10/09/2003 11:40 PM ET
Sauerbeck not making excuses
Boston reliever takes blame for bad pitch to Posada
NEW YORK -- When you haven't thrown a pitch in more than two weeks, there is a built-in excuse for making a really bad one.
By Jim Street / MLB.com
But Red Sox reliever Scott Sauerbeck rejected taking the easy way out Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
"No excuses," the veteran left-hander said. "I made a bad pitch to (Jorge) Posada and he hit a double that pretty much drove the final nail in the coffin."
The Red Sox actually are still very much alive in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series. But Posada's line drive into the left-center field gap in the seventh inning drove in two runs and basically secured the Yankees' 6-2 win that tied the series at one game apiece.
Sauerbeck, a 31-year-old lefty acquired from the Pirates on July 22, last pitched in a game on Sept. 27 against the Devil Rays in St. Petersburg. He was on the Red Sox' 10-man pitching staff during the AL Division Series but didn't pitch in any of the five games.
"It has been excruciating to watch," he said. "The only time as players we can separate our emotions is when we are playing. I have been a nervous wreck and on the edge of my seat, just like the fans."
When the seventh inning began in Game 2, Sauerbeck started warming up in the visiting bullpen. Starter Derek Lowe was pitching a fine game, but the Red Sox were behind by two runs with the top of the batting order due up.
Lowe retired Alfonso Soriano.
"I thought that if (Derek) Jeter reached base, I would come in to face (Jason) Giambi," Sauerbeck said.
But Jeter also made an out and Lowe stayed in the game to face Giambi, the Yankees' left-handed slugger, prompting a visit from manager Grady Little.
"Grady came out to kind of get a read on (Lowe)," catcher Jason Varitek said. "He was throwing the ball fine. Giambi hit a good pitch."
Little stuck with his starter, but when Lowe walked Bernie Williams on four pitches, the call went to the bullpen for Sauerbeck, who had a 3-5 record and 4.76 ERA this season.
On the final pitch of the at-bat, Varitek gave Sauerbeck a target -- low and outside.
The pitch was low, but over the heart of the plate and it never reached Varitek's glove.
"I thought it was a home run," Varitek said. "At least it was only a double."
Sauerbeck stood in front of his locker after the game and fielded the same question many times. What happened and how much of a factor was the long layoff?
"I wanted to throw a sinker down and away and it cut back over the middle of the plate," he explained. "He hammered it and he should have hammered it. When he it, I was hoping Gabes (center fielder Gabe Kapler) would could catch up to it. But unfortunately, he can't run like the wind."
Sauerbeck spent five years in the minor leagues before reaching the big leagues for the first time in 1999. He has spent all but two games in the Major Leagues since then, peeking with a 5-4 record and 2.30 ERA in 78 relief appearances with the Pirates in 2002.
But he never had a chance to pitch in the playoffs.
A nervous wreck while sitting in the Red Sox bullpen, Sauerbeck said he was cool and calm when he came into Thursday night's game before 56,295 mostly anti-Red Sox fans.
"I felt fine," he said. "It's like riding a bike. You get out there and try to make pitches and get people out. I have done this something like 400 times in my career so it's nothing new.
"The intensity is a little different, but once you are out there, it's just like any other other time, except that it's louder. That's about it."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League baseball or its clubs.