NEW YORK (AP) _ Crank up the stereo. If David Wells wants some more Metallica booming through the New York Yankees clubhouse, pop in a CD. A little Van Halen, maybe? Hey, no problem.
Give the man whatever heavy metal music he wants. He earned a whole rock concert with an airtight performance in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Tuesday night, pitching the Yankees to a 7-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Armed with an early five-run lead, Wells was on cruise control, allowing just five hits and retiring 11 straight batters and 15 out of 16 over one stretch. He struck out seven and walked just one in 8 1-3 innings. The way he mowed down the Indians was reminiscent of his perfect game May 17 against Minnesota.
The victory ran Wells’ career postseason record to 6-1 and followed his 2-0 shutout of Texas in Game 1 of the divisional playoffs last week. He also extended his streak of postseason shutout innings to 23 1-3 before surrendering a two-run homer to Manny Ramirez in the ninth.
Before Tuesday night’s game, the Yankees came out for batting practice in their regular uniforms. Not Wells.
The left-hander showed up wearing his baseball stirrups, a pair of shorts and his lucky Metallica baseball shirt with No. 98 on the back. It was his personal fashion statement, a tribute to one of his favorite music groups and nothing unusual for him.
Then when he came out to start the game, the Yankee Stadium sound system played ``Running With the Devil,″ a Van Halen hit and another of Wells’ favorite tunes.
All the heavy metal leaves his teammates’ ears ringing. David Cone joked about it before the game. But as long as the left-hander keeps getting batters out, he can play anything he wants.
Manager Joe Torre believes the perfect game turned Wells into a different pitcher, confident and comfortable everytime he takes the mound.
Certainly that was the case at Yankee Stadium, where he was nearly unbeatable going 11-1 in his 18-4 season.
``David is as consistent as anyone physically and puts numbers up without hesitation,″ the manager said.
For Wells’ part, he believes nothing is any different. ``Just be aggressive,″ he said. ``Go out there and throw strikes.
``I don’t really think l anything changed after the perfect game. I was just lucky. I had one lucky day and that is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.″
Wells relished the role of being the first game starter in the pennant playoff.
``I am not a follower,″ he said. ``I like to believe that I am a leader going out there and trying to set the tone, especially if I get the ball first.″
That’s exactly what happened in Game 1.