Pettitte#039;s pressure performance evens series

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2003

NEW YORK - Now that's more like what New York fans expect from a postseason game at Yankee Stadium.

Andy Pettitte pitched another gem under pressure, Jason Giambi turned the boos to cheers and the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 Thursday night to even their best-of-five AL playoff series at a game apiece.

After a sloppy loss during the day in Game 1, the Yankees got their big ballpark in the Bronx rocking with a three-run seventh inning that snapped a 1-all tie. Alfonso Soriano hit a go-ahead single off LaTroy Hawkins, and this time it was the Twins who made defensive errors that opened the door.

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Yankees manager Joe Torre took no chances, bringing in Mariano Rivera to pitch the final two innings for a save.

The victory came on the 25th anniversary of one of the Yankees' most famous wins - the day Bucky Dent homered at Fenway Park to help beat Boston in a one-game playoff for the AL East title.

This win gave the Yankees the momentum heading into Game 3, but Minnesota has its home-field magic - the Twins are 13-3 all-time in postseason games at the noisy Metrodome.

Roger Clemens pitches Saturday afternoon for New York in what could be the final start of his Hall of Fame career. Kyle Lohse pitches for Minnesota.

Twins starter Brad Radke hit Nick Johnson - stuck in an 0-for-22 slump - with a 1-2 pitch leading off the seventh. Juan Rivera's sacrifice moved Johnson up, and Hawkins, the winner in Game 1, entered to face Soriano.

Soriano singled sharply to left for a 2-1 lead - his throwing error was one of several defensive miscues by New York on Tuesday.

Derek Jeter followed with a chopper back to Hawkins, who hurriedly threw high off first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz's glove for an error that left runners at second and third.

Up came Giambi, who fanned against Hawkins in Game 1 and was booed loudly throughout the first two games.

But he changed that in a New York minute, grounding a hard single up the middle through a drawn-in infield for a 4-1 lead that put the fans in a frenzy.

That was all New York needed. A well-rested Rivera came out of the bullpen for his first two-inning postseason save since Game 3 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona.

The October chill of a 52-degree night - Soriano went out for batting practice wearing a ski cap - helped give the game a postseason feel that was missing Tuesday.

Game 1 started at 1 p.m. EDT because Fox Sports wanted the Cubs-Braves game in prime time. When New York struggled to score, an unusually quiet Yankee Stadium crowd began booing Bernie Williams, Giambi and the rest of the home team.

It was a far different setting Thursday night.

The crowd was buzzing by the time Pettitte whiffed two in the first, and two-strike singles by Soriano, Jeter and Giambi brought fans to their feet moments later. Williams' bases-loaded sacrifice fly made it 1-0.

Peering in at the plate between the web of his glove and bill of his cap, Pettitte used a tight slider to set a postseason career high with 10 strikeouts. He allowed four hits in seven innings, improving to 11-7 in 26 postseason starts.

Radke was on his game, too, minimizing the first-inning damage and retiring 10 in a row before Jorge Posada's double in the fourth. The Yankees got several singles by fighting off tough pitches, but Radke remained cool and kept them in check with a baffling changeup.

He fanned Giambi with two to end the fifth, bringing more loud boos from the crowd of 56,479.

Torii Hunter led off the fifth with his first career postseason homer, sending a 1-1 pitch rocketing over the left-center fence.