10/14/2003 1:09 AM ET
Nixon comes up big for Boston
Trot Nixon's solo home run 56K|300K
By Jim Street / MLB.com
BOSTON -- It has taken him a long time, but Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon seems to finally have figured out one of his biggest all-time nemeses.
Coming into the American League Championship Series, Nixon was a one-sided 6-for-49 (.122) in his career against Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina with three RBIs and 16 strikeouts.
Can't get dominated much more than that.
But after getting three legs of a cycle Monday night in the Red Sox' 3-2 victory at a jam-packed Fenway Park, Nixon is 4-for-5 with a walk against the New York right-hander in the best-of-seven ALCS, which is now tied at two games apiece.
Nixon singled in the first inning, hit a solo home run in the fifth inning to give Boston a 2-1 lead and doubled in the seventh inning, the key blow in an inning that produced the eventual game-deciding run.
He was thrown out trying to steal two bases, making it one busy night at Fenway Park.
Afterwards, he appeared to be as emotionally high as someone who just went 0-for-4. In a calmness that didn't fit the loud music filling the home clubhouse, Nixon explained that the Red Sox pitchers had more to do with getting this series tied than anything else.
"Our pitching staff won this game," he said, giving verbal high-fives to starter Tim Wakefield and relievers Mike Timlin and Scott Williamson. "It ceases to amaze me what Wake does year-in and year-out with that knuckleball."
Nixon has been equally amazed as to how frustrating it has been trying to hit Mussina.
He has a .277 career batting average after 696 big-league games and 2,347 at-bats. But just six hits off Mussina?
"He is always tough on me," Nixon said.
The third-inning single to right field gave Nixon a shot of confidence.
"Anytime you get a hit the first time you come to bat in a game, it helps," he said.
As he stepped into the batter's box in the fifth inning, Nixon tried to read Mussina's mind and guessed the first pitch would be a fastball, probably on the inside part of the plate.
"I had a nice crisp picture of it coming out of his hand, reacted and got enough wood on the ball to get it out," said Nixon of the ball that cleared the high wall in center field -- almost the exact same place he hit one against the Athletics in the AL Division Series.
That one won a game. This one helped win a game.
"I guess the Lord is using me as a pretty good instrument," he said. "I am just trying to get on base. I don't think about hitting home runs because I'm not that kind of a hitter.
He might not consider himself as being a home run hitter, but Nixon slugged 28 home runs during the regular season, the third straight season of hitting more than 20.
Nixon said doing his part in helping the team pull even in the series was satisfying. Playing a game minus extracurricular activity was even more pleasing.
"I think we all disrespected the game a little bit," he said of Saturday's fourth-inning scrum. "I think everyone in both clubhouses feels that way. We disrespected it and shouldn't have. This game was here long before us and will be here a long time after us."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League baseball or its clubs.