Yanks' late heroics turn Game 4 into one for the ages
Updated: Thursday November 01, 2001 3:56 AM
By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated
NEW YORK -- Diamondbacks left fielder Luis Gonzalez gets the award for the understatement of the night. He and his Arizona teammates were less than 45 minutes removed from a heart-wrenching Game 4 defeat, a 4-3 loss in 10 innings after they were within one out of nailing down a 3-1 win.
Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez had tied the game with a two-run home run in the ninth, and Derek Jeter won it with a solo shot in the 10th. It was yet another scintillating Yankee moment, one of those instant classics that almost seems to be taking place in black and white as you're watching it live. "This team has been known to do that," Gonzalez said. "They play well here. We know that."
Unspeakable postseason drama has almost become a trite occurrence for the Yankees, but their Game 4 comeback was spectacular even for them. When Martinez stepped to the plate with two outs in the ninth, Yankee Stadium was silent. Bernie Williams had just struck out on three pitches with Paul O'Neill perched on first base. The Yankees were on the brink of facing a World Series elimination game for the first time since 1981.
Before the inning began, hundreds of New York's notoriously rabid fans had conceded defeat and headed for the exits. Many of them were on the subway when Martinez jumped on the first pitch he saw from Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim, a fat fastball out over the plate, and sent it screaming over the center field wall to tie the game. Naturally, bedlam erupted. Diamondbacks catcher Damian Miller said the sound that engulfed the Stadium after Martinez's home run was the loudest he's ever heard as a player.
"It's got to be at the top," said manager Joe Torre when asked to rank Game 4 among the Yankees' litany of magical postseason moments. "Surprising things happen, but when you really think about it, it doesn't surprise me because I've lived it for six years."
Before Game 4 no one in the Yankees lineup had ever faced the 22-year-old Kim, and Martinez spent part of the eighth inning in the clubhouse watching the submarining right-hander on TV. He saw Kim strike out the side in the eighth with fastballs and sliders, and when he went to the plate in the ninth he was looking for a fastball that he could jump on.
In other words, he was trying to hit a game-tying homer -- a lofty goal considering he didn't have a hit in the series up to that point. Martinez was lucky enough to get a fastball out over the plate, and he hammered it.
"I was just trying to get something I could turn on and take a good strong hack at it," Martinez said. "Once in a while you try to reach back and maybe cheat a little bit."
Jeter's game-winner, the first walkoff home run of his career, was the fruit of a hard-fought at-bat, not any cheating at the plate. He fouled off three two-strike pitches and fought back to a 3-2 count against Kim after falling behind 0-2. Seeing all those extra pitches helped Jeter get a better read on Kim's oddball delivery. On the ninth pitch, he sent a line drive into the right-field stands, and the Yankees had tied the Series at two games apiece.
"He's weird," Jeter said of Kim. "It take a couple pitches before you really pick up where the ball is coming from."
Two key home runs -- one the result of a lucky guess, the other of a gritty and patient at-bat. The Yankees won Game 4 with two traits that have run through their current dynasty. Their offense is still spotty, and they still haven't demonstrated that they can beat Curt Schilling when he's on the mound. But shortly after the clock struck midnight on Thursday, making this the first World Series game ever played in November, the Yankees surprised even themselves.
"We've been spoiled over the years," Jeter said, "but this is huge."