David Wells didn't need to be perfect.
At times, he leaves the impression he carries all of the New York Yankees' hopes across that burly back -- a rock 'n' roll biker who's not afraid of any challenge, a Terminator who will blast through any barrier.
Sometimes, he doesn't need to be a superhero. Sometimes, he struggles. But even then, he's no average pitcher.
Without his best stuff Sunday, he managed to lead the Yankees over Cleveland 5-3 and send New York home with a 3-2 lead in the AL championship series.
And he even sent a message to Indians fans. When they booed him as he walked off the mound for the final time in the eighth, Wells doffed his cap, waving it at the crowd before greeting his teammates with high-fives in the dugout.
Wells struck out 11, his highest total in 19 career postseason games, allowing seven hits and one walk in 7 1/3 innings. He improved to 3-0 in the playoffs this year and 7-1 overall in postseason play.
This wasn't like Tuesday's series opener, when he got a five-run lead in the first and shut out the Indians until Manny Ramirez's two-run homer in the ninth.
Wells got a three-run lead in the first inning Sunday but immediately gave up Kenny Lofton's leadoff home run and Ramirez's sacrifice fly. But with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first, he slipped a big curve past Richie Sexson for strike three.
That, it turned out, was his most difficult challenge.
Wells retired the side in order just twice, but he allowed just one more run, a solo homer by Jim Thome in the sixth.
He had volunteered to pitch Game 4, but manager Joe Torre's response was: "Only if you can pitch tomorrow, too."
Since that perfect game against Minnesota in May, baseball is paying more attention to Wells. H seems to have raised the standards for himself, too.
He didn't have to get every win for the Yankees against Cleveland. Two of the first three was good enough.
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