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      F I E L D  T R I P S

OCTOBER 19, 2003

October 18, 2003: WORLD SERIES GAME 1
Florida Marlins at New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium

Yesterday's Papers are Today's Fishwrap

The New York Yankees apparently didn't get the memo: the World Series started on Saturday night, with or without them. But could they be blamed for a tardy arrival after the dramatics of their victory on Thursday night? 56,000 fans at Yankee Stadium didn't seem to think so, not as they mustered up more bile for pregame video highlights featuring Pedro Martinez and the Boston Red Sox than for the Yanks' current opponents, the Florida Marlins.

Still weary from Thursday's late-night celebration, I felt little of the previous week's intensity on my way to the Stadium. There were no teal caps on the 4 train intermingled with the midnight-blue Yankees regalia, no "19-18" sing-song taunts, no awkward sardine-can twisting. Compared to the American League Championship Series, this felt like just another ballgame, except everybody was talking about the Red Sox in the past tense.

My friend Issa and I arrive to find the mood at the Stadium still October-festive; the bunting was hanging, the giant flag made its appearance in centerfield, and the F-14s still flew overhead — only a few feet over our heads, it seemed from Section 3, Row P of the Tier Reserved section. And half the fans proudly wore their tickets around their necks on lanyards. One elderly woman had several dozen World Series ticket stubs, dating back to who knows when — Mantle, if not Ruth — laminated and stitched to a navy-blue cape. Collectively, we Yankee fans had been here before. And we knew what to expect -- the Yanks had won ten straight World Series games at the House That Ruth Built dating back to 1996.

Which isn't to say everyone in the Stadium was a Yankee fan. Immediately to my left were a pair of ditzy young women who joked that they were afraid of falling out of the upper deck. As I gleaned from the thirty-seven cell phone calls the one next to me made throughout the ballgame, they were apparently from Chicago, and though they were mourning the Cubs, they'd somehow fallen in with the Marlins' young pitchers. Uh-huh. "If you're so close with them," I felt like asking," how did you get such great seats eight rows from the top of Yankee Stadium?" More on them later.

With the Yankee staff in slight disarray after its all-hands-on-deck performance on Thursday, David Wells drew the nod for the Series-opening start. The Marlins rotation was in a bit of a state as well, so manager Jack McKeon tabbed Brad Penny, who'd been rocked in both of his October starts but had pitched reasonably well out of the bullpen.

Penny quicky got some backing from the Marlins' small-ball offense. Speedy Juan Pierre drag-bunted David Wells' second pitch past the bulky pitcher, and by the time the ball rolled to second baseman Alfonso Soriano, Pierre had himself a single. Luis Castillo quickly followed with a bloop hit to rightfield, with Pierre taking third. Ivan Rodriguez smacked Wells' first pitch to centerfield, deep enough to score the run, as the Yankee Stadium crowd collectively muttered. Five pitches into the ballgame, they were down 1-0.

Wells settled down, retiring Miguel Cabrera on a popup and striking out Derek Lee to end the inning as the crowd roared its approval. What was one run to overcome against the Marlins after Thursday night's heroic rally?

The Yanks got off to a fast start in the bottom of the inning. Alfonso Soriano reached on an infield single to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, and stole second on the next pitch — a bold move given catcher Rodriguez's reputation behind the plate (though it should be noted Pudge corraled only 33% of opposing runners this year, compared to 49% for his career). Penny struck out Nick Johnson, however, and the Yanks failed to bring home Soriano.

The Marlins threatened in the second, with Jeff Conine and Juan Encarnacion stroking back-to-back one-out singles. But Gonzalez hit a one-hopper to third baseman Aaron Boone, and Thursday night's hero tagged the bag to force Conine before firing across the diamond to complete an inning-ending double play.

The Yanks evened the score in the third. Number nine hitter Karim Garcia blooped a 2-0 pitch into leftfield which Cabrera muffled on the hop, and Garcia took second. Soriano failed to move the runner over on a grounder to shortstop, but Johnson walked, and then Derek Jeter stroked a single up the middle to score the first Yankee run, with Johnson taking third. Bernie Williams failed to score him, however, and then with Hideki Matsui ahead in a 2-1 count, Johnson was inexplicably picked off of third base to end the inning.

All the more frustrating was that Matsui opened the fifth with a single, followed by a Jorge Posada walk. But Jason Giambi — still in the seventh spot in the order after a two-homer game from down there on Thursday — grounded into a rally-killing double-play. Boone failed to salvage Matsui's advancement to third, grounding out to end the inning.

Wells cruised into the fifth having retired seven straight, but he threw three straight balls to Conine to open the inning. Though Wells fought back to a full count, Conine wriggled free with a walk. Encarnacion singled, and then Gonzalez laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring positon.

The next play reminded the 56,000 fans in attendance that it's possible to run the complete spectrum -- from the new Mr. October to boneheaded goat — in less than 48 hours. With the infield drawn in, Pierre lined a single through the hole between Jeter and Boone. Conine scored easily, but as Encarnacion headed home, Boone cut off a strong peg from Matsui and fired across the diamond to try to hold Pierre, conceding the run. I haven't seen the replays, but to a man, the announcers and the Yanks seemed to feel that Encarnacion might have been out had Boone thrown home instead, or even let the ball go through. Instead it was now 3-1 Marlins. Only Wells seemed willing to let Boone off the hook; after the game, he remarked, "Instinct, that's all it was. He cut off the ball. If you look on TV, you second-guess. But you can't second-guess.''

By this time, the two women next to me were absolutely pickled; they'd been double-fisting Arbor Mist wine coolers, Strawberry White Zinfandel — a combination I'm reasonably sure ended up on my shoes the last time I tasted it. After passing by us for the third or fourth time to go to the ladies room (they were still afraid of falling over, but by now the reason was more clear), these erstwhile sorority chicks "graduated" to double-fisting Smirnoff Ices. This got Issa and me laughing as we speculated on who would be holding whose hair when the other one barfed later. These gals were in for the World Series of Girly Drink-Induced Stomach Pain. Meanwhile, we had bonded with the Yankee fans around us. A chatty fortysomething Chicago native named Scott regaled us with a ribald tale of being flashed by a teenage Derek Jeter fan at a day game, but he disappeared mid-game to catch his brother's 40th birthday. An orange-haired woman with a nose-ring bought us a round of beers, as if to apologize for her husband's annoyingly repetitive and cryptic cheers — "Hot Pocket! Immediately!" and "Fish! Fish! Got my Wish!" were the biggest groaners — and we returned the favor a few innings later.

Back to the ballgame. Bernie Williams cut the gap in half in the sixth inning, smashing a Penny pitch over the rightfield wall for a solo homer. The shot was his 18th postseason dinger, tying Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle — pretty fair company. Matsui followed with a single which chased Penny in favor of Dontrelle Willis, the Marlins' rookie pitching sensation. Willis had a hot enough first half (9-1, with a 2.08 ERA) to make the All-Star team, but he faded in the second half, and his October had been game but grisly —12 runs allowed in nine innings.

But the Willis who came out of the pen was the one I'd tabbed as a potential sleeper in my quick pre-Series analysis, and he took care of business. Matsui was erased on a fielder's choice, and then Posada, much to everyone's surpise, stole second. But the lefty, who almost lost Giambi after getting him 0-2, induced the struggling Yankee slugger into a groundout to Gonzalez. Damn.

Willis retired the next five hitters as well, but he left the door open for the Yanks in the eighth. Back-to-back two-out singles by Williams and Matsui put runners at the corners, inducing McKeon to summon Ugueth Urbina. The Marlins closer rung up Posada looking to escape the jam.

Wells had yielded to the bullpen after seven gritty innings, and Jeff Nelson nearly widened the lead. A one-out walk to Cabera was followed by a Lee single, but Mike Lowell's fly ball to rightfield wasn't deep enough to score the run, and Nellie escaped by getting Conine to pop out foul.

The Yanks gave it one last gasp in the ninth. Giambi finally weighed in with a positive contribution, walking to lead off the inning and then yielding to pinch-runner David Dellucci. Boone flied out, but pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra walked, putting the tying run in scoring position. Next up was Soriano, who's looked lost with runners in scoring positon since the Red Sox came to town. Sori actually had a good at-bat, coming back from 1-2 to draw the count full as Urbina couldn't tempt him away from the plate. But Ugie took advantage of Sori's new-found discipline, and struck him out looking. Nick Johnson got ahead of Urbina 2-1, but on the fourth pitch he popped one to Pierre in centerfield, and just like that, the Marlins took a 1-0 lead in the 2003 World Series and handed the Yanks their first home loss in the Series since October 21, 1996.

So now the Yanks need to call upon their Game Two specialist Andy Pettitte to even the series. Twice before during this October run, the Yanks have lost the opening game of the series, but Pettitte's strong efforts have enabled them to even things out. He's been the stopper for awhile, winning ten straight decisions following Yankee losses. The hitch this time is that Pettitte is only on three days' rest. The Yanks can take some solace in the fact that Andy has done pretty well in those situations (2-1, 3.71 ERA in four starts, according to Fox) and that he controls the running game very well, which might help them counteract the Marlins' small-ball tendencies

They'll be facing Mark Redman, who's got only three days of rest under his belt as well. But Redman threw only 69 pitches as the Marlins' Game Seven starter in the NLCS, and was hit hard for five runs in three innings. The Yanks will have to treat him similarly, or they'll find themselves in an 0-2 hole as they head to Florida, with Thursday's heroics looking like so much fishwrap.

Final Score: Marlins 3, Yanks 2. Four beers consumed, one beer spilled (completely, ugh), two trashed-n-trashy neighbors drinking girlie drinks, one hot dog, one sausage, one commemorative program, one commemorative pin, and one three-game postseason losing streak. BOX SCORE




A View From the Rafters
Photos by Issa Clubb