10/14/2003 9:00 PM ET
One bad inning costs Lowe
Three-run second all the Yankees needed in Game 5
BOSTON -- The margin of error in the postseason is so narrow that one bad inning can make all the difference in the world.
By Jim Street / MLB.com
So when the Yankees scored three runs in the second inning Tuesday night, Red Sox right-hander Derek Lowe, practically unbeaten at home this season, realized those three runs
could be enough to put the American League Wild Card team on the brink of elimination in the AL Championship Series.
He couldn't have been more correct.
"This is the playoffs, and you don't expect a high scoring game," Lowe said. "You go in expecting a 2-1 or 3-2 game. And with them scoring three runs in the second inning like
that, you know you have to buckle down and try to shut them down as much as you can."
As expected, Lowe pitched much better in Game 5 at Fenway Park, where he was 11-2 during the regular season, than he did in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium. But better didn't matter all that much because the Yankees dealt Lowe and the Red Sox a 4-2 loss that left the AL East regular-season champs one win away from another World Series appearance.
"Derek had one bad inning, but after that he settled down and kept us in the game," said catcher Jason Varitek,.
Lowe allowed seven hits and four earned runs in 7 1/3 innings.
But one bad inning and that was one too many.
The decisive second inning began with a one-out walk to Jorge Posada. An infield out put Posada on second base, and after trying to get left-handed hitting Nick Johnson to chase a pitch out of the strike zone early in the count, the Red Sox decided to issue an intentional walk and face right-handed hitting Aaron Boone.
"We got Boone 0-and-2 and threw a sinker away," Lowe said. "He did a good job of getting his bat on the ball and hit it down the line, making it an impossible play for (Bill) Mueller. Those things happen."
Boone's first hit of the game -- and fourth in the postseason in 25 at-bats -- loaded the bases. Karim Garcia, who wasn't in the original Yankees lineup, rammed a line drive single up the middle that Lowe tried to stab with his glove, but missed, and New York had a two-run lead. Alfonso Soriano delivered a run-scoring single to right field and
left-hander David Wells basically had all the offense he needed to add to his big-game reputation.
"Wells pitched extremely well, probably the best I've seen him all year," Varitek said.
Lowe replayed the inning after the game and he said the only mistake pitch he made was the one Soriano lined to right field.
Walking Johnson intentionally was the right thing to do, said the pitcher.
"Jason came out and we discussed how we were going to pitch him," Lowe said. "We decided to be careful with him because there was a right-hander (Boone) coming up next . And being
a sinkerball guy, you like your chances against a right-hander better than a left-hander."
Lowe correctly pointed out that a three-run rally in a regular season game is totally different than one in the postseason, even for a team that set a bunch of offensive records.
"At this time of year, that basically was the game," he said. "Wells did a great job of pitching out of jams in the third inning (two on with none out) and the fifth (bases
loaded). He has that label as a big-game pitcher and he pitched that way."
While Wells improved his postseason record to 11-2, Lowe's ALCS record dropped to 0-2.
He has pitched worse games than this one this season and won.
"I feel like I have pitched pretty well (in the ALCS)," Lowe said. "But I have two losses and that the bottom line. It doesn't matter if you had a quality start, but (if) you win or lose.
"I felt we had a good game plan. We mixed it up a lot more (than Game 2) and, for the most part, it was effective. But that one inning is the frustrating part. One inning can put
you behind the eight ball at this time of year."
And with the eight ball comes another dilemma. Unless the Red Sox win two straight games in Yankee Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday, "Cowboy Up" becomes "Cowboy Down" in Red Sox
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This
story was not subject to approval by Major League baseball or its clubs.