10/09/2003 9:21 PM ET
Sox let Pettitte off the hook early
Left-hander escapes jams in first two innings
NEW YORK -- The Red Sox delivered a number of jabs, straight rights and kidney shots Wednesday night, but the knockout blow never came.
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
And just like that, Andy Pettitte was off the ropes.
The Yankees put Game 2 of the American League Championship Series to bed late, scoring two huge insurance runs in the seventh inning on the way to a 6-2 win that sends everyone to Boston all tied up. But as they travel back to Fenway Park for Game 3 on Saturday, the Sox likely will look long and hard at their failure to capitalize on a bevy of baserunners early.
In the first two innings alone, Boston banged out six hits and drew a walk. They came away with just one run.
"We didn't capitalize on our opportunities," said Red Sox manager Grady Little.
Those opportunites came -- and went -- right away. Gabe Kapler, standing in for speedy leadoff man Johnny Damon, opened the game with an infield single. He was quickly wiped out, though, when Yankees catcher Jorge Posada gunned him down at second base as AL batting champion Bill Mueller struck out on a 3-2 pitch.
"It's backfired a whole lot less than it has worked for us," Little said of putting runners in motion with a full count. "Chances are, when you've got a hitter like Billy Mueller up there -- the guy that led the American League in hitting -- chances are he's going to hit."
Then came consecutive singles by Nomar Garciaparra and red-hot Manny Ramirez, and a walk to David Ortiz loaded the bases. But Pettitte wiggled out of it with another big strikeout, this time getting Kevin Millar.
"I was having trouble locating my fastball," Pettitte admitted. "I was very fortunate to get out of there."
More of the same came in the second, which Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek opened with a double before Trot Nixon singled to put runners at the corners with nobody out. When Damian Jackson followed with a single up the middle to open the scoring, it looked liked Pettitte could be headed for an early exit and Boston could be headed for another big night at the plate and a 2-0 series lead.
"He might have been missing his spots a little early on," said Jackson, "and we took advantage."
But the big lefty bounced back, getting Kapler to ground to shortstop Derek Jeter to start a huge double play.
"I thought he'd be bunting," Pettitte said of the Kapler at-bat, "and I was trying to run something in on his hands. Fortunately he was swinging and I was able to jam him."
Said Little: "We didn't get to this point by [bunting runners over] that early in the ballgame. We're not going to start now."
Mueller grounded out to third baseman Aaron Boone to end the inning.
"We made Andy throw a lot of pitches early," Varitek said, "but we just didn't get it done on the other end and expand our lead."
That lead was gone minutes later when Nick Johnson belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning. Pettitte set the Sox down in order in the top of the third and, after the Yanks scored a run in the bottom to go up, 3-1, Boston stranded another runner in scoring position in the top of the fourth.
"He came out after that [second] inning and didn't make as many mistakes," Jackson said. "He's extremely good, and you have to take advantage of the few chances he gives you."
Varitek homered in the sixth to cut New York's lead to 4-2, but New York answered with the two runs in the bottom of the seventh. Pettitte pitched into the seventh and picked up the win.
"He did a good job," Varitek said. "He's a 21-game winner for a reason."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.