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Matsui is again Martinez's nemesis

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NEW YORK – In Yankee Stadium on Thursday night, fans sang "Who's Your Daddy?" to Pedro Martinez(notes).

The answer, it turns out, comes from Tokyo.

Hideki Matsui(notes) is Pedro's

Daddy (Japanese)
or as the Japanese pronounce it, "Otoh-san."

Matsui hit a tie-breaking home run off Martinez in the sixth inning of the New York Yankees' 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 2 of the World Series, evening the best-of-seven series at one win apiece.

The Japanese slugger, known as "Godzilla" when he was winning three MVP awards for the Yomiuri Giants before coming to the major leagues in 2003, was also involved in the most controversial moment of Martinez's career.

Matsui, then in his first season with the Yankees, was at the plate in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS when Red Sox manager Grady Little visited the mound and elected to leave a tiring Martinez in the game, astonishing many and inspiring "pure rage" in Boston owner John W. Henry.

View photo

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Photo
The Yankees' Hideki Matsui hit a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Phillies' Pedro Martinez.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Matsui, who had doubled off Martinez in Game 3 of that series and doubled again in the fourth inning of Game 7, could have expected to face left-handed reliever Alan Embree(notes) in that situation. Instead, Matsui turned on an inside fastball by Martinez and lashed a ground-rule double. When Jorge Posada(notes) followed with a bloop hit, Matsui scored the tying run.

Aaron Boone(notes) then homered in the 12th off Tim Wakefield(notes), sending the Yankees to the World Series, Henry saying afterward that instead of the stock "I'm going to Disney World,'' he planned to announce "I'm firing Grady Little.''

Matsui has had modest results against Martinez in the regular season, batting just .143 in 28 career at-bats. But when the lights are brightest, he has delivered.

"My honest answer is I don't know how to explain it,'' he said. "I take the same approach that I do in the regular season. The postseason doesn't change it.''

There was one wrinkle to Matsui's approach Thursday. He got caught in traffic and arrived late to the ballpark, nearly missing his round of batting practice. He denied he was late, but according to Gaku Tashiro of Tokyo newspaper Sankei Sports, Matsui has a habit of excusing his tardiness by hitting a home run.

It happened once in Japan, Tashiro said, when Matsui's car broke down in front of the emperor's house, and it happened just this August, when Matsui showed up late and was docked by teammates for missing the team's kangaroo court.

Until this week, the Yankees hadn't been back to the World Series since 2003, and Thursday night they were facing the prospect of losing the first two games to the Phillies. Philadelphia won Game 1 behind Cliff Lee's(notes) complete game and was hoping that at age 38, Martinez might provide a memorable coda to his marvelous career by beating the Bombers.

The day before, Martinez single-handedly provided all the buildup his start needed with an enormously entertaining media session, telling reporters that he might be "the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium.''

He was referring to the old building, the one slated for demolition next week, but in the early innings Thursday he looked utterly at home in the Yankees' new billion-dollar digs, striking out three of the first four hitters he faced and holding the Yankees to one hit in the first three innings – a ground-ball single by that man Matsui.

Mark Teixeira(notes) crushed a fastball for a 414-foot home run to right-center to tie the score in the fourth, but Martinez still looked strong when he struck out Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez(notes) back-to-back to open the sixth.

To the plate strode Matsui, who is 35, playing on creaking knees and as a pending free agent, may be at the end of the line with the Yankees. Martinez got two quick called strikes with fastballs, then missed with a changeup. Matsui fouled off the next pitch, a curveball, and Martinez tried to come back with another breaking ball.

Matsui swept the ball nearly off the ground with an arcing swing, the ball landing into the right-field seats.

"I was disappointed,'' Martinez said, "because that pitch wasn't the one I would probably have chosen if I was to think again.''

Matsui had taken Martinez deep only once before in his career, but that one was memorable, too. It came on Sept. 24, 2004, in the game that inspired Martinez to issue his most famous declaration.

"I can't find a way to beat them at this point,'' Martinez said that night. ''You have to give them credit. They didn't beat my team. They beat me. They're that good right now. They're that hot. I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.''

Thursday night, Matsui offered an amused chuckle when asked if he was Pedro's

Daddy (Japanese)

"I have no idea,'' he said. "I don't know how to answer that question.''

Oh, yes, he does.

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