Opportunity knocked, Yankees answered in ALCS
Posted: Tuesday October 19, 1999 02:28 AM
A frustrated Trot Nixon walks towards the dugout after leaving three men on base in the eighth inning. AP
By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated
BOSTON -- After their Yankees' 6-1 win in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox didn't sound much like a team that had just lost two of three at home and set an LCS record for errors (10).
"I really believe we were good enough to beat them," said Boston third baseman John Valentin. "That's not being overconfident, it's what I think is true."
"Both teams were equal," said reliever Derek Lowe. "They hit when they had to and maybe got the calls, but they weren't the better team."
But the Yankees, who are going to the World Series for the third time in four years, are the better team -- by far the best in the American League -- and Game 5 proved why.
As they did throughout the series against the Red Sox, the Yankees, who were outhit .293 to .239 by Boston, refused to squander opportunities to score and made their opponents pay for every offensive and defensive mistake.
The first two batters of the game, Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter, took advantage of Boston starter Kent Mercker's early-game shakiness: Knoblauch singled and Jeter hammered a two-run home run to center.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, were busily continuing their series-long trend: leaving runners in scoring position. They left runners on base in seven of nine innings in Game 5.
In the series, they were retired in order in just 11 of 45 innings -- but left a total of 41 runners on base.
The eighth inning of Game 5 was a microcosm of the ALCS for the Red Sox. Trailing 4-1 they loaded the bases with one out, but pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg struck out on a pitch in the dirt and Trot Nixon popped out.
Fans and the Boston media will offer reasons ranging from grotesque umpiring to "The Curse" as explanations for why the Yankees will now chase their 25th world championship.
But the Yankees, who were far from their 1998 selves in this series, survived because they were the more solid and opportunistic team.
They didn't get many hits, but they were timely. They didn't play spectacular defense, but they made routine plays and denied the Red Sox extra outs in key innings.
In short, they gave the Red Sox, and the rest of the American League, a lesson to learn if they want to dethrone the Yankees in 2000.