By RONALD BLUM
NEW YORK – John Halama has been in New York for days, back home for his sister’s wedding.
Orlando Hernandez and the Yankees would like to give Halama and his Mariners teammates the rest of the winter off.
“I had to be here, but my heart was in Seattle,” Halama said Monday, a day before starting Game 6 of the AL championship series and trying to push New York to a seventh game.
Barbara Halama got married Saturday, so her brother took a red-eye flight after Game 3 Friday night. He couldn’t watch Game 4 because of the wedding.
“Someone had a Walkman and kept me updated, inning by inning, batter and everything,” Halama said.
He felt he had to miss the two games at Safeco Field. Blood over batterymates. His sister was in the stands at Shea Stadium – along with 69 other family and friends – two years ago when he made his first major league start in New York.
“My sister doesn’t plan on getting married again,” he said.
The Brooklynite, acquired by Seattle from Houston in the Randy Johnson trade, kept to his normal throwing routine, going out to a city park to toss a ball with his brother. Other than that, he kept a low profile, not wanting to get into the faces of Yankees’ fans in Bay Ridge.
“I didn’t walk around the neighborhood,” he said.
Halama, a 28-year-old left-hander, blanked the Yankees for six innings, leaving with a 1-0 lead, but Seattle’s bullpen got blasted in a 7-1 loss in Game 2.
Hernandez wound up getting the win, allowing one run and six hits in eight innings. He is 7-0 with a 1.22 ERA in a postseason career that has become more storied than his defection from Cuba three years ago.
He’s the man of a million motions.
Words, however, are scarce.
“I always feel pressure,” he said Sunday night. “What I don’t have is fear.”
That, according to Halama, is easy for Hernandez say.
“El Duque probably says he has no fear because he’s back at home, and he has had so much postseason experience,” Halama said. “There’s almost always going to be a nerve factor with myself. The fans will not be cheering for me, except for the limited family I have. I’m sure his comments would be different is he was pitching in Seattle.”
With his team trailing 3-2 in the series and one loss from elimination, Mariners manager Lou Piniella promised to make major lineup changes.
“Hernandez has never been beaten in postseason. We realize it,” he said. “But we’re going to stack up our lineup left-handed, make it as tough on his as possible.”
Yankees manager Joe Torre wasn’t planing major moves to adjust to Halama.
“I’d like to believe momentum is as good as your starting pitcher,” he said. “I’m obviously not knocking John Halama. I feel good about our guy.”
Two years ago, Barbara Halama talked about her brother, before his first start for Houston in New York.
“He grew up wanting to play for the Mets,” she said. “It was his dream to pitch at Shea Stadium.”
With a win today, he might get a chance to pitch at Shea Stadium once again. Against the Mets. In the World Series.
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