Walker guessed right with Mussina -- and hit the jackpot
He has no idea why his bat has become a magic wand in October. Todd Walker hit 13 home runs in 144 games during the regular season. He has five in nine playoff games, three short of Barry Bonds's postseason record. Can such things be?
"I'm a 6-foot, 180-pound guy dripping wet, so how can I do that?" wondered the Red Sox second baseman, whose cannon shot into the right-field seats in the fourth inning was the first blow to the Yankees' chin in last night's crucial 3-2 victory at Fenway Park. "I don't know."
Maybe it's the Biblical verse he read before the playoffs, Walker muses: "Not by power, not by might but by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Otherwise, all he can figure is that he's fiercely focused, getting ahead in the count and, thus, seeing good pitches to hit.
"I can't explain the home runs," he said, "but I'm trying to hit the ball hard and I'm trying to square it up as much as I can."
It was Walker's blast off the right-field foul pole (and possibly a spectator's hand) against Mike Mussina, not long after David Ortiz's two-run homer, that staggered the Yankees in the fifth inning of Boston's 5-2 victory in the series opener at the Stadium.
That night, Mussina had thrown him a couple of changeups. Last night, Walker figured he'd see something else.
"It's a big chess game with Mike Mussina because he's a thinking pitcher out there," Walker said, "and I've faced him enough to know that what you've got to do is think along with him. That's what I tried to do."
With the count 2-and-2, Walker figured that Mussina (who shook off catcher Jorge Posada's original suggestions) might come at him with heat.
"I eliminated the changeup, based on what happened in New York," he said, "and got a fastball that I could hit and I was looking for it."
Walker's blast, which set a club record for postseason homers in one year, broke up a scoreless game and set the stage for Trot Nixon's bomb to center in the fifth. It also put him up in the pantheon of Boston postseason sluggers.
"When you think of all the great home run hitters that have come through here, it's such a special thing for me," Walker said, "and I know this isn't over yet."
One thing is for certain: Walker will be back in the lineup today for the pivotal fifth game. No more sitting for defensive purposes when Derek Lowe pitches.
"He's a very confident hitter right now," said Sox manager Grady Little. "He thinks he can hit anything that comes across the plate. That being the case, he'll be in there tomorrow."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.