Work in Sports
BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- Somehow, it lived up to the hype.
Jose Vizcaino, inserted in the starting lineup on a hunch by manager Joe Torre, singled with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning as the New York Yankees won their record 13th straight World Series game and took the opener of the "Subway Series" from the New York Mets, 4-3.
In a classic game that featured numerous ebbs and flows, Vizcaino capped a seesaw affair by slicing a single into left field to score Tino Martinez and end the longest World Series game of all-time.
Martinez singled off Turk Wendell (0-1) with one out in the 12th and took third on Jorge Posada's double to the right-center field gap. Paul O'Neill was intentionally walked and the Mets nearly escaped again as Luis Sojo fouled out. But Vizcaino, a former Met, lined Wendell's next offering the other way for the game-winner.
"I was hoping that Luis would get the job done," Vizcaino said. "It didn't happen, so I was really comfortable. I was feeling pretty good at the plate tonight. I was just happy to hit that clutch hit."
"It was a sinker," Wendell said. "I thought it was a good pitch. Sometimes it happens."
It was the fourth hit of the game for Vizcaino, who was placed in the starting lineup because he hit Mets starter Al Leiter well in the past.
"He had one (heck) of a night," Torre said.
Mike Stanton (1-0) followed closer Mariano Rivera and got the win with two dominant innings. Overlooked due to Rivera's postseason dominance, Stanton improved to 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 12 World Series appearances.
"I don't know if they're the best two innings I have ever done, but I can't really say they weren't," Stanton said. "It hasn't been as easy as it has in years past, but we're battlers. ... If we can keep putting up zeros as pitchers, our lineup is going to come through eventually."
"He went out there today and threw strikes," Torre added. "It was huge, it really was."
The game was nine minutes shy of five hours, 34 minutes longer than Game Four of the 1996 World Series between the Yankees and Atlanta Braves.
"I thought it was a heck of a game," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "Two teams that battled their way to get here, battled their way tonight; and we gave them a pretty good run for their money in their home ballpark."
"I'm just tired right now," O'Neill said. "It seemed like every inning, every pitch, every at-bat was a crucial one. It's easy to say that experience helped us. We had opportunities and they pitched out of it and we had opportunities and our guys pitched out of it."
The Yankees broke a scoreless tie by getting two runs in the bottom of the sixth against Leiter. But the Mets rallied for three runs in the seventh against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte.
The Mets had a chance to pad their lead against Rivera in the ninth, but baseball's best playoff reliever escaped a jam. In the bottom of the frame, Mets closer Armando Benitez was not as fortunate as the Yankees strung together a walk, two singles and a sacrifice fly to tie it.
David Justice walked on five pitches and Bernie Williams on four. Glendon Rusch came on and uncorked a wild pitch that moved both runners into scoring position. Tino Martinez popped out and the Mets opted to walk Jorge Posada. The strategy worked to perfection as O'Neill rolled into a double play on the next pitch.
The game featured a number of momentum swings but none bigger than the ninth. In the top half, Todd Pratt was hit by a pitch with one out and Kurt Abbott doubled over O'Neill's head in right. But Rivera got rookie Timoniel Perez on a bouncer to second with the infield in before striking out Edgardo Alfonzo.
Benitez got Posada on a line drive to deep center field to open the bottom of the ninth, but O'Neill worked out a 10-pitch walk. Pinch-hitter Luis Polonia lined a single to right and Vizcaino singled to left to load the bases. Chuck Knoblauch followed with a fly ball to deep left field to knot the contest, 3-3.
Benitez struck out Derek Jeter to end the inning, but the damage was done.
"That was unbelievable," Torre said of O'Neill's at-bat. "You talk about making up his mind that he was going to give him a tough time. It was a sensational at-bat. Obviously, we wouldn't be talking like this if he didn't do that."
Both starting pitchers performed well. Leiter, who remained winless in the postseason since 1993, allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings. He walked three and struck out seven and left with a 3-2 lead.
Mets setup man John Franco, a Brooklyn native, tossed a scoreless eighth before Benitez took over in the ninth.
Pettitte allowed three runs and eight hits over 6 2/3 innings with a walk and four strikeouts. Jeff Nelson allowed one hit over 1 1/3 innings before giving way in the ninth to Rivera, who allowed one hit and struck out three over two scoreless frames.
Rivera lowered his World Series ERA to 0.54 in 16 2/3 innings.
Both pitchers were tough over the first four innings. Leiter faced the minimum in the first, third and fourth. His only trouble came in the second, when he escaped a first-and-third jam by getting Scott Brosius on a slow roller up the first-base line.
Pettitte stranded a runner at second in the third and never allowed two runners to reach in any of the first four innings.
The Mets got a leadoff double from Benny Agbayani in the fifth, but the next three batters failed to get the ball out of the infield. Rookie Jay Payton was tagged out after a squib at the plate and Pratt and Mike Bordick struck out.
The Mets got a leadoff single by Perez in the sixth, but Pettitte got Alfonzo and Mike Piazza easily. The Yankees' starter got ahead of Zeile 0-2 before the Mets first baseman lined a ball off the top of the left-field wall. The ball just eluded the grasp of a fan and an alert Justice fired to shortstop Jeter, whose relay to the plate easily nailed Perez.
Replays showed Perez and Zeile were jogging initially, believing the ball left the playing field. With two outs, Perez should have scored easily and the Mets were denied a scoring opportunity.
"I thought the ball was a home run," Perez said through an interpreter. "Then I realized it was not a home run and I had to speed up. ... These are things that happen and it won't happen again because I'll remember."
"I don't think I have to say anything," Valentine added. "You know, I'll evaluate it. I don't think you'll see any of that again."
The play had an eerie feel for Zeile, who was a member of the Baltimore Orioles when a young fan reached over the right-field wall to steal a fly ball that was ruled a home run in the 1996 American League Championship Series.
"Where was Jeffrey Maier when I needed him?" Zeile joked.
"It's a game of inches," Valentine said. "I thought Todd's ball was out of play, and it stayed in play."
The Yankees capitalized on the momentum swing in the bottom of the inning. Vizcaino, who was 10-for-19 against Leiter coming into the game, snuck a single into shallow left field.
Knoblauch's sacrifice attempt turned into a forceout, but Jeter walked. Justice crushed a two-run double into the left-center field gap.
Justice's 53 RBI are the most in postseason history.
After an intentional walk to Williams, Leiter escaped further trouble by getting Martinez on a grounder to first base and Posada on a fly ball to center field.
But the Mets rallied in the top of the seventh as Agbayani singled with one out and Payton followed with a base hit. Pratt walked on a full count and Bubba Trammell batted for Bordick.
The move worked perfectly as Trammell lined a single to left field that knotted the game.
"It was the worst pitch I could have thrown in that situation. I didn't realize how good he has been (against me) and lefthanded pitchers," Pettitte said.
After Trammell tied it, Perez bunted the runners over and Alfonzo followed with a slow roller to third that he beat out for a 3-2 lead.
The single extended Alfonzo's postseason hitting streak to 12 games. Agbayani has an 11-game streak.
The Mets fell to 0-4 in World Series openers.