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Baseball: AL playoffs

Round 1 to Yankees

YANKS 10, RED SOX 7: Boston puts up a fight after Mike Mussina flirts with perfection.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published October 13, 2004

NEW YORK - How's that for openers?

If Tuesday's first game was any indication, this Red Sox-Yankees American League Championship Series won't have any problem living up to the hype.

All that happened in the Yankees' thrilling 10-7 victory:

There was New York starter Mike Mussina taking a perfect game into the seventh by retiring the first 19 batters.

There was Boston's big-game ace Curt Schilling getting knocked out after three innings as the Yankees built a seemingly comfortable 8-0 lead, with Hideki Matsui picking up an ALCS record-tying five RBIs.

There were the Sox roaring back in the seventh and eighth to make it a one-run game.

There was Bernie Williams, as usual, coming up big by knocking in two huge insurance runs in the Yankees eighth.

And, most impressive of all, there was Mariano Rivera, having arrived back from Panama during the game after attending funeral services for two family members, getting the Yankees out of the eighth-inning jam and getting the final three outs of the ninth.

And that was just Game 1.

"All those people who say you sit in the dugout and it's so calm, you didn't want to be there tonight," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Each game is going to be an emotional roller coaster. There's no question."

Nothing could match the emotions that Rivera went through, having spent the afternoon grieving with his family, flying back to New York alone on a private jet and in the evening bringing joy to his teammates and Yankees fans.

"The most difficult part was leaving my family knowing they were still in pain," Rivera said. "It was tough. It was tough coming on that plane alone. I was thinking a lot. There were tears coming out of my eyes. But knowing the prayers were there kept me going."

Said Torre: "He's special."

Mussina doesn't seek the attention or get the credit that Schilling does, but he was the one delivering the memorable performance Tuesday, taking the 8-0 lead and the perfect game into the seventh, striking out five straight and eight of the first 19.

But then he sputtered, giving up four hits, and when former Devil Ray Tanyon Sturtze gave up a two-run homer to Jason Varitek, who hadn't had a hit in Yankee Stadium this season, the Sox were suddenly back in the game at 8-5.

They continued their relentless attack and drew within 8-7 against Tom Gordon in the eighth. Matsui made an off-balance leap after overrunning David Ortiz's drive to the leftfield wall, and the ball appeared to bounce off his glove. Ortiz made it to third, but he was stranded when Rivera, after a long and emotional day, retired Kevin Millar on a popout to short.

Rivera then worked through the ninth, getting a quick out, allowing two singles, then getting Bill Mueller to hit into a game-ending double play.

On the eve of his start, Schilling said, "I'm not sure I can think of any scenario more enjoyable than making 55,000 people from New York shut up."

Maybe they will when they stop laughing at him.

Schilling had the worst start of an otherwise stellar postseason career, getting knocked out after three innings while allowing six runs on six hits and two walks.

In 12 previous postseason starts, he had given up more than two earned runs once, when he allowed seven runs (six earned) over 61/3 innings to Toronto in Game 1 of the 1993 World Series. That was his only postseason loss.

Schilling had been bothered by a tender right ankle but had planned to wear a brace and had taken pain-killing shots, and he and team officials said it wouldn't be a problem. Assuming he is healthy, the Sox could bring him back in Game 4 on Saturday since he threw only 58 pitches.

"I don't think he was hurt," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "He was off."

The Yankees built their lead in impressive fashion, with three doubles by Matsui, two by Gary Sheffield and a homer by Kenny Lofton.

[Last modified October 13, 2004, 00:39:22]


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