2004/10/13 Yankees News
Godzilla burns Sox with five RBIs
Japanese slugger paces Yankees' 10-run attack
NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui produces with clockwork regularity. He is consistent, steady without flurries.
The type of performer who does nothing spectacular on any given day, but you look up at the end of the season and see a .300 average, 25 homers, 100 RBIs.
Well, Matsui is blowing his cover. His .412 hitting in the American League Division Series turned out to be only an opening act.
Matsui wielded the biggest hammer in the Yankees' 10-7 win over Boston in Tuesday's Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
His five RBIs tied the ALCS record. Every time Curt Schilling or his relief tried to take a breath, Matsui knocked it out.
His first-inning double scored the game's first run. His third-inning double cleared the bases. His sixth-inning single made it 8-0.
If you're counting, that's one more RBI than he had in all seven games of the 2003 ALCS.
"Matsui can hit, that's the bottom line," said Derek Jeter. "He has a great plan at the plate, and he's been hot. He's carried that into the postseason, so we have a lot of confidence in him."
"Having had the experience of last year," Matsui said through his interpreter, "that helps, although I don't feel any different. I don't necessarily think it's changed my comfort level."
Perhaps not specifically for the October season. But, year-long, Matsui appeared to be playing with a bolstered confidence which, at his talent level, makes the difference between good and great.
"He has an idea when he goes up there," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "It's not always going to work, but he's never in-between.
"When he gets in a situation where there's men in scoring position and he has a knowledge of the pitcher, he just has a feel for what pitch he wants to hit."
Sometimes, he also gets lucky.
Take the game's single biggest moment. Third inning, Yankees have a 2-0 lead and the bases loaded with none out. Matsui steps into the batter's box, and into a moment that has "game-break" stamped all over it.
Hideki Matsui's record five RBIs in Tuesday's game break his previous postseason single-game high of three in Game 2 of the 2003 World Series and break his mark for any postseason series:
|Matusi's eight postseason RBIs this season are tops on the New York Yankees and his 11 RBIs in the 2003 postseason edged Bernie Williams' 10 for the team lead.|
"I was waiting for a fastball," he recalled. "But (Schilling) actually threw me a cutter. But it stayed high in the strike zone, and I was able to get the head of the bat on it."
Once the ball stopped rattling around in the right-field corner, the Yankees had a 5-0 lead on their way to propping up the eight-run cushion that would come in handy.
"Matsui's been a rock all year for us," said Alex Rodriguez. "He lays in the weeds, but then he comes up with some humongous hits. He's done it all year, and he's continuing it now."
No better time than Tuesday night. You would not think it's possible for the Yankees to score 10 runs without a single run being driven in by the trio of Jeter, Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield.
It happened in Game 1, because Matsui did his usual number on the Red Sox. As they say in the dugout, that number is getting really crooked: In 20 games against Boston, Matsui has 23 RBIs.
Following the game, Matsui was asked his feelings about stepping up big in October, and thus taking his symbolic place alongside such money players as Jeter, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada.
"I'm very happy you think of me in those terms," Matsui said, and there was only one thing wrong with his humility.
Neither Jeter, nor Bernie, nor Posada -- nor any Yankee ever, for that matter -- had driven in five runs in an ALCS game.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story