Braves' miscues in third open door, Yanks barge on in
Posted: Thursday October 28, 1999 01:46 AM
Oh, boy: Atlanta pitcher John Smoltz wipes his face after giving up a two-RBI single to Tino Martinez in the third. AP
By John Donovan, CNN/SI
NEW YORK -- All the New York Yankees ever needed in this World Series was one little slip-up, one little muff. Wednesday in Game 4 of the World Series, the Atlanta Braves gave them two. In the same inning.
And the Yanks turned that into a sweep-clinching Series win.
"That ballclub just pounces on you," said Braves third baseman Chipper Jones. "And with Roger Clemens throwing like he was, and [Series MVP Mariano Rivera] coming out of the bullpen ... you knew it was going to be awfully tough."
A rocky third inning lowlighted by two Braves' gaffes cemented the team's fourth Series disaster of the decade. Two ground balls that could have been called errors -- and maybe even should have been called errors -- found their way through the Braves' infield and resulted in three runs.
That was all the Yankees needed on the way to a 4-1 win and their 12th straight World Series win.
"We got the groundballs but we didn't get an out," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "That's the way it goes."
New York's Chuck Knoblauch opened the inning with a hard grounder to the hole between short and third. Braves shortstop Walt Weiss got there in plenty of time and backhanded the ball, but he couldn't come up with it. Officials scored the grounder an infield single.
"It's a play I could have made," conceded Weiss. "I knew with Knoblauch running ... I was trying to get off the throw really quickly."
Derek Jeter followed with single and, after a one-out walk to Bernie Williams, Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. He sent a hard-hit grounder toward Braves first baseman Ryan Klesko, who was thinking double play: first to second then back to first.
Klesko bent over to get the ball -- he didn't get in front of it -- it hit his glove, ran up his arm and flew into right-center field.
"It just came up on me," he said. "I got a good break on it, but it was hit so hard ... it just came up on me."
It also didn't help that Williams was in front of Klesko, which seemed to throw off the first baseman. In fact, the grounder nearly clipped Williams' heel.
"He was in front of me, definitely," Klesko said of Williams. "But I knew when [Martinez] hit the ball, it was in front of me."
That grounder, too, was generously scored a single. Two runs came in, plenty enough to ensure the Yankees' 25th World Series title. Catcher Jorge Posada later drove in a third with a two-out single in an inning Braves starter John Smoltz called the toughest of his career.
"These guys aren't swinging at anything," Smoltz told coaches as he came into the dugout after the inning.
That, of course, was the type of Series it was for the Braves. They stayed close in three of the losses -- in two of the games, they had an eighth-inning lead -- and had a big lead in the other. Still, they managed to be swept.
"I've seen Walt make that play 100 times," Jones said. "And I've seen Klesko make that play, too. Those two plays get made, we might still be playing."
They didn't. And so the Braves' season ends in another disappointing loss in the Series.
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