damon's status for Game 1 in New York was uncertain.

Meanwhile, Torre gave his players off Monday. They got to sit back, relax and watch their next foe fight just to get out of the first round.

"I'd like to believe we have an advantage, but when you get to the postseason the adrenaline gets you over that stuff," Torre said.

More important to the Yankees than the extra rest is the state of their experienced pitching staff. It couldn't be in better shape.

All four starters - Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells - pitched well against the Twins. Each went at least seven innings.

The Yankees allowed only six runs and 26 hits in 36 innings for a 1.50 team ERA, and Minnesota managed just a .198 batting average.

"I'll put our pitchers up against anyone," Jeter said.

It was a far cry from the 2002 playoffs, when New York's staff was roughed up for an 8.21 ERA in a first-round loss to Anaheim.

"We're just not the type of ballclub to dwell. We are a now club," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said.

"I said at the end of last year I was kind of embarrassed the way they worked our guys over. It was satisfying to me and I'm sure they feel much better. But there wasn't any talk about it going into this series."

After moving on, the Yankees have plenty to be encouraged about - but they also know anything short of winning the World Series this season would be a disappointment. One playoff victory isn't nearly enough to satisfy owner George Steinbrenner.

"The win against Minnesota demonstrated the spirit of the Yankees. ... New Yorkers are battlers and so are we," Steinbrenner said in a statement Monday.

"The victory was great for New York and for our fans and I'm proud of our guys. I'm anxiously awaiting the winner of the Oakland-Boston game."

As were his well-rested players.

ALCS schedule

Game1: Wednesday, Boston at New York (Mussina 17-8), 8:18 p.m.

Game 2: Thursday, Boston at New York, 8:18 p.m.

Saturday: New York at Boston, 4:18 p.m.

Sunday: New York at Boston, 8:05 p.m.

All games on Fox

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