Thu, Oct 23, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Mussina wins his duel with Beckett

GAME 3 The New York Yankees broke it open late in the contest, beating the Florida Marlins 6-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series between the AL and NL

AP , MIAMI

Yankees fan gestures towards Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter as he warms up prior to the start of Game 3 of the World Series, at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida, Tuesday.

PHOTO: EPA

For the longest time, this had all the makings of another heartbreaker for Mike Mussina.

Down early. Hardly any run support. A rainy, messy night.

And yet somehow, the ace who could never quite win these games won Game 3 of the World Series. Mussina outpitched young ace Josh Beckett and the New York Yankees broke it open late, beating the Florida Marlins 6-1 Tuesday night for a 2-1 edge.

"Moose just kept it together," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Derek Jeter doubled for his third hit and scored the go-ahead run on Hideki Matsui's single in the eighth inning. Aaron Boone homered in the ninth and then Bernie Williams hit his record 19th postseason homer to clinch it.

By then, Mussina's work was done. Mariano Rivera finished it off in rapid fashion, closing with two innings for a save as the Yankees won before a crowd of 65,731 that had mostly left Pro Player Stadium by the final out.

Now, after their second straight victory, the Yankees will try to take firm hold of the Series behind Roger Clemens.

Clemens pitches Wednesday night in the final scheduled start of his Hall of Fame career. Carl Pavano, who grew up in Connecticut rooting for the Rocket and later watched him while a prospect in the Boston system, goes for the Marlins in Game 4.

``This game means absolutely nothing if we don't come back and win tomorrow,'' Jeter said.

Florida finally managed to get an extra-base hit after 13 singles, but has scored only five runs in three games.

"It's not an easy task against those guys," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said.

Despite his 199 career wins and Cy Young potential, Mussina had never quite delivered the ultimate big game for the Yankees. Then again, New York never made it easy him, seeming to rarely score when he was on the mound.

Mussina had been 0-3 in this postseason, losing once to Minnesota and twice to Boston. But it wasn't all his fault, as the Yankees couldn't get a lead for him to hold.

Mussina made the first relief appearance of his career, turning in three scoreless innings against the Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League championship series, in an effort that Torre said saved the Yankees' season.

He didn't quite save it this time, but did a lot toward putting the Yankees halfway to their record 27th championship. He gave up one run and seven hits, striking out nine and walking one.

A 39-minute rain delay in the fifth inning did not disturb Mussina, at least not judging by the results. He is a creature of habit and routine, and was pawing at the damp mound but did not let it deter him.

Mussina began the game with a 4-5 career postseason record despite a sharp 3.19 ERA. His first World Series win surely added to a resume that was lacking exactly such a victory.

It was 1-all with one out in the eighth when Jeter doubled for his third hit -- the only ones off Beckett. Jeter went the other way, grounding the ball down the first-base line past Derrek Lee, who was well off the line.

"The guy's played out there all his life and that's the program we had," McKeon said.

All-Star rookie Dontrelle Willis relieved and with two outs, Matsui smartly slapped an opposite-field single to left.

Boone hit a solo homer off Chad Fox in the eighth and Williams' homer was a three-run shot off Braden Looper. Williams had been tied with Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson for the most postseason homers.

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