Yankees 3, Red Sox 1

Thursday, October 14th 2004, 6:54 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Jon Lieber dislikes glitz and glamour, preferring to be a low-profile pitcher on the back end of the New York Yankees' rotation.

Not any more.

In Game 2 of the AL championship series, he became Pedro Martinez's latest father figure.

Pitching against the three-time Cy Young Award winner, Lieber smothered the highest-scoring offense in the major leagues. He took a shutout into the eighth inning, John Olerud backed him with a two-run homer in the sixth off the tiring Martinez and the Yankees beat the Red Sox 3-1 Wednesday night for a 2-0 lead in their AL championship series rematch.

``I knew coming into this game what Pedro has done in the past in situations like this, so there was no room for error,'' Lieber said.

While Lieber loves being under the radar, like it or not, Martinez can't avoid the spotlight. He had it before and it only grew larger after a loss to New York on Sept. 24 prompted him to say: ``Just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy. I can't find a way to beat them at this point.''

While the raucous crowd of 56,136 at Yankee Stadium taunted Martinez with booming chants of ``Who's Your Daddy?'' he insisted he didn't mind.

``It actually made me feel really, really good,'' Martinez said. ``I actually realized that I was somebody important because I caught the attention of 60,000 people ... plus the whole world. ... If you reverse time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to actually pay for a bus. And today, I was the center of attention of the whole city of New York. I thank God for that.''

On this night, however, Lieber threw superior pitches, allowing three hits in seven-plus innings. Even more remarkable, he's still recovering from elbow surgery that sidelined him last season.

``He was as good as I've seen him all year,'' Yankees captain Derek Jeter said.

Boston, which didn't get a runner on against Mike Mussina in the opener until the seventh inning, is hitting just .224 (15-for-67) in the first two games with one walk and 16 strikeouts.

``I'll take responsibility for this ... 0-for-8 with five strikeouts,'' leadoff man Johnny Damon said. ``I'm the catalyst of this team. I'm the guy on this team that gets us going, gets on base and creates some havoc, but I haven't been able to do that.''

After a day off, the series resumes Friday at Fenway Park, with Kevin Brown pitching for the Yankees against Bronson Arroyo.

``We'll regroup tomorrow,'' Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. ``We really have no choice but to look forward to the next game.''

Following Orlando Cabrera's single leading off the third _ Boston's first hit _ Lieber retired 13 straight batters before David Ortiz singled in the seventh.

Working quickly, Lieber needed just 45 pitches to get through five innings _ Martinez threw 46 in the first two innings alone. Lieber's biggest thorn was Damon, who kept fouling balls off before lining to center in a 16-pitch at-bat with one out in the sixth.

``That was definitely one of the keys to this game,'' Lieber said.

Damon agreed it was a turning point.

``I actually felt if I got on base right there, we were going to have a big inning,'' he said.

When Trot Nixon singled leading off the eighth, Tom Gordon came in and allowed Jason Varitek's double and Cabrera's RBI grounder. Mariano Rivera entered with a runner on third and two outs in the eighth, just as he did Tuesday night when he jetted back from a family funeral in Panama to preserve New York's 10-7 win.

Rivera threw a called third strike past Damon to escape trouble, then finished the five-hitter for his second straight save and 32nd in postseason play.

Boston headed home unsure of the status of ace Curt Schilling, whose ailing right ankle might prevent him from starting Game 5 if it's played. Martinez said he would pitch on short rest if needed.

``You feel good, but you don't feel too good,'' New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. ``We feel like everybody wrote us off before this series started.''

Back on the mound where he blew a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning of last year's Game 7, Martinez again tired against the team that frustrates him most.

Pitching just a few miles from where Big Daddy and Daddy Warbucks became famous names on Broadway, he dropped to 1-2 against the Yankees in postseason play. During the regular season, Martinez is 10-10 against New York and 172-66 against the rest of baseball.

``To beat him when he had his stuff like this, it really gives us a lot of confidence,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Jeter walked on four pitches leading off the first and stole second. Martinez nicked Rodriguez on the hand with the count 2-2, and Gary Sheffield singled to center on the next pitch, with Jeter scoring easily ahead of Damon's weak throw.

Martinez struck out Sheffield on a 95 mph pitch in the fifth inning, but he got in trouble when he walked Jorge Posada with one out in the sixth and Olerud homered just into the right-field seats on Martinez's 106th pitch. It was the ninth postseason homer for Olerud, signed by the Yankees on Aug. 3 for the discount price of $100,000 after Seattle released him from a deal that paid him $7.7 million this year.

``It ranks right up there,'' Olerud said, when asked if it was his biggest hit. ``It's definitely the freshest in my mind.''

Notes: Boston has lost nine of its last 10 Game 2s in the postseason. New York has won five straight Game 2s. ... Sheffield is 5-for-8 in the series and Hideki Matsui 4-for-9.