Yanks’ Jeff Nelson Hit Very Hard
SEATTLE (AP) _ It’s shut-up time for Jeff Nelson.
Nelson had a chance Sunday to do what New York Yankees boss George Steinbrenner demanded of him recently _ ``Put up or shut up″ _ and in a six-pitch disaster put up nothing but meatballs for the Seattle Mariners to squash.
The right-hander came into the game for starter Denny Neagle with a chance to preserve a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning and help close out the AL championship series in Game 5.
Instead, Nelson let the Mariners back in with a five-run outburst reminiscent of the Yankees’ seven-run eighth inning in Game 2 that had turned this series their way.
Neagle had gotten into trouble when Mark McLemore led off with a bunt single, Rickey Henderson drew a walk, and both runners moved up on Mike Cameron’s sacrifice.
Alex Rodriguez greeted Nelson’s first pitch, letter high over the plate, with a line-drive single just past the outstretched glove of diving third baseman Scott Brosius, scoring McLemore and Henderson.
Then on a 2-0 pitch, after four throws over to first worrying about Rodriguez, Nelson gave up a home run to Edgar Martinez to dead center. Nelson had given up a game-blowing grand slam to Martinez in late August.
As if this one wasn’t enough, John Olerud then crushed an 0-1 pitch by Nelson for a homer over the right-field fence.
Six pitches, five runs, and the Yankees’ visions of going home to prepare for the World Series quickly vanished. Now after a 6-2 loss, their lead cut to 3-2, they have to try to put the Mariners away in Game 6 on Tuesday.
``It happened quick,″ Nelson said. ``It’s one of those times. You try to make good pitches, and I didn’t make good pitches today.″
Nelson, who was charged with three of the runs, hadn’t given up a run in five innings in four games this postseason while striking out eight and allowing only two hits. Last year, he didn’t give up a run in nine postseason appearances.
But in between, Nelson found himself embroiled in some nasty exchanges with Steinbrenner and manager Joe Torre.
Nelson was upset when Torre left him off the AL roster for the All-Star game. At the time, the 6-foot-8 setup man was 6-2 with a 1.74 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 46 2-3 innings.
Torre took four relievers to the All-Star game, all of them closers _ Oakland’s Jason Isringhausen, Boston’s Derek Lowe, Detroit’s Todd Jones and the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera.
Nelson suggested that in the future he might not be so willing to pitch when he’s not feeling 100 percent. Torre and general manager Brian Cashman were stung by those remarks.
Nelson and Torre seemed to patch up their differences, but Nelson struggled in July and August, prompting Steinbrenner to deliver his ``Put up or shut up″ ultimatum.
``I have 29 more days plus the playoffs to put up with this stuff,″ Nelson said at the time.
Nelson, who is eligible for free agency after this season, added that Steinbrenner’s comments wouldn’t necessarily affect his decision on where to play next season.
``I’m not worried about my status for next year,″ he said. ``I want to help this team win the World Series.″
He surely didn’t help the team much on Sunday.