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Bombers bats unable to Wake up
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10/14/2003 12:48 AM ET 
Bombers bats unable to Wake up
New York baffled again by Boston knuckleballer
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Hideki Matsui struck out twice in three at-bats vs. Tim Wakefield in Game 4 Monday. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
  • Soriano holds at third in fifth: 56K | 300K
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    BOSTON -- A frightening sequel played out Monday night at Fenway Park for the Yankees, one they're hoping won't ultimately spell the end of their postseason run.

    The Bombers faced Boston starter Tim Wakefield for the second time in the American League Championship Series and while the venue changed, the results didn't. For the second time in five days, the Bombers watched as his knuckleball danced and broke over every part of the plate, powerless against the pitch's dipsy-doodle action, confounded by its movement or, at times, its lack thereof.

    The Red Sox, riding the magical mystery of Wakefield's floater, topped New York, 3-2, to even the ALCS at two games apiece, shifting the momentum back toward Boston. While Wakefield isn't scheduled to start for the remainder of the series the prospect of him coming out of the bullpen in a tight spot has given the Yankees something about which to be worried.

    Wakefield dazzled New York for seven-plus innings, scattering five hits -- three of which came in the fifth inning -- while striking out eight. The Yanks mounted only one serious threat against Wakefield, that coming when they scored their only run in the fifth. The fifth through eighth hitters in New York's starting lineup went 0-for-15 Monday with 10 strikeouts.

        Jorge Posada   /   C
    Height: 6'2"
    Weight: 200
    Bats/Throws: S/R

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    "He was tough today, tougher than he was in New York," said Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who was hitless in three at-bats with a pair of strikeouts against Wakefield. "His knuckleball was really down in the zone. It was very unpredictable. You didn't know what it was going to do. He didn't even know what it was going to do. Whenever he keeps it down like that, it's tough."

    Wakefield was shaky in the first inning as the Bombers displayed patience at the plate, but he quickly settled down. Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a walk before Derek Jeter slapped Wakefield's first pitch into center for a single. Jeter made it a point of being aggressive against Wakefield in Game 1 and continued to employ that strategy Monday night.

    But Jeter's aggressive posture was negated one batter later when Jason Giambi lined a shot to Kevin Millar at first base. Millar stabbed the liner and stepped on first to double off Jeter, who was running on the pitch.

        Derek Jeter   /   SS
    Derek Jeter
    Height: 6'3"
    Weight: 195
    Bats/Throws: R/R

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    "The early strategy didn't work," Jeter said. "It's easy to say take pitches but when you fall behind, you're in trouble. The knuckleball comes in and it looks like a ball. It starts in the zone and then it goes out of the zone. It starts coming out but then it goes in.

    "It's easy to say be patient but you don't have much of a choice. I don't know if he was better or worse than Game 1 but this game is over with."

    The aborted first-inning rally would be the extent of New York's offense until the fifth when David Dellucci hit a one-out single to right. He moved to second on Soriano's single to left and scored when Jeter hit a shot off third base that went for a double.

    The Yanks, however, couldn't cash in further. Giambi flew out to shallow center. Soriano tagged up but didn't try to score on the play, running halfway down the line before returning to third base despite the fact that Johnny Damon's throw was short and off line.

    Third base coach Willie Randolph said it was his decision to keep Soriano on third.

    "If he gets thrown out there, everyone says why don't you give [the next batter] Bernie [Williams] a shot [next]," Randolph said. "You can't second-guess yourself and I won't. We have all our good RBI guys coming up after that. You just have to react to what you see.

    "It was only the fifth inning. And Johnny Damon was coming in on that ball full speed. The throw was a little off line but with the big guys coming up you have to hold him. If it was further down in the lineup, maybe."

    Wakefield followed by walking Williams to load the bases but Posada lined a shot to Manny Ramirez in left to end the threat. Wakefield retired the next six batters before walking Giambi, the last batter he faced, to start the eighth.

      Alfonso Soriano   /   2B
    Height: 6'1"
    Weight: 180
    Bats/Throws: R/R

    More info:
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    texasrangers.com

    "He's thrown two very good games," said Soriano, who acknowledged that the prospect of Wakefield coming out of the pen should be cause for concern. "He's better now than he was in the regular season. He throws it good and sometimes it's real nasty."

    The Yanks fared only slightly better against the Boston bullpen. Right-hander Mike Timlin came on for Wakefield and retired left-handed hitters Williams, Posada and Hideki Matsui in order. Scott Williamson surrendered a solo homer to Ruben Sierra in the ninth but held on to earn the save.

    "You know, we hit some balls hard," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "You're frustrated, sure. But I think everyone stayed within himself tonight. You have to give Tim Wakefield credit because he got the outs he had to. He won a game for them and instead of being down 3-1, they tied the series. Tim Wakefield has been the big-game guy for them."

    Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.




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