Friday, October 15, 1999

Cone gets by on rest, guile

Escapes jams to lead Yanks in Game 2

The Associated Press

        NEW YORK — Call him Houdini, the master of escape.

        Pitching for the first time in almost two weeks, David Cone flirted with danger Thursday night throughout Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.

        In the end, though, he kept slipping out of the handcuffs and blindfolds and pitched seven gritty innings in a 3-2 victory that gave the New York Yankees 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series which resumes Saturday in Boston.

        Yankees manager Joe Torre had been trying to give Cone extra rest down the stretch after the pitcher struggled following his perfect game on July 18.

        Cone last pitched on Oct. 2 and the 12-day layoff was more than either the pitcher or man ager would have preferred.

        “I'd rather be too rested or overly rested as opposed to the converse,” Cone said on the day before the start. “I seem to work well with extra rest. I seem to respond to rest very well.”

        The extra time off may have provided Cone with the reserve of energy he needed to keep avoiding disaster against the Red Sox, who kept the pressure on him all night. Except for a two-run home run by Nomar Garciaparra, Cone kept Boston at bay.

        He walked two batters in the first inning but left them stranded. He gave up a one-out triple to Jason Varitek in the second but got the next two hitters. There were two more hits in the third before he struck out Troy O'Leary to end the threat. In the fourth, Varitek doubled but again Cone escaped by retiring Darren Lewis and Trot Nixon.

        Cone surrendered Garciaparra's home run in the fifth but struck out the Boston slugger to end the seventh, leaving another Red Sox runner stranded, and that was the end of his night.

        Tino Martinez's fourth-inning solo home run, coupled with New York's two-run rally in the seventh, would be all the support Cone would need.

        He threw 128 pitches, 84 for strikes, in seven innings and his nine strikeouts tied his career playoff high. He struck out nine in Game 5 of the Division Series against Seattle Oct. 8, 1995.

        Torre had anticipated an uneven start from Cone because of the long layoff.

        “I don't know exactly how he is going to start out,” the manager said. “I sense that he will get it together, but it usually takes an inning or two to try and find his comfort zone in his release point.”

        He seemed to do that quickly, though, on a brisk night.

        Cone had been something of an enigma after pitching his perfect game against Montreal. He was just 2-5 in 13 starts following the perfecto and winless in eight starts from Aug. 14 to Sept. 25, the longest winless stretch in his career.

        “After the perfect game, I was so grounded about not having a letdown,” Cone said. “Maybe I should have allowed myself to absorb and enjoy it.”


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