Broken Arrow's Brad Penny a money pitcher

Friday, October 24th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Brad Penny has become the Florida Marlins' money pitcher in the World Series.

Josh Beckett couldn't get the job done, beaten by Derek Jeter.

Carl Pavano was foiled by Florida's bullpen.

Penny, meanwhile, has shut down baseball's biggest spenders. He defeated the New York Yankees for the second time in less than a week, leading Florida to a 6-4 victory Thursday night that gave the Marlins a 3-2 World Series lead.

``It's a dream to pitch in the World Series, to beat a team like that,'' he said. ``You can't explain it.''

Faced with the pressure of baseball's greatest stage, Penny anted up. He's the only Florida starter to beat New York, and now he's done it twice.

He started slowly in the postseason, getting knocked out after four innings at San Francisco and two innings at Chicago. He was sent to the bullpen for a relief outing in between.

``Everybody wanted to get down on the guy,'' Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. ``We didn't.''

Then Penny got the victory in relief in Game 7 of the NL championship series at Chicago, and now he's beaten the Yankees twice.

``They got me a lead early,'' he said, ``and it's nice to go up there with a big lead.''

The 6-foot-4 right-hander from Oklahoma actually gave himself the lead, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run single in the second inning off Jose Contreras, who came in when back pain knocked David Wells out.

``Happened to be over the plate,'' Penny said. ``Happened to get lucky.''

On the mound, the 25-year-old limited the Yankees to just one unearned run over the first six innings, tying them up with high heat _ the type of smoke New York batters could hear whizz by but couldn't see.

He felt his task became easier when New York benched slumping Alfonso Soriano and injured Jason Giambi.

``It's definitely a little weight off my shoulders when you see both those guys not in the lineup,'' Penny said.

In the seventh, after New York got another run on three singles, he escaped a bases-loaded jam by getting Bernie Williams to fly out, pumping a fist and slapping his hand on his glove as he ran off the mound.

Penny pitched with a blister in the seventh, but it didn't slow him down. With a 99-mph fastball, he blew away Ruben Sierra, who came up as a pinch hitter with one out and runners at the corners. Sierra tied Game 4 with a two-run, two-out triple in the ninth.

He left after seven innings, allowing two runs and eight hits. By the time the game ended, he had a Band-Aid on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

``I didn't want it to get any worse in case I do need to throw an inning or two out of the bullpen,'' Penny said.

It was just 1 1/2 months ago that Penny's season seemed uncertain. He left a Sept. 12 start against Atlanta in the first inning after hyperextending his pitching elbow while warming up.

But he returned after an eight-day layoff and finished the regular season. Now he's 3-1 in the postseason, winning his last three decisions, a big reason the Marlins are one win from their second World Series title.

But he's not looking that far ahead. New York's next two starters, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina, have the Yankees' two wins.

``It was big,'' Penny said after Game 5 was over. ``If we lose the game, we have to go to New York and win two games against their two best guys. I don't think we're going to unravel. We're going to keep battling. We've got a great team with great character.''

Penny may get traded in the offseason. His salary was $1,875,000 this year, and the Marlins might not want to pay for the raise he's likely to get in arbitration.

But if the Marlins win it, their fans surely will keep a Penny in their thoughts.