Yanks Rule Bronx, Take Game 1


David Wells and the Yankees made sure payback was swift and
brutal.

A five-run first inning blew

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  • Jaret Wright right out of the game, leaving the Indians with shocked, blank expressions.

    Wells then shut out Indians until the ninth, and New York began its revenge for last year's playoff loss with a 7-2 victory Tuesday night in the opener of the American League championship series.

    "I was geared tonight. I really wanted this," Wells said. "You win the first game, it can set a tone."

    Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Scott Brosius all hit run-scoring singles in the first off Wright, who beat the Yankees twice in Cleveland's five-game victory last fall.

    Posada added a sixth-inning homer

    Jorge Posada
    Jorge Posadaright, adds to the Indians troubles with a sixth-inning home run off Chad Ogea. (AP)
    off Chad Ogea, and Williams hit a run-scoring double in the seventh as the Yankees won their fourth straight postseason game and their season-high 11th straight overall.

    "It takes a lot of pressure off you when you win the first game," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

    With their 118th win this year, the Yankees matched the major league record set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs, who won 116 in the regular season and two more in the World Series.

    "The message to the fans was unbelievable," Wells said. "They deserve that because they're such dedicated fans. They hold grudges more than we hold grudges."

    New York, which had 11 hits, also set a team record with 21 consecutive shutout innings in the postseason, surpassing its 20 scoreless innings against the New York Giants in the 1921 World Series. The Yankees, who swept Texas in the first round, have outscored opponents 16-3 so far in the playoffs.

    David Cone will try to extend the domination Wednesday in Game 2, pitching against Charles Nagy in Yankee Stadium's famous October twilight shadows.

    "Most teams have one No. 1 starter," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "The Yankees are a little more blessed than others."

    A year ago, the Yankees also won the first game against Cleveland. But it was hardly dominating, with New York overcoming a 5-0 deficit to win 8-6. This time, the cheers started when Charisse Strawberry, the wife of stricken outfielder Darryl Strawberry, threw out the ceremonial first pitch and they didn't stop.

    The Yankees, still angered that Wright hit Luis Sojo with a pitch during spring training, fracturing a bone in the infielder's left hand, made sure right away that the Indians lost the opener of a postseason series for the eighth consecutive time.

    "To see Jaret go out in the first inning was ... gratifying," Wells said. "When you get five runs, with the way we've been pitching, is plenty."

    Wells, who had 23 consecutive shutout innings in the postseason before Manny Ramirez homered in the ninth, may be funky off the field, but on the mound he's strictly business. He struck out seven and walked one, leaving Ramirez's one-out homer, just the fifth hit for Cleveland. He retired 11 in a ow at one stretch and 15 of 16.

    "He's the one you want to have pitch with a lead because he's going to throw strikes," Torre said.

    His five-hitter last year gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the series, and New York was four outs away from beating the Indians in Game 4 before Sandy Alomar's tying eighth-inning homer off Mariano Rivera. Cleveland went on win the series and came within two outs of beating Florida in the World Series.

    New York, which hasn't trailed in any postseason game this year, pounced on Wright with four straight singles leading off the first.

    First, Chuck Knoblauch, then Derek Jeter, then an RBI single by O'Neill. Pitching coach Mark Wiley came to the mound, trying to settle the 22-year-old right-hander.

    "That was the one that sort of got us over the hump," Torre said.

    Wright, chased by two three-run homers in the first-round opener against Boston last week, then gave up another RBI single, this time to Williams.

    All were hit hard. Just four batters in and Ogea already was warming up in the bullpen. Whatever magic Wright possessed over New York last fall was gone.

    "Everything was up in the strike zone and the middle of the plate," Hargrove said.

    Tino Martinez bounced into a fielder's choice and Tim Raines struck out, but Wright made it even worse with a wild pitch to Shane Spencer that allowed O'Neill to score from third.

    "I just didn't get it done," Wright said.

    The hot rookie walked and Posada finished off Wright with another RBI single. Of Wright's 36 pitches, just 18 were strikes.

    "That's a letdown for the other team," Torre said. "When you knock a starter out in the first inning yeah, that's a big thing for us."

    Ogea gave up an RBI single to Brosius, then held the Yankees until Posada homered leading off the sixth. O'Neill and Williams chased Ogea with consecutive doubles opening the seventh.

    Notes

  • Ramirez's homer was his 12th in the postseason.
  • The Yankees activated outfielder Ricky Ledee to replace Strawberry. Cleveland activated Ogea and dropped reliever Doug Jones.
  • Strawberry was cheered loudly when his picture went on the scoreboard during the pregame introductions. He had a canceroutumor removed from his colon last Saturday and will remain hospitalized until the weekend.

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