- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

NEW YORK. — So it comes down to this: Pedro vs. Roger tonight in Game7 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.

A baseball fan’s dream. A New York police officer’s nightmare.

Because the Yankees failed to put away the Red Sox in Game6 yesterday, handing Boston a 9-6 win in the Bronx to even the series, now they will have to try to beat Pedro Martinez twice in the same series.

“I guess it was supposed to come down to Game7,” said New York manager Joe Torre.

You’ve got to like Boston’s chances tonight, particularly since Pedro is probably in the Yankees’ heads — when he’s not throwing at those heads. Tensions could reach a record level in as tense a baseball rivalry as we’ve seen since the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers used to do battle.

Pedro’s cowardly acts of throwing at Karim Garcia’s head in Game3 Saturday and then his threatening to hit other Yankees batters in the head by pointing to his own head lit the fuse that led to the benches clearing and Yankees coach Don Zimmer’s attack on Pedro, who is now the most hated man in New York. Meetings have been taking place behind the scenes to determine how best to handle security tonight at the ballpark, with the fear that something far worse than the foolishness that took place at Fenway could happen — this time involving fans.

Boston manager Grady Little said he had “a lot of confidence” in the security at Yankee Stadium, but then this is the Forrest Gump of baseball managers, clueless as to the circumstances swirling around him. When asked if he was concerned about security at a Game7 at Yankee Stadium, Little replied, “There won’t be that much difference in Game7 as any other time these two clubs have met.”

Sure — just another Yankee-Red Sox game featuring two of the greatest pitchers of their time (with Clemens possibly making the last start of his career with a loss or else carving his place forever in Yankees lore with a win), coming on the heels of a beanball-marred game in which a 72-year-old coach was thrown to the ground by the opposing pitcher and two Yankees players are under investigation in the beating of a Fenway Park employee in the bullpen.

No. Not much different.

The stage seems to be set for Pedro, who was a 4-3 loser to Clemens in Game3. He will not be intimidated by the scene at Yankee Stadium. If anything, he may thrive on it.

“I think any great pitcher somehow builds in some incentive in important games,” said Red Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace. “Whether it’s going against the ‘We want Pedro!’ chants at Yankee Stadium [after New York had won Game 2 before heading up to Boston for Game 3], whether it’s shutting out the media or whether it’s having an internal problem that he’s got, all of those idiosyncrasies I think provide an incentive for Pedro.”

Still, nothing has been as it seems in this series. The Yankees appeared to have the momentum after their Game3 win, but after Sunday’s rainout the Red Sox came back to tie it. Then Boston seemed to have things going its way, with one of its two aces, Derek Lowe, pitching where he has had so much success, at home in Fenway, against David Wells, who would like to blow Fenway up because of his pitching woes there. Yet Lowe was ineffective and Wells shut the Boston lineup down.

Up 3-2 in the series, coming home to New York, the Yankees should have been a lock to win yesterday, with their big game left-hander, Andy Pettitte, going up against the weakest of the Red Sox starters, John Burkett. Yet Pettitte gave up four runs in five innings pitched, and though New York recovered to later take a 6-4 lead, he put the Yankees in a catch-up mode from the third inning on, and they seemed shaken by their inability to put the Red Sox away, committing two errors, with five Yankees pitchers allowing 16 Boston hits.

What could possibly happen tonight?

“It should be an exciting day,” Little said.

Just like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get.

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