Back-to-back fielding gems spark Yankees to Game 3 win
Updated: Wednesday October 31, 2001 8:16 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
NEW YORK -- Pitching and defense, goes the old baseball saw, are what win games. The real truth is, though, it just isn't true a lot of times.
Except, maybe, when you're hitting like the New York Yankees are hitting in this World Series.
In that case, pitching and defense are the only things that can win a game.
And that's how the Yankees won Game 3 on Tuesday night.
"Soriano's play was huge, keeping the ball in the infield," shortstop Derek Jeter said after the Yankees' 2-1 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks pulled them to 2-1 in the best-of-seven Series. "And when someone hits a line drive in front of an outfielder, I think that's the toughest play to make, 'cause you don't know how far it's going to carry."
The score was tied in Game 3 at 1-1 in the sixth when Yankees starter Roger Clemens plunked Arizona right fielder Reggie Sanders with a two-out, 1-0 fastball. Sanders stole second base four pitches later when a Clemens pitch to designated hitter Erubiel Durazo skipped in the dirt in front of catcher Damian Miller.
On the next pitch, Durazo sent a screaming one-hopper into the hole between first and second base. But the rookie Soriano stretched out to snag it. Soriano couldn't make the play at first to get Durazo, but by keeping the ball in the infield, he saved the run.
"If I don't stop that ball," Soriano said through an interpreter, "that run would have scored. And that was a very important run."
With the trouble the Yankees have had scoring in this Series -- they have scored three runs in three games -- another run for the Diamondbacks in that situation could have been disastrous. Which is what made the next play equally as critical to the Yanks.
With Sanders on third and Durazo on first, Arizona third baseman Matt Williams smacked a 1-1 pitch to left field. Yankees left fielder Shane Spencer, reacting at the crack of the bat, charged in and picked the ball off with a diving catch that saved the run yet again.
"It's a decisive play. You have a split second to make the play. You either make it or you don't," said Arizona left fielder Luis Gonzalez. "He took a chance and he made a great play."
Gonzalez had a chance to make a similar play the next inning on a ball hit by Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius. But Gonzalez didn't think he could make the play. The ball fell in front of him, scoring center fielder Bernie Williams with the winning run.
"We're not a team that typically scores a lot of runs," Jeter said. "We rely on pitching and we rely on defense. They came through for us tonight."
The old saw proved true in Game 3. Sooner or later, though, the Yankees are going to have to hit.