SERIES: World Series, Game 1.
David Wells will carry a remarkable postseason record and a “rubber arm” to the mound with him for Game 1 of the World Series.
Wells, who boasts a 10-2 career playoff mark, tossed two-thirds of an inning of relief in Thursday’s dramatic 6-5 come-from-behind win over Boston in Game 7 of the ALCS.
That appearance came just two days after Wells pitched New York to a critical 4-2 win at Fenway Park, allowing one run and four hits over seven innings. He has yielded just two runs and 12 hits over 14 2-3 innings, while striking out 10 and walking two in his two playoff starts this year.
Despite the heavy workload, the 40-year-old left-hander is willing and ready to lead New York in its quest for a 27th world championship.
”(Thursday), it would have been like a side day anyway,” Wells said of his brief relief stint, which saw him give up a solo homer to Boston slugger David Ortiz.
“I’ve been blessed with a rubber arm—just hope that everything else falls in and I’m ready to go.”
New York manager Joe Torre, who had to scramble to piece together his World Series rotation after using all four of his starters over the final two games of the Boston series, believes Wells is the right man to give the ball to on short rest.
“He can get up Christmas morning and probably throw the ball 89 (mph),” Torre said.
Florida manager Jack McKeon had to use each of his four postseason starters to help the Marlins overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS.
Now, he’ll turn to right-hander Brad Penny to get Florida off to a quick start at Yankee Stadium.
Penny has not fared well in his first two playoff starts, yielding 11 runs over only six innings. He was pounded for seven runs in just two innings of the Marlins’ 12-3 Game 2 loss at Wrigley Field on Oct. 8.
However, he did bounce back with a pair of scoreless innings of relief during the remainder of the series, including earning his first playoff win with one perfect frame in Florida’s pennant-clinching 9-6 victory at Wrigley on Wednesday.
“Last night, on the plane, they came up and told all the pitchers our roles,” Penny said on Friday. “It’s exciting.”
This matchup seemed highly unlikely considering both teams were down three runs and five outs from elimination with the opposing club’s ace on the hill.
In Game 6 of the NLCS, the Marlins trailed 3-0 with Chicago’s Mark Prior mowing down the Florida lineup. But a foul pop that Cubs left fielder Moises Alou appeared to have in his mitt for the second out of the eighth inning was grabbed by a fan.
The Marlins took full advantage of the opportunity, staging an improbable eight-run rally in an eventual 8-3 win.
They then beat Kerry Wood the next night in Game 7 to reach their second World Series since entering the majors in 1993.
“We have blue-collar, working-hard, keep-pushing guys,” said Florida’s Mike Mordecai, who had a key bases-clearing double during the eighth-inning rally in Game 6.
“We don’t give up.”
The Yankees trailed the Red Sox 5-2 with one out and none on in the eighth inning of Game 7, but found a way to rally for a tie against a tiring Pedro Martinez.
After three brilliant innings of relief from Mariano Rivera, Aaron Boone launched the first pitch of the 11th inning from Tim Wakefield into the left-field stands, setting off a wild celebration in the Bronx and sending New York to its 39th Fall Classic.
“It couldn’t be more satisfying,” said Torre, who has led the Yankees to six World Series during his eight-year tenure in New York. “This has to be the sweetest taste of all for me.”
While the Yankees boast the most impressive postseason resume in the history of baseball, the Marlins’ playoff record is also eye opening. Florida has won each of its previous five postseason series, including the 1997 World Series against Cleveland.
The Yankees are bidding for their first championship since defeating the New York Mets in the 2000 Fall Classic.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Marlins - NL wild card; beat San Francisco Giants 3-1, division series; beat Chicago Cubs 4-3, league championship series. Yankees - AL East champions; beat Minnesota Twins 3-1, division series; beat Boston Red Sox 4-3, league championship series.
PROJECTED LINEUPS: Marlins - CF Juan Pierre (.305, 1 HR, 41 RBIs), 2B Luis Castillo (.314, 6, 39), C Ivan Rodriguez (.297, 16, 85), 1B Derrek Lee (.271, 31, 92), LF Miguel Cabrera (.268, 12, 62), 3B Mike Lowell (.276, 32, 105); RF Juan Encarnacion (.270, 19, 94), DH Jeff Conine (.282, 20, 95), SS Alex Gonzalez (.256, 18, 77). Yankees - 2B Alfonso Soriano (.290, 38, 91, 114 runs, 35 steals, 130 Ks), SS Derek Jeter (.324, 10, 52), DH Jason Giambi (.250, 41, 107, 129 BBs, 140 Ks), CF Bernie Williams (.263, 15, 64), C Jorge Posada (.281, 30, 101), LF Hideki Matsui (.287, 16, 106, 42 doubles), 1B Nick Johnson (.284, 14, 47, 70 BBs in 96 games), 3B Boone (.267, 24, 96, 23 steals), RF Karim Garcia (.262, 11, 35).
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Penny (14-10, 4.13 ERA). Penny has made just one career start at Yankee Stadium, picking up a win during his rookie season in 2000. He allowed three runs and six hits over five innings.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Wells (15-7, 4.14 ERA). Wells is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two career starts against Florida. He went 8-5 with a 4.89 ERA in 16 home starts this year, but will be making his first playoff start in New York after beating Minnesota and Boston on the road.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Marlins - C Rodriguez, who hit safely in each of his 11 postseason games this season and earned NLCS MVP honors with 10 RBIs against the Cubs, is hitting .333 (19-for-57) with four homers and 10 RBIs in his career against LHP Wells. … OF Conine is hitting .250 (10-for-40) against Wells, but has four homers. … RHP Penny was 8-7 with a 4.62 ERA in 18 road starts this year. Yankees - The Yankees lead the all-time regular season series with Florida 8-6. … 3B Boone has just one hit in 11 career at-bats against Penny. No other Yankee has more than seven at-bats against the right-hander. … New York has won 10 straight World Series home games dating to a loss to Atlanta in Game 2 of the 1996 Fall Classic.
HOME/ROAD RECORDS: Marlins - 46-35 on the road in regular season, 4-2 in postseason; Yankees - 50-32 at home in regular season, 3-3 in postseason.