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YANKEES 6, MARLINS 1

Yankees' House in order

Pettitte, Matsui help even Series

NEW YORK -- So distracted they momentarily forgot they were in the World Series?

C'mon, you don't really believe that, do you?

Then again, some fans outside of Yankee Stadium this weekend were devoting their energy to collecting signatures on a giant thank-you card to Red Sox manager Grady Little, the lingering aftereffects of vanquishing their favorite victims still too delicious to let go.

But if the Yankees belatedly made their presence felt in the 99th World Series, cruising to a 6-1 win last night over the Florida Marlins after falling flat in a 3-2 opening-game loss, Yankees captain Derek Jeter reminded one and all before the game that it was a big mistake for anyone to think the Bombers had reached the mountaintop by beating Boston.

"It wasn't the World Series," Jeter said. "We didn't get any trophy or win a championship for beating the Red Sox. It was emotional. I think that's as probably as electric as I've seen this stadium since I've been here. It was pretty loud. The fans here, we have the greatest fans in the world. I thought yesterday they were a little quiet, but I'm sure they'll pick up as the series goes on."

By the night's end, it was Sinatra's version of "New York, New York," that was blaring from the stadium PA, instead of the Liza Minnelli version that follows a defeat, and a crowd of 55,750 raised their voices in collectively chanting the name of Andy Pettitte, the lefthander who shut out the Marlins until they scored an unearned run with two outs in the ninth.

The Marlins had not lost to a lefthander since Aug. 11. They were 27-11 against lefties this season, the best record of any team in the National League. But they had no answer for Pettitte, especially after spotting him a 3-0 lead when Hideki Matsui hit a three-run home run off Marlins lefthander Mark Redman in the first inning to become the first Japanese-born player ever to homer in a Series game.

"Three and 0, what would you throw?" said Redman, who also gave up a run-scoring double to Juan Rivera in the second and was lifted with one out in the third. "Not that many guys swing at 3 and 0, especially in the first inning. It was supposed to be strike one."

Marlins manager Jack McKeon grudgingly acknowledged that Matsui was a pretty good player, then told an inquisitor: "If you get to a 3-and-0 count and I lay a fastball down the middle, I think you could be a pretty good hitter, too."

Jose Contreras, the Yankees' Cuban defector, retired Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell, the Miami-born son of Cuban parents, on a force play for the final out of a Yankee win that evened the Series at a game apiece.

Pettitte for the third straight time fulfilled his duty to restore equilibrium to a series. The Yankees lost the opener of their Division Series to the Twins and were beaten by the Sox in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series; each time, Pettitte strode to the hill and restored the pinstripes to their proper place, last night on just three days of rest.

The win was Pettitte's 13th in the postseason, tying him with Atlanta's John Smoltz for most in history. This was his longest outing in 29 postseason starts, and it was the longest start by a Yankee pitcher in a World Series game since New Hampshire's Jim Beattie, now co-general manager of the Orioles, went nine in Game 5 of the '78 Series against the Dodgers.

The 31-year-old Pettitte is eligible for free agency after this summer, but with his October track record (13-7, 4.16 ERA), no one expects George Steinbrenner to suddenly go cheap.

Pettitte allowed just two infield hits through six innings, and gave up six hits total, all singles, before leaving in the ninth, when Aaron Boone's second error of the game gave Derrek Lee the chance to break up the shutout with a two-out base hit.

Alfonso Soriano, who struck out in the ninth inning with the go-ahead runs on base in Game 1 and had whiffed four times against Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS, hit a two-run home run in the fourth off Rick Helling. That ended the scoring for the Bombers, who were treated to a couple of former Sox pitchers, Chad Fox and Carl Pavano, each of whom threw a scoreless inning.

The Yankees will face the Marlins' 23-year-old ace, Josh Beckett, when the series shifts to Miami tomorrow night, with Mike Mussina scheduled to oppose him.

Torre, asked if the Game 1 loss had refocused his team's priorities, said: "We certainly were in a position to win [Game 1]. We had plenty of opportunities to hit with men in scoring position [1 for 12], but they shut us down.

"We take nothing for granted. If you were ever going to take a team for granted, you watched the Cubs have a 3-1 lead on this team and go home. I think that in itself was a lesson everybody learned."

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