NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui loves a big moment.
He hit a grand slam in his Yankee Stadium debut, an RBI single
in his first major league at-bat and even homered in his first big
league spring training game.
Now he's a star on baseball's biggest stage.
Matsui hit a three-run homer in the first inning Sunday night,
sending the New York Yankees to a 6-1 victory over the Florida
Marlins in Game 2 and evened the World Series.
"Even going into this postseason and this World Series, I just
took the same approach," Matsui said through a translator.
After the Yankees went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position
during a 3-2 loss in Game 1, a clutch hit and an early lead were
exactly what starter Andy Pettitte needed.
"It was big," Pettitte said. "When he hits the home run right
there, I'm able to really start concentrating a little bit more."
Jason Giambi was hit by a pitch and went to third on Bernie
Williams' single in the first, bringing up Matsui with two outs.
Confident in Matsui's mature approach at the plate, manager Joe
Torre let him swing away on a 3-0 count against Marlins starter
"Everybody in the dugout, including myself and Redman, was
surprised that he swung," Florida catcher Ivan Rodriguez said.
The Japanese slugger made it pay off, sending a drive over the
408-foot sign in center field. It was the first three-run homer for
the Yankees in the World Series since Scott Brosius connected
against San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman in 1998.
"It's the first time I had a chance to see him in person. He's
a pretty good player," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "If you
get the count 3-0 and lay a fastball down the middle, I think you
could be a pretty good hitter, too."
Fans were chanting Matsui's name as he went back out to his
position in left field for the second inning. Williams, the center
fielder, tipped his cap toward Matsui, who tipped his right back.
He is the first Japanese player to hit a home run in the World
"By the time we left spring training, Don Zimmer and I both
thought he'd hit .300 and drive in 100 runs," Yankees manager Joe
Torre said. "He has a very solid swing, plus the fact that he
knows how to hit. What I mean by that, he knows how to hit in
situations. To me, that's more important than a lot of ability
maybe somebody else might have."
Matsui has made a habit of getting big hits during his first
taste of October pressure in New York.
"Godzilla" is batting .327 with two homers, 10 RBIs and four
doubles in 13 postseason games. He went 3-for-4 in the opener
against Florida, and his two-strike double off Boston ace Pedro Martinez keyed an eighth-inning comeback in Game 7 of the AL
Now, Matsui has a six-game hitting streak in the postseason.
It's been a big year all around for the 29-year-old Matsui, a
huge celebrity in Japan. Some say he's as big back home as Michael Jordan is in the United States.
"It's very difficult to compare the two; very different
environments," Matsui said. "But as far as myself, I'm just,
again, taking the same mental approach and generally just the same
preparation that I've done over there."
A three-time MVP during a 10-year career with the Yomiuri
Giants, he signed a $21 million, three-year contract with the
Yankees before this season -- and a horde of Japanese reporters
followed him to the United States.
They've chronicled his every move over the past eight months,
but it never seemed to faze Matsui. A 50-homer slugger in Japan, he
has impressed Torre and his teammates with fundamentals and
"Before I saw him play, with the number of home runs he's hit
the last couple years, I was a little concerned because it's tough
to change not only leagues, but countries, and expect to be this
big power hitter," Torre said.
"I saw him in spring training and I saw a different person. He's more of a line-drive type hitter, and I like that a whole lot
better, because that would fit with us a lot better."
He batted .287 with 16 homers and led major league rookies with
106 RBIs, making him a leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year
"I think I was able to give it my best throughout the season,"
Now, all that success is carrying over when it really counts.