Work in Sports
Little big men
Bottom of lineup triggers Series clincher for Yankees
Updated: Friday October 27, 2000 1:39 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Down to their last out in the ninth inning of a tie game, facing a pitcher who seemed to be growing stronger the longer he stayed in, the New York Yankees weaved their World Series magic out of the slimmest of threads.
Then up to the plate came Scott Brosius, who had done nothing against Leiter but who has one of the highest batting averages in World Series history. This time, Brosius slapped a single to left field to keep the Yankees' flame burning and pump up the voices of their screaming fans in the enemy's den at Shea Stadium.
Leiter, the most animated of pitchers, his face twitching between every pitch, suddenly looked weary and bewildered as if he sensed his time was up. He had struck out the first two men in the inning, nine in all, had thrown 141 pitches, and he would throw one more.
Luis Sojo hit pitch No. 142 up the middle, and Posada rounded third and charged toward the plate. Center fielder Jay Payton had no choice but to try to throw a strike and nail Posada. The throw was true, but it hit Posada as he slid into home. The ball caromed into the Mets' dugout, allowing Brosius to come home, too, and giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead they would not relinquish.
"As soon as it was hit, I knew it wasn't hit very hard," Payton said. "I came in as hard as I could. I was flying. I left everything out there. It's a do-or-die. I guess it was just a tad late. It was like a split second."
Sojo, one of the eight men brought into the Yankees' fold during the season, couldn't get over his great fortune to be on this team, to be in the World Series and to deliver the winning hit.
"It's the happiest day of my life," Sojo said. "I don't know how to explain it. Today they gave me a chance to come through. I did and was it was unbelievable."
The Yankees had trouble believing how Leiter looked on the mound before it all fell apart on him.
"He got into some kind of zone," center fielder Bernie Williams said. "Late in the game, he was blowing guys away."
Mets manager Bobby Valentine, too, thought Leiter was in control and would keep the Yankees down through the ninth.
"It was Al's game," Valentine said. "I thought he'd get Sojo."
Instead, Leiter was left to remember only what went wrong.
"It's amazing how three hours of hard work was destroyed in a couple of minutes," Leiter said.
Posada, who started it all, was simply looking for a way to get on.
"Brosius has been clutch," Posada said. "I was just at least trying to get on base, trying to get a pitch I could drive and get a quick run."
"Jorge had a great at-bat," Brosius said, "and I finally got a pitch that didn't break a bat and I got on."
It was the kind of small ball that had carried the Yankees through so much of this most difficult and most rewarding of seasons, when injuries left holes in their lineup, players came and went and the home run pop of seasons past was missing.
They had scored their first two runs Thursday night with homers, one by Williams, who had gone 0-for-15 in the Series, and another by Derek Jeter, who won the MVP award.
But when it came time to get a run on the board with the bottom of the lineup at bat in the ninth, to concoct a rally any way possible, the subtleties that marked the true qualities of this Yankees team came through.
It was the same kind of savvy that helped the Yankees win the first game of the series, when struggling Paul O'Neill coaxed a 10-pitch walk in the bottom of ninth against Armando Benitez to start a rally that would help tie the game and lead to victory in the 12th.
All the Yankees were schooled in this art, learning how to do it under pressure time and again, through four World Series in the past five years.
This time it was Posada's turn, and Brosius and Sojo. They're not the biggest name Yankees. They're not the ones with the fattest contracts. But they are, when it comes down to it, what this team is all about.
"You could have picked a name out of the hat. We have a team of MVPs," Jeter said.