Work in Sports
FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) -- New millennium, same New York Yankees.
Luis Sojo broke Al Leiter's heart with a two-out RBI single in the top of the ninth inning as the Yankees won their third straight World Series title and fourth in five years by edging the New York Mets, 4-2, in Game Five of the "Subway Series."
The title is the 26th overall for the Yankees, the most of any team in professional sports. They are just the third team to win four titles in five years, the other two also being Yankees' teams. The Bronx Bombers captured four straight titles beginning in 1936 and later won five consecutive championships from 1949-53.
The Yankees also became the first team since the Oakland Athletics from 1972-74 to win three straight world titles. Since then, no team has won more than two in a five-year period.
"New York is New York," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said. "The Mets were a great team. I didn't take any extra pleasure in beating them. But it was very satisfying for the players. This has to be one of the greatest teams of all-time."
"This core group, winning four World Series out of five years, in this day and age, when you have to come through layer after layer of postseason play, we can put our record, our dedication, our resolve against any team that has every played the game of baseball."
Leiter struck out the first two batters in the ninth but walked Jorge Posada in a nine pitch at-bat. Scott Brosius singled to left and Sojo, who was inserted for defense in the eighth, grounded a single up the middle.
"It was a good throw," Piazza said. "I was right on the plate and he got there a second too soon. We had a frustrating series and that was a good example of it."
"I never had success against Leiter," Sojo said. "But when I saw him talking to Piazza, I thought maybe they said I would take the first pitch. Here I am, talking to (the media) after driving home the winning run in the World Series."
After John Franco got pinch-hitter Glenallen Hill to end the ninth, Mariano Rivera struck out pinch-hitter Darryl Hamilton. Benny Agbayani walked, but Edgardo Alfonzo, who was 3-for-21 in the series, flied weakly to right field. That brought Mike Piazza to the plate and the Mets' slugger launched a line drive to deep center field that was run down by Bernie Williams.
"No doubt about it, we have seen that swing before," said Leiter of Piazza's last at-bat. "But it is tough when you hit it out there."
"It seemed to me like it was part of the script," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said of the dramatic final at-bat.
Rivera's all-time record seventh World Series save touched off a wild celebration on the mound. Due to limited space in the visitor's locker room, the Yankees were forced to celebrate their unlikely championship on the field. With an unprecedented media throng in attendance, the Shea Stadium infield was covered by players, families and reporters for more than an hour.
At 87-74, the Yankees had the worst record of any of the eight postseason teams and the fifth best mark in the American League. They concluded the regular season with just three win in their final 18 games and lost the first game in each of their first two postseason series.
"The way we closed the season, losing eight in a row, everybody wroye us off," Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez said. "That makes it somwhat sweeter. We have been fortunate. We have won three in a row and this was by far the most difficult. To beat Oakland, Seattle and the Mets, the way they were playing, is a great accomplishment."
It was a brutal loss for Leiter (0-1), who threw 142 pitches in an attempt to force a sixth game at Yankee Stadium. The veteran leftthander, who has not won a postseason game since 1993, allowed four runs -- three earned -- and seven hits.
"I have never been so emotional over a performance in my career," Leiter said. "I was grateful he gave me the opportunity to win. Deep down I felt I could get that third out. It is the lowest of the lows after the highest of highs."
"It was an honor catching him," Piazza said.
Derek Jeter, who tied the game with a home run in the sixth, was named Most Valuable Player of the 14th "Subway" World Series. The Yankees shortstop set a five-game World Series record with 19 total bases. Brooks Robinson had 17 total bases for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1970 World Series.
"Every year is a different story, and I'd be lying if I said this one wasn't more gratifying," Jeter said. "We struggled this year, had tough times, we have had our bumps in the road. But we are here, sitting here again at the end of the year. The Mets have the best team I've seen in the five years I have been here. So this one is a little more gratifying."
Stanton, the Game One winner, retired the side in order and ran his scoreless innings streak against the Mets to 12. He became just the seventh relief pitcher to record two wins in in the World Series and first since Duane Ward in 1992.
"The starting pitching set the tone, I don't know what it is about this team," Stanton said. "In the postseason, concentration is not a problem. Andy, me and Mo ... that's a pretty good equation."
The Yankees opened the scoring in the second inning when Williams ended an 0-for-22 drought in World Series play with a long homer to left field. It was Williams ninth hit in 69 at-bats in the "Fall Classic."
But the Mets scored twice in the bottom of the second. Bubba Trammell walked with one out and Payton dropped a single into right-center field. A squib to shortstop by Kurt Abbott moved both runners into scoring position and Leiter, who had just three hits in 58 at-bats during the regular season, pushed a bunt toward Martinez. The Yankees first baseman double-clutched before tossing to Pettitte, who failed to catch the ball as Leiter crossed the bag.
Agbayani hit Pettitte's next pitch slowly down the third base line and Brosius tried to barehand the ball. But it bounced by the Yankees third baseman, allowing Payton to score. With a chance to break open the game, Alfonzo popped to second base.
"I threw a forceout away," Pettitte said. "I'm kind of falling off the mound that way and I was surprised. He laid down a perfect bunt, got it right by me. Tino bobbled it a little bit, just enough to jar me a little bit."
Both pitchers settled in and the game remained 2-1 into the sixth, when Jeter crushed a 2-0 pitch to the back of the visitors' bullpen in left field to knot it. It was Jeter's second homer in as many days and extended his World Series hitting streak to 14 games, three shy of former Yankee Hank Bauer's record.
The Mets threatened against Pettitte in the bottom of the sixth. Payton singled with one out and Abbott, who walked on nine pitches in his previous at-bat, singled to center field on Pettitte's seventh offering. Leiter bunted the runners over, but Agbayani, who had been 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position in the postseason, grounded weakly to shortstop.
Ventura was 3-for-20 in the series.
"We played them tough," Ventura said. "We would have looked at this differently if we had lost by 10 runs. ... Maybe in a while we will realize what a great season we had but right now we are bummed out."
The Yankees got a two-out single from David Justice in the top of the eighth, but Leiter struck out Williams to end the inning.