Six months after he gave up Aaron Boone's game-ending homer that
thrilled Yankee Stadium fans and gave New York a win in Game 7 of
the AL championship series, he pitched seven strong innings as
Boston won 6-2 Friday night.
The Red Sox knuckleballer shut down the star who took Boone's
place at third base, Alex Rodriguez, who went 0-for-4 in the
stadium that nearly was his home.
"It really meant a lot" to hear the fans cheer, Wakefield
said. "They've really opened their arms and embraced me like a
He got a loud ovation before the home opener and is content that
his reputation will not be tarnished by one bad pitch in an ALCS in
which he made two outstanding starts.
"It hasn't been hard" to get over it, he said. "Baseball's my
life, but it isn't the end of life."
Rodriguez was the one who was disappointed after the latest
meeting between the fierce rivals.
"It was a bit of a letdown," said Rodriguez, who nearly was
traded to Boston in December. "It was very intense out there."
Rodriguez, the AL home run champion, went 0-for-3 against
Wakefield, lined out in eighth against Scott Williamson and didn't
hit the ball out of the infield.
Manny Ramirez, who would have been traded for Rodriguez, AL
batting champion Bill Mueller and Doug Mirabelli homered off Javier
Vazquez (1-1). Jorge Posada hit his fifth homer for New York in the
second, cutting Boston's lead to 4-1, after Wakefield retired his
first five batters.
"He was fine after the first inning," Yankees manager Joe
Torre said. "Then he gave up the homer to Mirabelli" in the
The first of 19 regular-season games between the rivals began a
four-game series. A full house of well-behaved fans could buy
souvenir T-shirts with the message: "Showdown in Beantown."
"They're always pretty animated," Yankees shortstop Derek
Jeter said of the fans. "This was one of their better
Boone's homer came on Wakefield's first pitch of the 11th inning
into the left-field seats for a 6-5 win. Boone seriously injured
his knee while playing pickup basketball and was released in late
February, although he hopes to play for a team this season.
The Yankees filled his spot by obtaining Rodriguez from Texas
after Boston's long courtship of the former Rangers star failed.
On Friday, Wakefield allowed two runs, five hits and four walks
in seven innings. He struck out four.
"I wanted the ball" before New York tied the game, he said,
but "we had the best pitcher on the mound."
On Friday, Ramirez dropped a routine fly with two outs and
nobody on. Williamson then loaded the bases on two walks. Lefty
Embree arrived on time and struck out lefty Hideki Matsui.
"I would expect nothing less than a dogfight for 18 more
games" against the Yankees, Embree said.
Boston scored four in the first on Mueller's two-run homer,
Ramirez's solo shot and Jeter's error that allowed the fourth run
In the top of the first, Rodriguez was booed when he entered the
batter's box and cheered when he swung at the first pitch and
He grounded to shortstop on an 0-2 count in the first and struck
out swinging on three pitches in the fourth. In the sixth, he
reached on an error by shortstop Pokey Reese but was thrown out
trying to steal third.
His first fielding chance came in the sixth when Kevin Millar
hit a leadoff liner that Rodriguez grabbed as he jumped a few
inches off the ground.
Rodriguez, an outstanding shortstop, shifted to third so Jeter
could keep his position.
"I'm enjoying playing third," he said before the game. "Every
game's a new challenge."
Boston's bid to obtain Rodriguez from Texas failed when the
players' union said his deal with the Red Sox would have decreased
the value of his contract.
The crowd of 35,163 -- 108 fewer than attended Thursday night's
12-7 loss to Baltimore -- cheered when Rodriguez lined out to third
baseman Mueller in his fourth at-bat in the eighth.
Mirabelli made it 5-1 in the fourth with his first homer, Bernie
Williams singled in a run in the fifth for the Yankees and
Mirabelli hit an RBI double in the sixth.
The Red Sox unveiled a bronze statue of Ted Williams
outside Fenway Park four hours before the game. The Boston slugger
died in 2002. ... Friday was the 86th anniversary of Carl Mays'
one-hit, 1-0 win over the Philadelphia A's that gave Boston a 2-0
record on its way to the World Series championship. It hasn't won a
title since. ... Mueller was in a 1-for-25 slump before his homer.
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