Soriano's walk-off homer gives Yankees 3-1 ALCS lead
Updated: Monday October 22, 2001 8:43 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- No one could scold Alfonso Soriano for admiring this shot.
Soriano, a rookie on a team of veterans, moved the New York Yankees one win from their fourth consecutive trip to the World Series. His two-run homer off Kazuhiro Sasaki in the ninth inning Suganday night ended a wild and gritty game, giving New York a 3-1 victory against Seattle and a 3-1 lead in the AL Championship Series.
"I think we're just blessed," said Bernie Williams, who tied it with an eighth-inning homer. "It has taken a lot of work. It has a lot to do with the attitude of this club."
Seattle's Bret Boone broke up a scoreless game with an eighth-inning homer off Ramiro Mendoza, moving the Mariners within six outs of fulfilling the promise of manager Lou Piniella, who pledged his team would stretch the series to six games and force New York to return to Safeco Field.
"There's a certain amount of magic that's tied to him," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Williams. "We all expect it, and he's never let us down."
Soriano, the rookie second baseman whose strong spring training caused the Yankees to find a spot for him in their lineup, won it with his homer off Sasaki, last year's AL Rookie of the Year.
"We just jumped off the bench," Tino Martinez said. "We knew it was gone when he hit it."
In Game 1, Soriano was criticized by the Yankees for failing to run out a ball he thought was a home run and then getting only to first base when it clanked off Safeco's left-field wall. And in Game 3, he was slow to cover second base, contributing to the Mariners' win.
"Those are the things that happen in the game," Soriano said through a translator. "But I think I have a great path ahead of me."
Scott Brosius, whose two-run double propelled the Yankees to their Game 2 win, reached on an infield single with one out against Sasaki, who allowed just six homers.
Soriano took a ball, then sent an opposite-field drive to right-center. Mike Cameron went back and jumped, but the ball was helped by a stiff wind and landed about 10 feet past him.
"They used the elements very well today," Cameron said. "For a minute, I thought I had a play on it, but it didn't seem like it wanted to be played."
Yankee Stadium rocked as fans jumped up and down. But they're used to these magical moments.
Chris Chambliss hit a series-winner against Kansas City in Game 6 of the 1976 ALCS, and Williams had game-ending homers against Baltimore in 1996 and Boston in 1999, both in series openers.
"I don't know if you can get any higher than this," Torre said. "We're going to have to calm down for a game tomorrow."
Because of their wildness, both were pulled after the fifth inning. Abbott walked eight, one short of the ALCS record.
"I didn't have anything really working that I could rely on," he said.
It then came down to a battle of the bullpens, and the Yankees prevailed. As usual.
Andy Pettitte will try to close it out Monday night against Aaron Sele in a rematch of Game 1 starters. The three-time defending World Series champions are trying to become the first team to win four consecutive pennants since they won five from 1960-64.
"If the series would have been tied 2-2, it would have been tough for us," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said.
Seattle tied the regular-season record of 116 wins but now must win three in a row to reach its first World Series. Otherwise, the Mariners will be remembered along with the 1906 Chicago Cubs, who went 116-36 and lost the World Series to the crosstown White Sox.
"This puts us in a rather precarious position," Piniella said. "It was a great ballgame. We didn't lose. We just got beat."
Abbott, the first pitcher pulled with a postseason no-hit bid since Baltimore's Mike Cuellar left after 4 2/3 innings and nine walks in the 1974 AL playoffs, stranded runners on first and second in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Nearly half of Abbott's pitches were out of the strike zone: 48 balls and 49 strikes.
"Just like when I was walking a high wire in Vegas one time," he joked.
New York stranded eight runners over the first seven innings, going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Former Yankee Jeff Nelson escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth when Brosius hit into an inning-ending double play.
At that point, the pressure was so intense that Piniella nearly spit out his bubble gum yelling on a check-swing. Nelson pumped his fist in excitement when he got the double play.
Clemens, winless in three postseason starts this year while pitching with an injured hamstring, also was wildly inconsistent, his splitter either diving down for strikes or sailing high for balls.
There were just two hits in the game before the drive over Death Valley by Boone, who had five RBIs Saturday in Seattle's 14-3 rout. Left fielder Chuck Knoblauch kept going back, but the ball, caught in a stiff wind, kept on going.
"In that situation with our bullpen, the job that they have done all year, you almost bank on it being a win," Abbott thought to himself.
New York, for a few moments, had a sinking feeling.
"It would have been a tough one to lose," Derek Jeter said.
The feelings didn't last long for either team.
With one out in the bottom half, Williams sliced a 3-2 opposite-field drive about 10 feet foul down the right-field line. On the next pitch, he popped a home run over the right-field wall, with outfielder Ichiro Suzuki smacking into the fence as he ran out of room.
"Off the bat, I thought it was a deep fly ball," Rhodes said. "Once I saw the wind take it, well, nothing you can do about that."
Mariano Rivera, Mr. Automatic, then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth -- as in three pitches, three outs.
Now Rivera and the Yankees get to close it out at home against Seattle, just like last year.
"We have to if we can," Jeter said. "We don't want to go back to Seattle."
Notes: Paul McCartney, watching from the front row behind home plate, was shown on the scoreboard singing along to the Beatles' song I Saw Her Standing There. ... The postseason record of 10 walks was set by the Yankees' Bill Bevens in losing a one-hitter to Brooklyn 3-2 in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series. ... There were an LCS record 15 walks, one more than the previous mark by Oakland and Baltimore in Cuellar's 1974 outing.