Work in Sports
BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- Start spreading the news.
The two-time defending world champion New York Yankees scored six runs in the seventh inning, highlighted by David Justice's three-run homer, and set up the first "Subway Series" in 44 years by closing out the Seattle Mariners, 9-7, in Game Six of the American League Championship Series.
The victory set up what is sure to be baseball's version of armageddon as the Yankees secured a date in the World Series with the crosstown Mets, who eliminated the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. While the Mets are seeking their third world title, the Yankees are trying to become the first team since the 1972-74 Oakland Athletics to win three straight.
"The Yankees and Mets have had great clubs over the last few years, so essentially it has been building up to this," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "This is a great time to be a New Yorker."
"I don't want people to start fighting over who is better, Todd Zeile or Tino Martinez," New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani said. "I root for the Yankees, I have rooted for them since I was 2 years old. When I was growing up, I used to take it for granted that there would be a 'Subway Series' every year. Now we are fortunate that both teams are great at the same time."
Their 37th American League pennant ensured the Yankees the honor of becoming the first team since the 1988-90 A's to reach three straight World Series.
"Everyone expects us to win and we feel the responsibility," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We had to work hard for this, we had to overcome some distractions. We are so proud of this one. This is what it is all about."
"We came out to play today," added Yankees right fielder Paul O'Neill. "They are a good team over there, but no doubt we ended it tonight. A lot of people have written us off. When you are expected to win every year it puts a lot of pressure on you. But we have a lot of heart and obviously we expect to win."
Seattle captured Game Five on Sunday to send the series back to New York and led 4-0 after three innings tonight. They had postseason ace Orlando Hernandez on the hook for a loss heading to the bottom of the seventh, when the Yankees torched reliever Arthur Rhodes. The key blow was delivered by Justice, who was named Most Valuable Player of the series.
"As soon as I hit it, I knew that it was gone," Justice said. "There was no chance of it going foul or nothing. As I went up the line, I looked up the dugout and everybody was jumping up and down. It was an unbelievable feeling."
"He had an aggressive swing and he crushed that ball," added Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams. "He looked in the dugout and I was jumping up and down. I couldn't contain myself. Before that, I was just thinking if he got on, it would come down to me."
New York continued to pour it on against the Seattle bullpen, scoring three more times to break open the contest.
Justice's blow, his 13th career postseason homer, made a winner of Hernandez (3-0), the first pitcher ever to win his first eight postseason decisions. The Cuban righthander tossed seven-plus gritty innings, allowing six runs and seven hits.
Hernandez allowed two runs in the first and two more in the fourth on a long home run by Carlos Guillen. But he settled in and gave the Yankees a chance to rally.
After New York did just that, Hernandez came out to start the eighth and surrendered a home run to Alex Rodriguez. Edgar Martinez walked and Torre turned to postseason ace Mariano Rivera, who had not been scored upon in a playoff-record 33 1/3 consecutive innings.
John Olerud roped a long double to put runners at second and third, but Rivera easily retired the next two batters. Mark McLemore followed with a double off the first-base bag and both runs scored, ending Rivera's streak at 34 innings and more importantly drawing Seattle within 9-7.
But Rivera struck out former Yankee Jay Buhner representing the tying run. In the ninth, he retired the first two batters before Rodriguez reached on an infield hit. Martinez, who has mastered Rivera during his career, was retired on a slow roller to send Yankee Stadium -- and the entire city of New York -- into bedlam.
"It's the first time he ever threw me a sinker," Martinez said. "I guess anything can happen in baseball. He usually uses a cut fastball. The first pitch was a cut fastball and then he threw me the sinker."
"Exactly," Rivera replied when asked if it was a sinker he introduced in that final at-bat with Martinez. "Nothing comes easy. I had nothing to lose."
The save was Rivera's 17th in the postseason, extending his major league record.
"Well, they proved why they are world champions," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said. "There's no quitting over there. We knew that coming into this series. They don't rattle very easily, and it showed in this series."
"It's tough," McLemore added. "Everyone in here is a winner. We played hard all year long and into the ninth and just came up short."
Seattle starter John Halama allowed three runs and five hits over 3 1/3 innings, but Brett Tomko held the Yankees without a hit for 2 2/3 innings. Piniella opted for Jose Paniagua to start the seventh, but he ran into immediate trouble.
Batting for Scott Brosius, Vizcaino beat out an infield hit and was sacrificed over by Chuck Knoblauch. Jeter snuck a single into left field to put runners at the corners and Rhodes came on. After falling behind and not getting a call on a check swing, Rhodes grooved the 3-1 offering and Justice crushed it.
"I think he went around on the 2-1 pitch," Rhodes said. "If it was 2-2, I would have come back with another breaking ball. I wasn't rattled, I wasn't going to throw the fastball right over the plate. I tried to bust it in, but he got around on it. ... It just came down to one pitch, and it happened."
Before the raucous crowd had a chance to settle down, Williams singled and Tino Martinez blooped a double to left field. Jorge Posada was intentionally walked, but O'Neill singled to right for an 8-4 lead. Jose Mesa came on and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Vizcaino.
The loss denied Seattle its first World Series appearance. The Mariners are sure to face a tumultuous offseason as Rodriguez is a free agent who will be courted by a handful of teams. Piniella also is free to leave and has been rumored to be on the wish list of at least two other teams.
"I'm devastated," Rodriguez said. "We really felt like we could beat them. We left it all out on the field. We played to the 27th out, but they outplayed us. They are the New York Yankees -- the best team won the series."
Seattle was trying to become the third team in ALCS history to overcome a 3-1 deficit and the first AL wild card team to reach the World Series.
"The sad part about baseball, any sport for that matter, is that no matter how far you go up the ladder of success, unless you end up being the world championship team, you are going to face some disappointment," Piniella said.
The Mariners got to Hernandez quickly in the first as Al Martin walked and Rodriguez doubled. Martinez followed with a double and Halama was staked to a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, Olerud doubled and, one out later, Guillen lined a home run into the upper deck in right field for a four-run cushion. But the Yankees answered with three runs in the botton half.
Justice and Williams singled before Tino Martinez walked to load the bases. Posada lined a double to right-center field to halve New York's deficit and O'Neill grounded an RBI single up the middle. Tomko came on and held New York in check through the sixth.