BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- The New York Yankees winning a postseason game in dramatic fashion is nothing new. Their hero in a classic Game Four was.
Rookie Alfonso Soriano's two-run homer off All-Star closer Kazuhiro Sasaki with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning touched off a wild celebration as the three-time defending world champions posted a 3-1 triumph over the Seattle Mariners.
The victory moves New York within one triumph of returning to the World Series for the fifth time in six years.
With Scott Brosius on first, Soriano lofted a 1-0 pitch from Sasaki (0-1) just over the wall in right-center field for the game-winner.
"When I was in the batter's box, first thing I thought was being that it was a new pitcher, I was going to take a pitch and try to time it and get comfortable with the second or third pitch," Soriano said through interpreter Leo Astacio. "Once I saw the first pitch was a ball, I was looking for a fastball outside and just concentrating on connecting well with the ball and just go after it."
As Soriano circled the bases, his teammates -- many of them veterans with multiple championship rings -- waited at the plate and mobbed the 23-year-old second baseman. And for Soriano, it was a moment of sweet redemption as the multitalented infielder has committed a pair of "rookie" mistakes that stood out on a professional, veteran-laden club like New York's.
In Game One, Soriano jogged out of the box on an apparent home run, only to be held to a single when the ball hit the top of the wall. In a loss in Game Three, he failed to cover second base on a grounder to shortstop, prolonging an inning.
"It would have been easy for him to crawl into a shell after not running out that ball and not covering the base yesterday, but he has a lot of confidence," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "He's getting the opportunity to show people what he can do on a daily basis."
"He just doesn't get down on himself," said Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, another of those veterans who charged to home plate to greet Soriano."
All was forgiven for Soriano on Sunday as he ended a strange pitchers' duel that featured just six hits but 15 walks, which set a League Championship Series. Seattle starter Paul Abbott was removed after five innings despite not allowing a hit and New York's Roger Clemens was taken out even though he too had recorded five scoreless frames.
The game remained scoreless into the eighth, when Bret Boone hit a two-out solo homer for Seattle. That was countered by a one-out, homer in the bottom of the inning by Bernie Williams, who was just 2-for-12 in the series prior to that at-bat.
With the game tied, Yankees manager Joe Torre turned to closer Mariano Rivera (1-0) and he needed just three pitches to retire the side in the ninth.
"I knew if I held it we had a chance to score," Rivera said. "We're at home and we respond in the ninth inning. They were trying to get me on the first pitch. I guess I made good pitches."
Sasaki got Shane Spencer to ground out to open the bottom of the inning but Brosius beat out a hard grounder to shortstop and Soriano followed with his first career postseason homer.
"I was thinking that this was a very big moment," Soriano added. "We had won the third game in the series, and as I was rounding the bases I was thinking about my family in the Dominican Republic who were watching the game, because they could not be here with me, but hoping they were watching it and enjoying it."
"It was a fastball that we tried to go down and away with," Seattle catcher Tom Lampkin said. "I haven't seen the replay yet, but I bet it might not have gotten to where we wanted it to."
Sasaki (0-1) threw just five pitches and put the record-setting Mariners -- who won 116 games during the season -- one loss from elimination. Seattle dropped the opening two games of the series at home but rebounded to rout the Yankees on Saturday.
But with one swing of the bat, Soriano regained momentum for New York, which is within one win of becoming the first team since the 1960-64 Yankees to reach four straight World Series.
"It was a great victory, great for New York," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said. "But we're not finished, so we can't get too cocky. It's more than just a win cause they're a great team, look at their record."
"Well, this puts us in a rather precarious position," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said. "Outside of that, we gave it the best we could. Gave us a good ballgame. Actually it was a great ballgame. We didn't lose; we just got beat. Give them credit. We had a lead there with one out in the eighth to tie it up, and then they win it in the ninth."
"The goal is still to go back to our place," Boone said. "It's one (darn) game or we are out of here. We better plan on coming out and winning tomorrow. I know we will be ready."
"It was a stinging loss," Seattle center fielder Mike Cameron said. "But we got to come out hard tomorrow. The season rides on tomorrow. We played great for 8 1/3 innings and it seems like a waste. It was a good game until that point, it was devastating blow to us."
Early on, Clemens showed no effects from a strained right hamstring, striking out Japanese rookie sensation Ichiro Suzuki and Boone in the opening inning. He walked two batters in the second but struck out Lampkin to end the inning.
New York saw Williams and Posada thrown out on the bases in the second and Seattle had its best early chance in the third, putting runners on the corners with two outs. But a clearly injured Edgar Martinez popped out weakly to Posada behind the plate.
Abbott walked Paul O'Neill and Soriano in the third but retired Chuck Knoblauch and Jeter to keep the game scoreless. The Yankees left two more in the fourth and fifth.
Ramiro Mendoza took over for New York in the sixth and retired the side in order. Norm Charlton relieved Abbott in the sixth and allowed a one-out double to Tino Martinez. Posada was walked intentionally and former Yankee Jeff Nelson came on and walked Spencer, who pinch-hit for Paul O'Neill. But Brosius grounded sharply to second base and Boone turned it into an inning-ending double play.
Boone finally broke the scoreless deadlock with his second homer in as many games, lofting an 0-1 pitch over the left-field wall. Mendoza struck out Edgar Martinez to end the inning and was taken off the hook in the bottom of the inning when Williams capped a seven-pitch at-bat against Arthur Rhodes with his 15th career postseason homer, tying legendary Yankee Babe Ruth for fourth all time.