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10/07/07 11:33 PM ET
Chess Match: Nixon offers mixed results
Lefty homers off Clemens, but later commits two-run error
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- The Yankees now have a 1-0 record in games that could have a direct determination on Joe Torre's managerial future. The breaks went their way Sunday, and so did the hits.
Riding the Rocket
Yankees starter Roger Clemens hadn't pitched for New York since Sept. 16 due to various injuries, including a strained left hamstring.
Instead of giving the nod to either Phil Hughes or Mike Mussina, Yankees manager Joe Torre opts to stick with the 45-year-old Clemens for the start in Game 3.
Clemens lasted just 2 1/3 innings, exiting after aggravating his left hamstring injury and yielding three runs to the Tribe. Hughes entered in relief and spun 3 2/3 scoreless innings, giving New York's offense time to regain the lead.
"He was very unhappy when we took him out. Not the fact that he felt he could pitch more, it was just the fact that he was there to do a job, and he was really upset that he had to leave at that point in time."
Home run Trot
Trot Nixon makes his first appearance in the American League Division Series, starting in right field in place of Franklin Gutierrez.
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge elected to go with the left-handed hitting veteran against Clemens, choosing Nixon over Gutierrez or Jason Michaels.
Nixon homered on the third pitch he saw from Clemens, in his only at-bat against the New York starter, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead in the second. Nixon now has four career home runs against the right-hander.
"It was nice. A lot of guys who have been in the postseason really enjoy this atmosphere. You have to enjoy this atmosphere, You live for it. I was excited to get that opportunity today. Whether I play or not, it doesn't really matter. I'm here for these guys, whether I'm on the field or on the bench." -- Nixon
Walk this way
Runners on second and third for the Yankees with one out in the sixth, and left-handed reliever Aaron Fultz on the mound. Hideki Matsui was next up to the plate, followed by Robinson Cano, both solid left-handed hitters.
The decision: Cleveland elected to load the bases by intentionally walking Matsui, a stronger source of power, and face Cano with a force at any base.
Cano ripped Fultz's first pitch into right field for a run-scoring single, with two more runs scoring on Nixon's error.
The analysis: "You can look at the game in two swings of the bat. The fastball up to [Johnny] Damon and he pulled it out of the ballpark and that was three runs. Then, the ball Cano hit a couple of innings later. That accounted for five of their eight runs. The game could have been different, but they took advantage of the mistakes."
--Cleveland pitching coach Carl Willis