David Wells delivered a perfect postseason start for the New York Yankees.
Playing their most important game in nearly six months, the Yankees looked every bit like the winningest team in AL history, beating the Texas Rangers 2-0 Tuesday night in Game 1 of their division series.Wells pitched eight strong innings as the Yankees, who won their final seven games to finish with 114 victories, picked up exactly where they left off.
Wells, whose perfect game in May highlighted New York's dream year, improved to 5-0 in postseason action with the Yankees, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Toronto.
The left-hander gave up five hits and struck out nine. He kept Juan Gonzalez from hitting a ball out of the infield and escaped his only real jam by fanning Mike Simms to end the seventh with runners on first and second.
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth for a save as the Yankees won one month to the day they clinched a playoff spot in August.
Todd Stottlemyre nearly matched Wells, allowing just six hits and striking out eight for a complete game in front of his father, Mel, New York's pitching coach.
The Stottlemyre family affair surely created some anxious moments. The wives of both Mel and Todd sat in the Yankees' family section and did not hesitate to cheer when a New York runner was thrown out at the plate in the first inning.
When Todd won at Yankee Stadium last month - his fifth straight victory at the ballpark where he grew up as a kid - his mother left her usual seat to sit with the Rangers' wives.
"I just wanted to be in this section this time," Jean Stottlemyre said.
The only controversial move made by Yankees manager Joe Torre paid off handsomely. Chad Curtis, whose defense earned him the start in left field ahead of fan favorites Darryl Strawberry and Shane Spencer, doubled to set up a two-run second inning.
With the crowd of 57,362 cheering, Scott Brosius hit an RBI single, and then the Yankees tricked Texas, with Brosius getting caught in a rundown on a steal attempt while Curtis sneaked home.
Andy Pettitte (16-11), who struggled down the stretch, will start Game 2 Wednesday night against Texas' Rick Helling (20-7) in the best-of-5 series.
While the Yankees began the playoffs with the second-best record in baseball history, Texas' 88 victories were the fewest among this year's postseason teams.
The Rangers' only previous playoff experience came in 1996, when they got knocked out in the first round by New York despite leading in all four games and getting five home runs from Gonzalez.
Wells shut down the AL's top-hitting team, permitting just one runner past first base until the seventh. His lone walk came to Mark McLemore leading off the game, and Texas did not get a hit until Rusty Greer singled off shortstop Derek Jeter's glove with one out in the fourth.
Recently, Torre said the team's most important games this season came in the first week after a 1-4 start. No surprise, it was Wells who beat the Mariners in the opener of that series.
The Yankees lost a chance toi jump on Stottlemyre right at the start. He hit Chuck Knoblauch in the shoulder with his second pitch, and one out later, Paul O'Neill doubled into the left-field corner.
But overly aggressive third-base coach Willie Randolph sent Knob-lauch - even with AL batting champion Bernie Williams on deck - and the relay from Rusty Greer to shortstop Royce Clayton to Gold Glove catcher Ivan Rodriguez nailed him.
A one-out walk to Jorge Posada and a double by Curtis put the Yankees in position again in the second, and Brosius grounded an RBI single to right.
With runners at the corners, Brosius took off for second as Knoblauch struck out. When Rodriguez threw down, Brosius stopped and got in a rundown while Curtis scored without a throw.
Notes: Stottlemyre, traded from St. Louis to Texas on July 31, is 2-5 lifetime in postseason play. ... Mel and Todd Stottlemyre have combined for 287 regular-season wins, the most by a father-son combo. ... McLemore doubled in the eighth, ending his 0-for-21 slump. ... Rangers center fielder Roberto Kelly made the play of the night, reaching over the wall to rob Tino Martinez of a home run. The ball fell out of his glove, however, and dropped for a double.