Hernandez has been Yankees' ace in the postseason
Posted: Sunday October 24, 1999 08:36 AM
The new Mr. October? Orlando Hernandez has a 1.02 ERA in six postseason starts. AP
ATLANTA (AP) -- Orlando Hernandez got away with his one mistake.
He struck out 10 and allowed only one hit in seven innings, Chipper Jones' solo homer in the fourth, as the New York Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves 4-1 in Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night.
Until the eighth inning, it looked like Hernandez's bad fastball to Jones would overshadow his most dominating postseason start, because the Yankees couldn't score off Greg Maddux.
But after Hernandez was lifted for pinch-hitter Darryl Strawberry in the eighth, the Yankees scored four runs to give him yet another big playoff win.
| CNN/SI On-Site |
| Hernandez came ready to pitch tonight and made one mistake the whole night. He paid for that with the home run to Chipper Jones, but El Duque was ready to pitch tonight. |
Actually we must give credit to Chipper because [Chipper's] first time up, Hernandez struck him out with a fastball on the inside part of the plate. The catcher set up on the outside part of the plate [for Chipper's second at-bat] and he threw it on the inside part. And after the home run you could see [Hernandez] motioning to the catcher that it was his mistake.
Maddux had great movement; it was vintage Greg Maddux. Even with that you noticed Bobby Cox and he were both frustrated with some of the calls being made by Randy Marsh behind the plate. I think they felt the pressure of only being up by one run and only having one hit to that point.
-- CNN/SI Baseball Analyst Ozzie Smith
In just his second season since defecting from Cuba, "El Duque" has replaced last year's postseason ace David Wells for the Yankees and put his name up there with other great October pitchers like Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson.
Hernandez is 5-0 in six career playoff starts with a 1.02 ERA, trailing only Koufax and teammate Mariano Rivera for the best postseason ERA among players with at least 40 innings.
After getting hammered in two career starts (9.34 ERA) against Atlanta, Hernandez showed how different he is in October.
Coming from an assortment of arm angles and hiding the ball behind his high leg kick, Hernandez kept the Braves off balance and struck out 10. Against a team known for its aggressiveness, Hernandez teased the Braves with sliders and changeups off the plate and mixed in a deceptive fastball.
Posada and Hernandez appear to bicker constantly about pitch selection, location and how to approach the hitters.
His strikeouts were the most for a Yankee in the World Series since Bob Turley also struck out 10 in Game 5 of the 1958 Series against the Braves.
In the first inning, Hernandez got Gerald Williams and Bret Boone to swing through third strikes and Chipper Jones to look at one.
After getting Eddie Perez to wave at a slider out of the strike zone to end the second, Hernandez struck out the side again in the third. He made it five in a row when Boone whiffed again to open the fourth.
Then Hernandez made his only mistake. Jones turned on an inside fastball and hit a shot halfway up the lower deck in the right field seats.
As Jones rounded the bases, Hernandez stomped his foot on the mound and catcher Jorge Posada came out to talk to him.
The back-and-forth banter is less a sign of disagreement than strategy Posada uses to focus Hernandez.
"He pitches better when he's mad, so I try to make him that way," Posada said recently.
Whatever Posada did worked. Hernandez retired the next 10 of he next 11 batters, allowing only a four-pitch walk to Jones to open the seventh.
Then again, with Hernandez on the mound in October, almost anything would work.
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