09/30/2003 5:48 PM ET
Bullpen provides sturdy relief
Teammates pick up for ex-setup man Santana
New York's lineup hemmed in by Twins' pen
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- LaTroy Hawkins saw Johan Santana hurting after the fourth inning and thought the worst.
"Oh, (no)," Hawkins summarized. "What happened?"
By game's end, Yankees' hitters were thinking the same thing about the Twins' bullpen.
The last time Minnesota's relievers were on a national stage, they were watching the Angels erupt for a 10-run seventh inning to advance to the World Series. But the great thing about a reliever's job is that they're paid to have a short memory. For fans at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, their performance in Game 1 of the American League Division Series will be hard to forget.
And it came in support of one of their own. "We're all good buddies," closer Eddie Guardado said. "We pull for each other. We want to see everybody do well."'
Until joining the rotation full time in July, Santana was one of them, a lefty who could work short or long. His start Tuesday was shorter than he'd like, ending after four because of cramping in his right hamstring.
At that point, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was wondering as much about nursing a 1-0 lead as the health of his starter.
"I'm looking at my pitching staff, my bullpen to figure out how we were going to piece it together," Gardenhire said. "One thing you don't do is show panic in the dugout. So I just said, 'Well, let's have some fun, we're going to piece it together.'"
Rick Reed earned back-to-back groundouts starting the fifth, then left for J.C. Romero following an Alfonso Soriano double. Romero fell behind 3-0 on fellow lefty Nick Johnson before escaping with a groundout to first.
Romero made Derek Jeter's leadoff single in the sixth harmless by retiring the heart of the Yankees order -- Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams -- in order. After Hideki Matsui drew a leadoff walk in the seventh, on came Hawkins.
And suddenly, a cooler-than-normal fall afternoon in the Bronx heated up.
Aaron Boone's single to left and a fielder's choice by Ruben Sierra put runners at the corners with one out and Soriano the potential tying run at the plate. Instead of messing with the breaking stuff, Hawkins gave him fastball after fastball and dared him to swing. He did, whiffing on a 96 mile-an-hour pitch on the outside half of the plate.
That brought on the game's defining at-bat, a nine-pitch duel with Johnson.
"He was doing his job, I was doing my job," Hawkins said. "That was a good at-bat."
Johnson fouled off four straight pitches, three of them fastballs in the mid-90s, and five for the at-bat. The hardest pitch was the last, a 97-mph delivery high and inside that sent Johnson swinging and the Twins into the dugout still up three.
"Hawkins was throwing pretty hard, and Johnson was having pretty good swings," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Then we threw him a changeup and he hit it into our dugout. We had to throw him something different, and that was what we decided to go with. Then he threw a fastball, got it up and got it by him.
"That was a heck of an at-bat by Nick Johnson. I've faced Hawk and he's not fun to hit off of."
With the Yankees biting on heat, Hawkins went to variety in the seventh. His offspeed induced a Derek Jeter groundout. He hit 97 on the outer half to fan Jason Giambi. Then he sent Jorge Posada whirling on a curveball.
Hawkins threw 27 pitches in all, 21 of them strikes. It's a solid reflection why his ERA sunk from a respective 2.86 at the All-Star break to a dominant 0.85 (three earned runs in 31 2/3 innings) over the second half.
"The key for me is throwing strikes, working the ball in and out and start throwing changeups a lot more," he said. "I give up some hits, but I try not to walk guys and I think that's the key."
Eddie Guardado used all of that three-run cushion in the ninth, helped by Shannon Stewart's leaping catch at the track. Three hits yielded a run and put the tying threat on base before Johnson grounded out to end it.
"We like to see how much Eddie can make my heart pound in my chest," Pierzynski joked.
The Yankees' hearts, by contrast, felt a whole lot lower.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.