Rivera wishes he could commute

Updated: October 14, 2004, 3:00 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Johnny Damon stood at his locker in the visitors' clubhouse and shouldered the blame for the Boston Red Sox's 2-0 deficit in the AL Championship Series.

"I'll take responsibility for this," Damon said after the Red Sox lost 3-1 to the New York Yankees in Game 2 on Wednesday night.

The shaggy-haired outfielder is 0-for-8 with five strikeouts so far in the series.

"I'm the catalyst of this team," he said. "I'm the guy on this team that gets us going, gets on base and creates some havoc, but I haven't been able to do that."

Damon entered the game 2-for-15 lifetime against Yankees starter Jon Lieber, and went 0-for-3 against him Wednesday - including a flyout to center that capped a 16-pitch at-bat.

"I finally had one good at-bat, but I feel like there are better at-bats to come," he said. "I felt like if I had gotten on base there, at least we knew Manny (Ramirez) and David (Ortiz) were going to come up in the inning. When those guys face a tired pitcher, they normally do a lot of damage."

Home Sweet Home: Mariano Rivera will stay with the New York Yankees for the rest of the ALCS, though he wishes he had enough time to return to Panama on off days to comfort his grieving family.

"I would love to, believe me," Rivera said Wednesday. "It's too long to travel."

Rivera returned home to Panama on Sunday after two relatives were electrocuted in his swimming pool. He attended the funeral Tuesday, then jetted back to New York in time to earn a four-out save in Game 1 against Boston. The trip to Yankee Stadium took about six hours.

He said he spoke to his wife on the phone Wednesday before Game 2. She was still in Panama.

"It's tough. It definitely won't go away," Rivera said. "Like I said, I want to be there."

But the All-Star reliever said the warm reception he got from teammates and fans has been a comfort to him.

"This is home. This is family. My brothers, my father, you know, Joe (Torre). The fans -- yesterday was special. I heard it before, but yesterday was special."

Stepping In?: Derek Lowe was the forgotten man in Boston's playoff rotation, relegated to the bullpen after a number of shaky outings down the stretch.

Derek Lowe
Starting Pitcher
Boston Red Sox
33 14 12 0 105 5.42

Now, the right-hander might be in line for one of the biggest starts of his career.

Lowe, who has thrown just 12 pitches in two weeks, could replace the injured Curt Schilling for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series Sunday.

Schilling, who led the majors with 21 wins, might not be able to pitch and needs surgery on his injured right ankle. He lasted just three innings and allowed six runs in Boston's 10-7 loss Tuesday night in the series opener.

"You don't want to get it by default," Lowe said before Game 2 on Wednesday. "What kills me about it is I feel like I haven't contributed."

He might get a big opportunity if Schilling can't go in Game 5.

"We're talking about three games away from now and you have no idea what the situation is going to be," Lowe said. "It's all speculation for now."

Lowe said ideally he'd like to know if he's going to start by Thursday, but the Red Sox will wait to decide until Schilling tries to throw Thursday or Friday.

"The thing about being a starter is that you have a routine that you're used to," Lowe said.

Lowe went 14-12 during the regular season, but allowed 18 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings in his last five outings and went 0-2. He was relegated to the bullpen for the playoffs and got the win against Anaheim in the series-clinching Game 3 victory last Friday.

Lowe insists the lack of game work will not be a factor if he does get the start.

"I would say your adrenaline is always rushing. As crazy as it sounds, you almost feel too strong," he said. "There are no excuses, though. Game 5, it will be a big one."

Bad Omen: Boston will have to end a dubious 19-year-old streak if it hopes to come back from it 2-0 series deficit against New York.

Teams that have fallen behind 2-0 in league championship series have lost 13 straight series since St. Louis rallied against Los Angeles and Kansas City came back against Toronto -- both in 1985.

The Red Sox have dropped the first two games in three playoff series -- 1999 ALCS, 1990 ALCS and 1988 ALCS -- and have won just one of the subsequent seven games played in those series combined.

"There's no panic with this team -- we're still calm and relaxed," outfielder Damon said. "We're down 2-0. Big deal. We've won four in a row before."

Added catcher Jason Varitek: "We have our backs against the wall, but we haven't played our best baseball yet."

Tuning In: The opener of the ALCS got a 10.0 rating and 16 share Tuesday night, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The rating was comparable to the 10.1 rating and 17 share for the similar night last year, Florida's 9-8, 11-inning victory over the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS.

Because both leagues played simultaneously Wednesday, Fox split its feed, with 77 percent of the country getting the second game between Boston and New York, and 22 percent getting the NLCS opener between St. Louis and Houston. In each market, the game not on Fox was broadcast on Fox Sports Net.

A ratings point represents 1,096,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 109.6 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

Hot Wood: The bat Babe Ruth is purported to have used for the first home run at Yankee Stadium, on April 18, 1923, is being auctioned by Sotheby's and SportsCards Plus on Dec. 2.

The bat, signed by Ruth, was donated to a newspaper contest and given to the winner of a high school home run competition, according to Sotheby's and SportsCards Plus, which say they expect the winning bid to be for more than $1 million.

The auction also includes the bat Derek Jeter used for his winning home run in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series.

Moose Magic: When Mike Mussina retired his first 19 batters in Game 1, it was the longest perfect-game bid in the postseason since Boston's Jim Lonborg retired the first 19 St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the 1967 World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The only longer perfect stretches at the start of a game were Don Larsen's perfect game for the Yankees against Brooklyn in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series and when the Yankees' Herb Pennock started with 22 in a row against Pittsburgh in Game 3 of the 1927 World Series.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press