Pedro to Face Rocket With Series at Stake

Thursday, October 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ On what could be the final appearance of his career, Roger Clemens will face Pedro Martinez as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox meet in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium.

The division rivals will meet for the 26th time this season, with the winner going on to face the Florida Marlins in the World Series. Clemens and Martinez were the central characters who set off fireworks and fights during Game 3 at Fenway Park.

``The gods of baseball wanted to see this happen,'' Boston's Kevin Millar said after the Red Sox won 9-6 Wednesday and forced these two old foes to the limit in the AL championship series

Down by two runs and nine outs from ending their season, the resilient Red Sox rallied again, putting Boston one win from its first World Series in 17 years.

David Ortiz tied it with a run-scoring single and Johnny Damon drove in the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded walk in a three-run seventh inning.

``I guess it was supposed to come down to seven games,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ``I don't know of any two clubs that are more evenly matched than we are.''

Slumping Nomar Garciaparra had four hits, including a wind-blown triple that started the seventh, atoning for an error. Jason Varitek hit a third-inning homer off starter Andy Pettitte, and Trot Nixon added a two-run shot in the ninth off Gabe White.

``We have battled and fought against these guys all year,'' Varitek said.

A swirling 25 mph wind floated napkins across the field during the entire game, and the conditions made it difficult for fielders, spinning line drives into twisting gappers. Boston's first hit was a second-inning liner by Bill Mueller that sailed over Hideki Matsui in left for a double.

``It's a fact that it is hard to catch fly balls in wind like that,'' Matsui said through a translator.

Jason Giambi's first-inning homer put New York in front, but Boston went ahead 4-1 in the third on Varitek's long solo homer to left, Ortiz's two-run single over a leaping Derek Jeter at shortstop and Millar's soft RBI single to center.

Boston starter John Burkett, a 38-year-old who relies on offspeed pitches, couldn't get through the fourth. Nick Johnson hit an RBI double to the right-center gap, Aaron Boone had a run-scoring grounder, Garciaparra allowed Karim Garcia's bouncer to kick out of his glove for an error and Alfonso Soriano lined a two-run double to center that the wind pushed into left-center.

Jorge Posada made it 6-4 in the fifth with a solo homer that appeared to ride the wind over the wall in left.

Jose Contreras relieved Pettitte to start the sixth and struck out the side, but he overthrew in the seventh and wound up the loser.

Boston, the top offense in the major leagues during the regular season, had been hitting just .230 in the playoffs and hadn't scored more than five runs in 10 postseason games. But the Red Sox remembered back to the first round, when they fell behind Oakland 0-2 before winning three in a row to advance.

Garciaparra, who didn't get his first postseason RBI until Tuesday, hit a deep drive to center leading off the seventh, and the ball gusted over Bernie Williams for a triple. Garciaparra came home when the wind sent Matsui's throw to third sailing on a hop into the seats for an error. Manny Ramirez followed with a similar shot over Williams for a double.

``I thought both balls would be caught,'' Contreras said through a translator.

Ramirez took third on a wild pitch and scored the tying run when Ortiz smashed a single off first base.

Felix Heredia relieved with one out and two on, threw a wild pitch that moved up the runners, then threw a called third strike past Nixon. After an intentional walk to Varitek, Heredia walked Damon on four pitches _ two of them close _ forcing in the go-ahead run.

Alan Embree, who struck out Giambi to help escape a big jam in the fifth, got the win. Scott Williamson, Boston's sixth pitcher, got three outs for his third save of the series.

``It comes down to tomorrow,'' Jeter said. ``You've got Rocket versus Pedro. It's fun. It's what you play for.''