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Bullpen keeps Yanks in game
10/19/2004 1:28 AM ET
BOSTON -- What's after fumes?

Because whatever follows on the exhaustion scale, that's what fueled Yankees relievers' nearly heroic efforts Monday night in Fenway Park against the Red Sox.

Days before Game 5 of the ALCS -- the American League Championship Survival -- New York manager Joe Torre had noted that, at this advanced stage of the baseball year, "You pitch on fumes."

The New York bullpen that carried Monday's game across a 14-inning tightrope was way beyond that.

Torre used three relievers who had already been gassed in Sunday's 12-inning prelude, and three others who had lost his trust, in the tidy little 5:49 affair.

Maybe chloroform follows fumes. Because long before David Ortiz again put the Yankees under, they were already reeling from witnessing Mariano Rivera blow his second save in as many postseason days.

New York again was six outs from the World Series when Rivera entered to protect a 4-3 lead. But Mo's fifth blown save in 37 career postseason opportunities was a tough one.

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The setup man for this latest letdown was Tom Gordon, who inadvertantly woke up the Boston offense by surrendering Ortiz's leadoff homer in the eighth.

That was the Red Sox's first run since two in the first, before Mike Mussina figured out the strike zone.

"I tried to come in, but left a pitch over the plate," said Gordon, who sounded resigned to the fact the hot Ortiz would have hit the pitch had he left it over the on-deck circle. "He's one of the toughest hitters in the game.

"After that," Gordon added, "I tried to throw strikes and get them to hit the ball on the ground. Things didn't go my way."

He walked Kevin Millar and allowed a single to Trot Nixon to usher in Rivera with men on first and third and none out.

Rivera surrendered Jason Varitek's tying sacrifice fly before going on to blank the Sox for two innings.

"It's tough. I wanted to do the job and I couldn't," Rivera said. "I just tried to get the guy out ... going for a strikeout or a ground ball back to me. Something that keeps the guy on third base.

"It was a tough game, but it was a good game. Everybody did their best."

Especially three we had not heard from for a while, so maybe helium follows fumes. Because that trio of suspect pitchers rose to great heights.

Facts machine
Mariano Rivera has a record 32 postseason saves. Of his five blown saves, three have occurred this year -- including back-to-back against Boston in the ALCS:
Year Game/Series Opponent Game outcome
1997 Game 5/ALDS Cleveland Lost, 3-2
2001 Game 7/WS Arizona Lost, 3-2
2004 Game 2/ALDS Minnesota Won, 7-6
2004 Game 4/ALCS Boston Lost, 6-4
2004 Game 5/ALCS Boston Lost, 5-4

Felix Heredia, Paul Quantrill and Esteban Loaiza -- the bottom of the New York bullpen barrel -- teamed to blank Boston in extra innings until Ortiz turned one of Loaiza's better pitches of the night into a dagger.

"I felt great, and even at the end I threw a good pitch and he hit it off the end of his bat," Loaiza said. "It doesn't get better than that."

Loaiza certainly has never been better in pinstripes than when the Yankees most needed him, and least expected to see him.

Loaiza and his regular-season New York ERA of 8.50 entered into deep trouble in the 11th. He coaxed Orlando Cabrera to bounce into a double play to end that inning, and proceeded to keep the Red Sox hitless until Ortiz hit his broken-bat winner into center with two down in the 14th.

"I'm always prepared, ready. When they call, you've got to be ready," said Loaiza, who had heard that call only once since Sept, 26. "I'm a veteran here, and I know I haven't thrown as good as they expected me to.

"Today, it was great to contribute. The way we were using pitchers, I thought I might have a big opportunity to play."

He wasn't the only "guest" accommodated by a second straight marathon. Nor the only one who had people shaking their heads, literally in awe.

Heredia, the left-hander whom Torre had bypassed Sunday night while Ortiz touched the right-handed Quantrill for his walk-off homer, got his shot at the lefty slugger.

And Heredia fanned Ortiz to start the 10th -- although he then gave up a double to Doug Mientkiewicz, another left-handed hitter, to bring on Quantrill.

Quantrill got the last two outs in the 10th and the first in the 11th before passing the hero's baton to Loaiza.

After back-to-back leadoff singles and a failed bunt attempt by Johnny Damon, Loaiza came on to turn Cabrera into a twin-killer.

And he kept mowing down Red Sox.

"It looked like he had tremendous command," Torre said. "It looked like he put the ball where he wanted to and he was making some great pitches.

"That's the best stuff we've seen from him since we got him in the trade (from the Chicago White Sox, for Jose Contreras on July 31)."

So there were some significantly persuasive efforts. However, the "W" stayed in Boston, even as two emotionally-whipped teams made their way to New York.

"It was a tough one," Gordon said. "We played well, and no doubt we wanted to win that ballgame."

Heavy rains are forecast for Tuesday night, so the teams might get a cooling-off break. Otherwise, it will be all hands back on deck in Yankee Stadium.

"I know I'm gonna get ready," Gordon said. "It's late in the season. We have an opportunity to pitch late and, more or less, adrenaline kicks in. So you forget all about (being tired)."

Even after making consecutive two-inning appearances for the first time in his career as a closer, Rivera sounded ready for more.

"I don't feel tired at all," he said. "We're in the playoffs, and within a game of the World Series. It's no time to look back now."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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