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Early unraveling

Yankees open with three straight singles off Millwood

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Posted: Monday October 25, 1999 09:36 AM

  Kevin Millwood Kevin Millwood had a hard time overcoming a barrage of Yankees hits that left Atlanta down 3-0 in the top of the first. AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- It all came apart in a hurry for Atlanta.

The first three New York batters -- Chuck Knoblauch, Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill -- all singled sharply for a quick 1-0 lead during Sunday night's Game 2 of the World Series.

Right away, Kevin Millwood was in big trouble.

"I didn't make good pitches," he said. "Everything was right down the middle."

Pitchers succeed with location and Millwood's location wasn't great. "I thought I had pretty good stuff," he said. "I wasn't nervous. I just threw everything down the middle."

That was a recipe for trouble.

Now, poised for a big inning, the Yankees ran into a roadblock when cleanup batter Bernie Williams hit into a double play that might have short-circuited the early rally.

On The Diamond
CNN/SI baseball analyst Ozzie Smith spoke with CNN/SI anchor Vince Cellini after Game 2:

Millwood was up in the strike zone tonight and he really has not thrown well in the postseason recently. I think he might have hit that brick wall. In 1997, he had 51 1/3 innings. In 1998, he had 174 1/3 innings and in 1999 he had 228. So right now, he's at 252 1/3 innings and I think that's taken its toll on him. When you get to 200 innings [as a 24-year-old] it can takes its toll on you.

It's tough to ask a young man who has never gone 200 innings to pitch that much. He's struggling a little bit right now.

 

Millwood thought he might escape.

"With just one run, it would be pretty good for myself and the team," he said.

But New York wasn't done.

The Yankees scored two more runs in the inning on two-out hits by Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius sandwiched around a walk to Ricky Ledee.

Again the problem was his command of pitches. "I didn't make pitches when I needed to," he said. "I felt fine the whole time. I just didn't do the job."

Only when Millwood slipped a third strike past Joe Girardi was the inning finally over. But by then, the damage was done. The Yankees dented him for five hits in one inning, which was all Atlanta managed for all nine innings.

Before the Braves took their first swings, they were trailing 3-0, not a great situation for a team that has managed just three runs in the first two games of this suddenly one-sided Series.

"It was all a matter of location," manger Bobby Cox said. "He wasn't down and he wasn't up high enough. He was kind of in the middle, where he shouldn't have been."

Millwood, who had emerged as the ace of an outstanding Atlanta pitching staff, was making his World Series debut. He got through the second inning, but never retired a batter in the third.

"I made bad pitches in the first inning, the second inning and the third inning," he said. "I was lucky to get out of the second. When I tried to make good pitches, I threw it down the middle of the plate."

The early knockout was Millwood's shortest outing of a season in which he posted an 18-7 record and a 2.68 earned run average. He beat Houston in the divisional playoff and the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series and also had a save against the Astros. He was 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA in the postseason until the Yankees caught up with him.

Millwood threw 38 pitches in the first inning alone and the Yankees had eight hits in 13 at-bats against him. He finished the night with 67 pitches, 24 of them balls and 43 strikes.

"Pitching is all about making adjustments," he said. "I tried to make adjustments. It just didn't work for me tonight."

Millwood's quick departure was the second earliest ever for a Braves pitcher in World Series history, topped only by Bob Buhl, who was knocked out in the first inning by another Yankees team in Game 3 of the 1957 World Series.

If it is any solace for Atlanta, that Braves team won that World Series in seven games.


 
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