- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2003

The Florida Marlins have to go into the opposing team’s house tonight and beat one of their aces, and if they don’t win, they have to do it again tomorrow night.

I’d say the Marlins have the New York Yankees right where they want them.

The only thing wrong is the Marlins don’t have to win both games, tonight facing Andy Pettitte, and, if necessary, tomorrow night against Mike Mussina. They aren’t down 3-2 in the World Series like they were in the National League Championship Series when they had to go to Chicago and beat Mark Prior and Kerry Wood at Wrigley Field.

Who knows, maybe being in the driver’s seat will be too much for the Marlins to handle. Maybe it will have to come down to a seventh game. Given the play we have seen during this memorable postseason, a seventh game to decide the World Series seems inevitable.

Unless Josh Beckett decides the heck with drama and puts away the Yankees tonight.

“I’m very confident going into this start,” said Beckett, even though he will be pitching on short rest. “The work is not done. We were in their situation before, down 3-2, and we came back and ended up winning that last series. If any of our guys are sitting back, trying to relish the moment, they need to snap out of it because we will have to focus. That’s a good baseball team over there. We’ve got to take care of business while it’s still here.”

That’s what it has come to for the Yankees — a 23-year-old kid having to remind everyone that the Yankees are a “good baseball team.” It was as if he was speaking of an aging warrior, on the brink of his last battle.

Speaking of warriors, how about that David Wells going out of Game5 after the first inning with back spasms? At least we can’t say he is spineless, since I assume it is medically impossible to have back spasms without a spine.

If you see some liquid shooting out from Monument Park tonight, that would be Babe Ruth, spitting out the champagne that Wells poured on his plaque after they beat the Red Sox in Game7 of the American League Championship Series.

I would imagine there were times in the Bambino’s career where every part of his body was in a spasm during a game, but could you picture him begging out? In a World Series game no less?

How appropriate an ending for the Yankees, to be done in by the man who caused them so much grief before the season began with his tell-all book? They might want to insert an addendum describing how he couldn’t pitch in Game5 because he developed Stripper’s syndrome — what happens when a man hurts his back while trying to stuff another dollar bill into a South Florida dancer’s garter belt.

Or maybe his back acted up because he saw a midget Italian in the stands who looked a lot like the mini-Soprano who beat him up in a New York diner earlier this year.

“He’s as big a competitor as you can find out there,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. He may be right. There aren’t too many competitors bigger than Wells, which may be part of the reason why his back couldn’t hold up.

Tonight the Yankees will have as big a competitor as you can find out there — Pettitte, their lifesaver throughout this postseason, one of the few Yankees who never seems to have some sort of melodrama, large or small, surrounding him.

“All of the experience and the starts that I’ve made in the postseason aren’t going to help me when I step on that mound,” Pettitte said. “I just hope I can go out there, get in good rhythm, get my stuff working and give us a great start.”

He did that in Game2, when the Yankees evened the series at 1-1 with a 6-1 win. But there was a point in the first inning of that game when Luis Castillo was on first with one out and Ivan Rodriguez was at the plate. The Marlins had the hit-and-run on, but they failed to execute it as Rodriguez struck out and Castillo was thrown out at second. That was the turning point.

Tonight if the Marlins get that early baserunner home, Pettitte will be right. None of the starts he would have made in this postseason will help him, because the Yankees will be in uncharted territory, on the brink of losing the World Series to a small fish. And then Typhoon George will blow.

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