NEW YORK -- Some of the Yankees took up residence in the postseason when a few of the Florida Marlins were still in puberty, and over the last nine years the Yankees have faced just about every type of opponent -- teams with power, teams with good pitching, teams with deep lineups. And the Yankees have played in five World Series and have won four.
But the Yankees have never seen anyone quite like Florida speedster Juan Pierre, who scored one run, drove in two others and generally created high anxiety as the Marlins beat the Yankees, 3-2, in Game 1 of the best-of-seven World Series -- the first home World Series loss by the Yankees in 2,552 days. The last time the Yankees lost a World Series game in Yankee Stadium was in Game 2 in 1996, against Atlanta.
Dontrelle Willis, shifted to the bullpen for this series, threw 2.1 innings after taking over for starter Brad Penny, getting outs from the first seven batters he faced. David Wells pitched seven solid innings in defeat, his effort undercut by the Yankees' offensive failures in clutch situations -- they were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position -- and the problems caused by Pierre.
The Yankees used a team of seven scouts to glean information at the National League Championship Series, and that group met with the team's coaching staff for 1½ hours on Friday. Then the scouts met with the pitchers, and then the hitters, reviewing pages and pages of notes. The Yankees' scouts have worked each of the last nine postseasons, and in past years they have helped the team shut down prolific offenses, like that of the Texas Rangers, and great hitters from Edgardo Alfonzo to Ichiro Suzuki.
But the Florida Marlins are a much different team than the Yankees have faced in the past -- more contact hitters than most AL teams, with more speed than any Yankees' October opponent in the last nine years. And they have Pierre, who dominated Game 1 without hitting any ball 200 feet. At one point when Pierre was at-bat, he heard Yankees coach Willie Randolph yelling to the infielders, moving them, shifting them, and Pierre felt he already was in the heads of the Yankees.
"That's my job, to create a little havoc," said Pierre, who went 2-for-3, drew a walk and was hit by a pitch while stealing two bases.
Yankees manager Joe Torre said, "He certainly makes them move. We didn't do well -- he got on base four times."
Pierre took the first pitch of the game, and on the second pitch, he dragged a bunt up the first-base line. Wells, large and slow and with a delivery that takes him toward third base, tried to reach the ball and couldn't, then tried to race Pierre to first and gave up. First baseman Nick Johnson froze, and second baseman Alfonso Soriano was positioned too far back to make a play.
Pierre beat out the bunt for a single, and Torre might then have had a sense of foreboding. Wells will be a constant target for Pierre in Games 1 and 5 because of his lack of mobility, and when the Yankees play Games 3, 4 and 5 in Florida, Torre will have to decide whether to play the stationary Jason Giambi at first base -- or bench him, because there will be no designated hitter.
With Pierre on the move, Luis Castillo hit a blooper toward the right side of the infield, and Pierre slowed near second to see if the ball would fall -- and then sprinted to third when Castillo's hit dropped on the grass. Pierre then scored when Ivan Rodriguez flied out; five pitches into the game, the Yankees had already felt the impact of Pierre's speed.
He's like Ichiro of the Seattle Mariners, Johnson said: "He's going to slap the ball by you. If he gets a good bunt down, there's not much you can do."
When Pierre came up again in the third inning, the Yankees' infielders changed their defensive alignment. Third baseman Aaron Boone and Johnson were pulled in close, and more notably, Soriano was stationed at the edge of the grass -- all because of Pierre's speed. It was as if Torre, perhaps advised by his scouts, had decided to make Pierre beat the Yankees by swinging the bat.
Pierre grounded out in that at-bat, and in the bottom of the third, the Yankees tied the game. Karim Garcia, jammed by a Penny fastball, dumped a looper into left field, and when Miguel Cabrera fumbled the ball, Garcia took second. Soriano, regressing badly in his offense in the postseason, grounded out to shortstop and failed to advance the runner to third. But Johnson walked and Derek Jeter smashed a single to center; Garcia challenged Pierre's weak throwing arm and scored to tie the game.
Wells issued only 20 walks during the regular season, but he walked Jeff Conine to lead off the fifth inning, and Juan Encarnacion followed with a bloop single; Conine held at second. Gonzalez bunted the runners to second and third, bringing Pierre to the plate, with the Yankees' infielders playing in. Wells needed a strikeout or a pop-out in this situation, and Pierre wasn't a good candidate for either. He whiffed only 35 times in 668 at-bats during the regular season, and can slap the ball on the ground.
Pierre took a curveball for Ball 1, and after fouling off one fastball, he ripped Wells' next fastball past Jeter, into left field. Conine scored the go-ahead run, and although Encarnacion appeared to get a decent break off second, it seemed the Yankees' might have a good chance to throw him out at home. Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui fielded the ball quickly and fired toward the infield.
Boone was serving as the cut-off man and under normal circumstances, he might have had some direction from catcher Jorge Posada. But because of the loud postseason crowds, the Yankees' coaching staff has advised the cut-off men in this situation to make their own decisions. Boone could have let the ball pass by, and Matsui might have thrown out Encarnacion. If Boone had cut off the throw, whirled and whipped the ball to Posada, it appeared he would have gunned down Encarnacion.
But Boone cut the ball off and threw behind Pierre at first -- that obsession with the speedster a factor again -- and Encarncion scored, giving Florida a 3-1 lead; Pierre was safe, with two RBI, and clapped his hands excitedly. Wells raised his hands into the air, and turned in frustration, disturbed by the decision that was made.
Posada said he thought Matsui's throw would have nailed the Florida baserunner. Matsui's throw "was fading a bit," said Boone, "but even if the throw was a little off, I think, in hindsight, we would have had him."
Bernie Williams homered off Penny to cut the Marlins' advantage to 3-2 -- the 18th postseason homer hit by Williams, which ties the record of Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle.
But Willis took over and retired the first seven batters he faced, working entirely from the stretch -- he decided to do this while warming up in the bullpen -- and struck out Juan Rivera and Jeter along the way. "He's got a funky motion," said Jeter, "so it took a couple of pitches to figure out his release point."
The Yankees had baserunners on in each of the first six innings without generating much offense, and in the eighth, Williams and Matsui singled with two outs. Then Ugueth Urbina struck out Posada with a changeup.
Urbina walked Jason Giambi and pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra in the ninth, but Soriano whiffed and Nick Johnson flied out -- to Juan Pierre, most appropriately.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.