10/14/2004 7:25 AM ET
Lieber carries Yanks to 2-0 lead
Righty shines; Olerud's blast sends NY to win in Game 2
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
|John Olerud hit a two-run home run off Pedro Martinez in the sixth inning on Wednesday night. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK -- Entering the American League Championship Series, most people gave the Red Sox the edge over the Yankees in starting pitching. But for the second night in a row, New York's starter outpitched his Boston counterpart, as Jon Lieber led the Yankees to a 3-1 victory in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium.
"Everybody wrote us off before the series started," said Alex Rodriguez. "People doubted our pitching, but we know that when our pitching is healthy, those guys are capable of doing what they're doing now."
Making just his second career postseason start, Lieber dominated the Red Sox, allowing just three hits in seven-plus innings of one-run ball.
New York needed every bit of it, as Pedro Martinez countered with six solid innings of his own, though a two-run homer by John Olerud proved to be the difference.
"I knew coming into this game what Pedro has done in the past in situations like this," Lieber said. "There was no room for error, and I think it showed tonight."
For the second straight night, Mariano Rivera got the last four outs of the game, as New York took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Since 1985, the last 13 teams to win the first two games of an LCS have gone on to win the series.
The series now travels north for the weekend, starting with Friday night's Game 3 at Fenway Park. Kevin Brown takes the mound for New York, while Bronson Arroyo pitches for Boston.
"We feel very good about ourselves, but we know that in a short series, anything can happen," Rodriguez said. "It's very important that we go up to Boston and take care of business."
Martinez was serenaded by "Who's Your Daddy?" chants as he strolled in from the bullpen before the game, a reference to Martinez's now infamous quote from his last start against New York.
"I actually realized that I was somebody important, because I caught the attention of 60,000 people, plus [the media], plus the whole world watching," said Martinez, who allowed three runs over six innings. "If you reverse the time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to actually pay for a bus. And today, I was the center of attention of the whole City of New York."
"New York fans are the best in the world. They let you know how they feel," said Bernie Williams. "As players, we feed off that intensity. I think Pedro was feeding off that intensity, too. ... It was just part of the entertainment factor in the game. We weren't buying it."
The fans started up again when Martinez took the mound in the bottom of the first. He walked Derek Jeter on four pitches to open the game, then, after Jeter stole second, Pedro hit Rodriguez to put two runners on base.
Gary Sheffield lined the first pitch to left-center, scoring Jeter to give the Yankees a quick lead, as the 56,136 in attendance continued their verbal assault on Martinez.
"It seemed like he was up in the strike zone and throwing extra hard," Sheffield said. "I said if he threw me a first-pitch fastball, I was going to jump on it. He did."
Pedro retired the next three Yankees, holding the damage at one run, but he threw 26 pitches in the inning.
Lieber sat the Sox down in order in the first, then retired three in a row after issuing a rare leadoff walk in the second. Boston put the leadoff man on again in the third, but Lieber got two groundouts and a fly out to preserve the lead.
|Mariano Rivera has saved 10 LCS games for the Yankees, tying Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for the American League record:||Year
|Eckersley also saved one game in an NLCS for a record 11 LCS saves.|
"He walked somebody early, and then it just seemed once he settled in, he was just locked in," said manager Joe Torre. "He's not going to walk people. He's going to throw a lot of strikes."
Martinez limited the Yankees to just three hits through the first five innings, holding New York to just its first-inning run.
"That was probably as well as he's pitched all year," Jeter said. "He was up around 95-96 mph, and we knew he was going to make adjustments, regardless of what he said after the last time he faced us."
But Boston couldn't get anything going against Lieber, who breezed through the first five innings, never throwing more than 11 pitches in any one of them.
After sending the Sox down 1-2-3 in the fourth and fifth, Lieber engaged in a classic battle against Johnny Damon with one out in the sixth, needing 16 pitches to get him out. Damon flew out to center and Mark Bellhorn went down looking, as Lieber carried the shutout through six.
"That was definitely one of the keys to this game," Lieber said. "It all starts with Johnny at the top of that lineup. He makes a lot of things happen. That was definitely a tough battle, and I'm just glad he hit it right at Bernie."
Martinez walked Jorge Posada with one out in the sixth, and it proved costly, as Olerud followed with a two-run homer to right on a 1-2 pitch. The longball boosted the lead to 3-0, giving Lieber more of a cushion to work with.
"I've got two strikes on me, and against Pedro that's a bad position to be in because he can do so many different things to get you out," Olerud said. "I got a fastball up and in and I just did a good job of getting to it."
Lieber retired 13 in a row before David Ortiz singled to right, but Lieber induced a 5-4-3 double play by Kevin Millar to end the inning.
Torre sent Lieber out to start the eighth, but after a leadoff single by Trot Nixon, he was removed in favor of Tom Gordon. As Lieber made his way off the mound, the sellout crowd rose to its feet to give their starter a huge ovation for a good night's work. Lieber didn't acknowledge the crowd, but he certainly heard it.
"Since I was a boy, when I get taken out of a game, I try to get on and off the field ... I don't know why," Lieber said. "I'm not going to say I'm deaf to the whole situation, but you can hear what's going on. That's a great feeling."
Gordon couldn't shut the door, allowing a double by Jason Varitek to put two men in scoring position and bring the tying run to the plate. Orlando Cabrera grounded out, plating Nixon to cut the lead to 3-1. Gordon got Bill Mueller to ground out for the second out, but Torre called on Rivera to finish the inning.
Rivera, who got the final four outs in Game 1 for the save, got Damon looking at a called third strike to end the inning. Rivera allowed a one-out double by Ramirez in the ninth, but he struck out Ortiz and Millar, earning his MLB record 32nd postseason save.
"He reminds me of Michael Jordan in basketball," A-Rod said of Rivera. "He's the one guy in baseball that can be such a huge factor. He's the backbone of the dynasty the Yankees have built."
With a two-game lead in the series, the Yankees must now wait until Friday to move one step closer to the World Series.
"It's going to be a crazy atmosphere," Sheffield said. "All we're looking for now is two wins."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.