Nuked in New York
Yanks take charge, hammer Padres 9-3
Posted: Friday November 27, 1998 10:25 PM
"This is just the way we play," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We're just a confident club. The fact that we've won so many times this season gives you the confidence to expect to win."
"I'm glad it's a best-of-7 right now," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "We were at least hoping to win a ballgame here."
From the very first inning, ace Orlando Hernandez & Co. demonstrated how they've won 123 games and staked their claim as the greatest team in baseball history.
"We are playing well in all facets of the game," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "If we continue to do that, we're tough to beat."
Hernandez, the Cuban defector who floated to freedom less than 10 months ago and helped save New York's season with a win in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series, was in complete control against San Diego.
Exactly a year after his younger half-brother, Livan Hernandez, pitched Florida past Cleveland in Game 1 on his way to becoming MVP of the World Series, the quirky El Duque shut down San Diego on one run in seven innings.
"We spoke over the phone and he spoke to me a little about how to pitch to this team," Hernandez, smoking a cigar, said through an interpreter.
By the time Posada's two-run homer in the fifth made it 9-1, the sellout crowd of 56,692 was going crazy while several Padres players were standing with heads down and hands on hips.
The Padres face a tough task in trying to regroup for Game 3 on Tuesday night in San Diego. David Cone will start for New York against NLCS MVP Sterling Hitchcock, a former Yankees pitcher -- of the previous 44 teams to take a 2-0 lead in the Series, 33 have won the championship.
On top of that, Hitchcock, Ashby and Game 1 starter Kevin Brown are all ill.
"Somebody spread something around," Bochy said. "It looks like it hit the pitchers more than anybody else. Brownie has a touch of the flu. The timing is terrible."
At this rate, this might have been the last game at Yankee Stadium of the year. Yet the Yankees know how quickly fortunes can change -- wiped out at home by Atlanta in the first two games of the 1996 Series, they came back to win four in a row for their record 23rd title.
"We would love to win it in front of our fans, but we just want to get it over with as soon as possible," Jeter said.
San Diego's best opportunity came in the first. Tony Gwynn got his fourth hit of the series and Greg Vaughn walked, but right fielder Paul O'Neill made a leaping catch as he crashed into the wall on Wally Joyner's drive for the final out.
From then on, it was all Yankees. Williams hit his ninth career postseason homer and No. 9 batter Ledee, a rookie playing with exceptional poise, enjoyed his second straight night of getting two hits and a walk.
Actually, Ashby could have had a 1-2-3 bottom of the first with any luck. But on a night when he had a sore throat, he got no help.
Chuck Knoblauch's foul pop was dropped near the screen by sliding catcher Greg Myers -- it was correctly ruled no play -- and then the leadoff man exemplified the Yankees' patience at the plate, drawing an eight-pitch walk.
Knoblauch stole second and one out later, O'Neill slapped a grounder at three-time Gold Glove third baseman Ken Caminiti. Despite having plenty of time, Caminiti rushed his throw and it was too high for Joyner, an error that enabled Knoblauch to score.
Chili Davis and Scott Brosius added RBI singles and even though all three runs were unearned, they counted. The Padres even looked shaky getting the last out of the inning, when second baseman Quilvio Veras dropped Posada's line drive and made a poor throw barely in time.
"We've been stressing trying to win the game in the first inning -- trying to give our pitchers something to work with," Knoblauch said.
Williams' two-run homer highlighted a three-run second. Tino Martinez and Brosius, who each had three of the Yankees' 16 hits, singled to set up Ledee's RBI single in the third.
That was all for Ashby, and it wasn't until reliever Brian Boehringer pitched a scoreless fourth that Padres pitchers retired even two batters in a row.
Hernandez, meanwhile, set down 10 straight batters in the middle innings. With his navy blue socks pulled high, his unusual array of motions and pitches tamed hitters who had never faced him.
Hernandez struck out seven and gave up six hits.
Mike Stanton relieved to start the eighth and San Diego scored twice. Pinch-hitter Ruben Rivera, cousin of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, hit an RBI double and scored on pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney's single.
Notes: This was the 21st anniversary of Reggie Jackson's three-homer performance for the Yankees in the clinching Game 6 of the 1977 World Series against Los Angeles. ... Vaughn, who homered twice in Game 1, switched from left field to DH. He missed most of the NLCS because of a strained left quadriceps and Bochy wanted to give him a better chance to heal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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