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Wait it out

The Yankees are the masters of catch-up baseball

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Posted: Sunday October 24, 1999 01:57 AM

  One down: The Yankees celebrate their Game 1 victory. AP

By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated

A bunch of Yankees reflecting on a World Series win is like the Rolling Stones singing “Satisfaction.”

They’ve done it before.

They have done it after each of their last nine World Series games, dating back to Game 3 of the 1996 Series against the Braves. There was no euphoria in the Yankees’ clubhouse after their 4-1 victory in Game 1.

There was the sense that, even though they trailed Braves starter Greg Maddux 1-0 after seven innings, they weren’t the least bit surprised to have come back and won the game.

“We never were in a down mood tonight,” Darryl Strawberry said. “We were only down one run. We’re a confident club and we’re confident we can score runs.”

All season, the Yankees have resisted the urge to compare this year’s team with the 1996 and 1998 world champion squads.

“Different years, different teams,” third baseman Scott Brosius said.

Their win Saturday night was a direct result of their getting back to what made those teams so good: patience at the plate: sound managing, timely hitting and door-slamming bullpen work.

Take their four-run, eighth-inning rally. After Brosius led off with a single, Joe Torre sent Darryl Starwberry up to pinch-hit for pitcher Orlando Hernandez.

“I thought that was a brilliant move by Joe bringing up Straw in that point in the game,” said David Cone, who will start Game 2 Sunday night. “That was the one spot he could be used tonight, before he was buried by all their lefties coming in the game. Joe didn’t waste any time.”

Neither did Maddux. The four-time Cy Young winner nibbled against a hitter who entered the game hitting under .200 against him -- walking Strawberry on four pitches. Later in the inning, the Yankees scored a key fourth run when Braves closer John Rocker walked pinch hitter Jim Leyritz with the bases loaded after getting ahead 0-2.

“It was the first time I’d seen live pitching in a while,” said Leyritz, who was left off the Yankees’ roster for the ALCS. “I was pretty surprised i saw the ball as well as I did.”

Such patience at the plate seems to come naturally to New York hitters in the postseason, but Leyritz had some help from Rocker, who -- for some reason -- tried to get Leyritz out with breaking balls instead of his fastball.

“The first pitch I swung at I was late on, and I kept looking and waiting for another fastball,” Leyritz said. “He didn’t throw me one. Those extra pitches helped me pick up his arm angle and speed. I got better timing as the at bat went on.”

As impressed as they were with the at-bats by Strawberry and Leyritz, the Yankees saved most of their plaudits for their starter. Orlando Hernandez mowed down the Braves for seven innings, striking out 10 and making just one mistake, a fastball that Chipper Jones smacked for a home run in the fourth inning.

El Duque kept New York in the game until his mates were finally able to get to Maddux in the eighth; the victory was his third of this postseason.

“After the home run I saw that El Duque was getting a little frustrated, but he held them down at 1-0 and gave us the confidence to scratch out some runs,” said Cone. “That was a huge performance, especially in these (46-degree) conditions. This postseason is the first time he’s been the main man in the spotlight, the main guy for us, and he seems to be thriving on it.”

Just as the Yankees seem to be thriving on their latest World Series experience.


 
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