After giving up two hard hits in the sixth inning, Colon was pulled. He was losing 1-0, and leftfielder David Justice—who hadn't thrown out a runner in his 21 games in the outfield this year—had fired a pea to the plate from short leftfield to nail John Valentin. Third base coach Wendell Kim's blunder in sending Valentin was caused by the panic of knowing the bottom of the Boston lineup was to follow. Vaughn and hitting savant Garciaparra accounted for all but one of the Sox's 19 RBIs in the series.
Boston manager Jimy Williams added his own submission to the Anthology of Red Sox Infamy ($19.18, We Press) by having his closer, Tom Gordon, start the eighth inning, instead of reserving Gordon for the ninth, as he had all year. Four batters later the Indians took the lead for good on a two-run double by Justice.
Both Nagy and Colon prospered from Boston's lack of discipline at the plate. They needed only 169 pitches while facing 51 batters. Cleveland pitchers don't figure to enjoy the same economy against the Yankees, who look at more pitches than Steven Spielberg. The Texas starter in Game 2, Rick Helling, for instance, was cooked after six innings, having thrown 119 pitches to 27 batters. "The amazing thing about the Yankees is how many pitches they see," Melvin says. "They take these 2-and-2 pitches just off the plate and you go, 'How do they take that?' All of them do it. They have one good at bat after another in that lineup."
The Indians will find the New York lineup is even more labor intensive these days because of Shane Spencer, the 26-year-old rookie who after eight years in the minors hit as many grand slams in nine days in September as Torre hit in 18 years as a big leaguer—three. "The reincarnation of Babe Ruth," Texas first baseman Will Clark called him. If it seems Spencer came out of nowhere, you're close: His parents live in Shirley, Ark. (pop. 363). "I know they've got a YIELD sign now," Spencer says. "I'm not kidding." Cable TV? "Recendy. Very recently," he says.
In his first postseason at bat, against Helling, a pitcher he'd never faced before, Spencer hit a home run into Yankee Stadium's Monument Park. In the sixth inning of Game 3, with two on and the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead, thunderclaps rumbling, lightning flashing and an ominous wind whipping empty blue peanut bags and brown napkins around the infield, Spencer walloped another home run—his ninth in his past 33 at bats. Minutes later, the heavens opened with torrents of rain. (Interested, Mr. Spielberg?)
"The kid's as cool as a cucumber," Cone says. "Before the game [coach] Chris Chambliss asked him if he wanted to take batting practice, and he said, 'Nah.' Didn't take a swing until he got in the batter's box. This is the playoffs! Amazing."
Of course, the same adjective is applicable to Cone and his pitching mates. No staff had ever allowed just one run in a postseason series, and only four clubs had allowed fewer runs than games played. "Wells set the tone," Cone said. Wells threw eight shutout innings in Game 1, after which Steinbrenner squeezed Wells's cheeks and gushed, "You're a f———warrior, that's what you are!" Wells celebrated by pulling on a Van Halen cap and a Metallica jersey and chatting up Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins in the locker room.
Known as a fastball pitcher, Wells confounded the Rangers with curves and changeups even when he was behind in the count. In Game 2, Pettitte was just as baffling, painting the outside corner with fast-balls while the Rangers kept looking inside for his signature pitch, a cut fastball. Texas scored against him only after Chuck Knoblauch dropped the ball on a tag play at second base. Cone continued the three-part mystery series with 5⅔ shutout innings—and it took an act of God (the deluge) to get him out of the game. "I don't think they knew what to expect from me," says the always inventive Cone. "I don't know what the hell to expect from me."
Every day the Yankees send a starter to the mound who has a vast reservoir of big-game experience. Only the Atlanta Braves can also make that claim. In their careers Wells, Pettitte and Cone combined are 70-51 with a 3-45 ERA after Aug. 31, including 13-7 with a 3.92 ERA in the postseason. Each has won the clinching game of a postseason series. And fourth starter Orlando Hernandez, with his international experience playing for the national team of baseball-mad Cuba, may have pitched under more pressure than any of them.
No club with the best regular-season record has won a World Series this decade, but the Yankees, buoyed rather than burdened by their 114 wins, were off to the sort of table-running postseason the Braves had in 1995. That year Atlanta allowed only 43 runs in an 11-3 surge to the world championship. "Let's see what happens," Hart says. "I've always thought the American League championship has to go through Cleveland."