2001 MLB Postseason

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Risky business

Soriano ends Yanks' third-inning rally with caught stealing

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Posted: Thursday October 11, 2001 2:18 AM
Updated: Thursday October 11, 2001 8:38 AM
  Eric Chavez, Alfonso Soriano The Yankees' Alfonso Soriano, who had 43 stolen bases in 57 attempts during the regular season, is tagged out at third. AP

By Jamal Greene, Sports Illustrated

NEW YORK -- Like losing a game in the postseason, running themselves out of an inning just isn't something the Yankees are accustomed to. But when rookie second baseman Alfonso Soriano was caught stealing third base with one out in the third inning, it took a potential run off the scoreboard for the Yankees and stifled a possible rally that could have led to more.

It wasn't a bad play, really.

One pitch earlier, Soriano had taken off for second, and his jump off first had turned Chuck Knoblauch's sure double-play ball into a simple fielder's choice. Soriano got a great jump off second, and the Yankees would have been a sacrifice fly away from tying the game at 1-1 if he were safe. Only a perfect pitch to throw on and subsequently a perfect throw from A's catcher Ramon Hernandez would have been able to nab him.

Well, it was a perfect pitch to throw on -- a high fastball over the outside corner -- and it was a perfect throw, a strike into third baseman Eric Chavez's glove in front of the sliding Soriano. It appeared Soriano slipped his hand onto the third base in front of Chavez's sweeping tag, but he was called out.

"It was a very tight play but the umpire didn't have the right angle," Soriano said. "I touched the base first."

Derek Jeter followed the caught stealing with a single to right but was stranded at first as the Yankees' early offensive futility continued.

It's the downside of being a running team. One season after stealing just 99 bases, the Yankees shocked many around baseball by finishing second in the majors with 161 stolen bases this season. Knoblauch stole 23 more bases than he did in 2000 and, more important, Soriano emerged as one of the AL's most dangerous baserunners with 43 swipes in 57 attempts.

"They like to run," said Tim Hudson, who will start Game 2 for Oakland. "That's definitely a strong point of their offense."

Soriano has been fleet of foot and prematurely smart enough for manager Joe Torre to have given him the green light all season, and that confidence continued into the rookie's first postseason game: He was on his own on all three of his stolen-base attempts in Game 1.

Said Torre: "He's aggressive and I have no problem with him trying to steal third base."

Soriano's third running attempt, a steal of second in the bottom of the fifth, led directly to the Yankees' first run.

"I think it's important that he didn't get discouraged when he got thrown out," said center fielder Bernie Williams. "He went right back out there got himself in position to score."

The Yankees surely hope that after their own setback, they can respond at least as well.

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