- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

So what do we make of this World Series between the New York Yankees and the Florida Marlins being tied at 1-1, with Game3 tonight at Pro Player Stadium in Miami?

Was the Marlins’ victory in the first game just an aberration? Did the Yankees just follow what has been a pattern of losing Game1? They lost Game 1 of the Division Series against Minnesota and Game1 of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox, and Andy Pettitte saved their bacon each time in Game2, like he did in Sunday night’s 6-1 New York win. In fact, under manager Joe Torre, the Yankees have lost Game1 of a postseason series eight times, but still managed to win the series in seven of those instances.

“We had lost both Game 1s in the previous series, and we did not lose two in a row after losing those Game1s,” Torre said. “It’s nice we have this track record in the last two series. It keeps us from getting to the point of, ‘We’ve got to, we’ve got to.’”

Or was it simply because the Marlins ran into a pitcher who simply dominated them, as Pettitte did, and the Yankees benefited from facing a pitcher who would have been hard-pressed to be more ineffective, as Mark Redmond was?

“He had good stuff,” Florida manager Jack McKeon said. “You have to tip your cap to Andy Pettitte. Pitching is going to win, and their pitching was better than our pitching.”

I concur with the Cigar Aficionado — it was a case of the combination of a pitcher at his best facing a pitcher who was not. And I think that is the only combination the Yankees can use to beat the Marlins. All things being equal — one pitcher matching another — I like the Marlins. That’s why I like them tonight when the Marlins’ horse, Josh Beckett, faces tightly wound Mike Mussina of the Yankees.

The Marlins have been vastly underrated through each step of the postseason that they have won, and after their loss in Game2 of the Series, the notion — not an unreasonable one — will be that Game1 was a fluke and that the mighty Yankees will now roll over the Marlins and win their 27th World Series.

But Beckett is a quality live arm and a student of pitching who keeps a detailed notebook of his experiences and hitters he has faced. That won’t help him tonight, facing the Yankees for the first time, but he thinks he has the advantage in that uncertainty. “I think the pitcher has the upper hand in that situation,” he said.

Beckett, who locked down the Chicago Cubs on two hits in a 4-0 shutout in Game5 of the National League Championship Series, won’t be intimidated. “I won’t feel any different,” he said of pitching tonight in the World Series. “I’ll just execute pitches, that’s the bottom line. It doesn’t matter if you’re the number one starter or the number five starter, you have to execute pitches at this level. It doesn’t matter if it is the World Series, the game before the World Series, Opening Day, the game after the All-Star Game, it doesn’t matter. You have to execute pitches.”

If Beckett doesn’t execute pitches, the Yankees will execute his pitches, as they did against Redmond. They can bludgeon you. But they can’t pick at you, which is often how you win a close pitching duel. That is the Marlins’ game, and like a fight, if Florida can get New York to fight their fight, the Marlins win.

This series could shape up to be like the All-Star Games of the 1960s and 1970s, when the National League would beat the American League year after year, because they played the game at a different speed than the American Leaguers did. That’s how the Marlins play. It’s not how the Yankees play. The Bronx Bombers’ game is station to station, relying on the big home run — many times lately solo shots, not like Hideki Matsui’s three-run blast in the first inning Sunday night.

“We have been pretty sporadic all year with men in scoring position,” Torre said. “It’s not something that we like to have, but it’s something we work at.”

This is not the time of year to be working on the personality of your offense. It is what it is.

The Marlins had a run on the board in the first five minutes of Game1, and they nearly did it again in Game2. That is the personality of their offense, and they don’t need to work at it. They seem to have it down pretty well.


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