10/19/2003 2:08 AM ET
Matsui excels in Series debut
NEW YORK -- For Hideki Matsui, his first game of his first World Series was almost all it was supposed to be.
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
"As I thought, the World Series has a very unique atmosphere," Matsui said.
Matsui had three singles in his final three at-bats, going 3-for-4 in the Yankees' 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Marlins at Yankee Stadium. He battled and hit Florida pitchers Brad Penny and Dontrelle Willis while his teammates collected only six other hits through 7 2/3 innings against the duo.
Matsui also unwittingly stood by as third baseman Aaron Boone cut off his throw from left field that might have nailed Juan Encarnacion at the plate on the back end of Juan Pierre's two-run, fifth-inning single. He was at bat as well with runners on first and third and two out in the third inning when Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez picked off Nick Johnson leaning too far off third base. Both plays were critical to the outcome of the game.
"I couldn't tell about the throw," Matsui said. "Could we have gotten him at the plate? I don't know. It's hard for me to say. Those plays are just part of what happens in baseball. As far as my offense, what I did tonight was focus and I had some success. I hope to continue to take the same approach."
The Yankees signed the Japanese-baseball star last winter to a three-year, $21 million contract because of his success on the big stage.
Last year at this time, Matsui, finishing his 10th year with the Yomiuri Giants, played in the Japan Series. The Giants swept the Seibu Lions in four games. It was his fourth Japan Series and his third title. In 21 Japan Series games, Matsui batted .286 (22-for-77) with four homers and 14 RBIs.
After one World Series game, Matsui is batting a cool .750.
Matsui, at 29 years old, is a top candidate for Rookie of the Year honors in the American League after hitting .287 with 16 homers and 106 RBIs. The RBI count led all Major League rookies this past season.
His eighth-inning ground-rule double last Thursday night was one of the key hits as the Yankees scored three times to tie the Red Sox, 5-5, in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series. The Yankees won the game and the pennant in the 11th inning on Aaron Boone's homer.
He batted .308 in that series with four RBIs and is hitting .333 (15-for-45) with a homer and seven RBI in 12 postseason games.
"What I'm doing is just waiting for good pitches to hit," Matsui said. "I'm looking for anything in the strike zone, something down the middle."
Matsui, though, said he couldn't compare his experiences playing for the Giants in the Japan Series at the Tokyo Dome with playing for the Yankees in the World Series at Yankee Stadium. For one thing, the World Series is the culmination of three rounds of playoffs. The Japan Series simply pits the regular season winner of the Central League with the Pacific League.
"It's hard to compare. There are a lot of differences between the Japan Series there and the World Series here," Matsui said. "It's hard for me. You really can't compare the two."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.