YANKEES 4, METS 2
NEW YORK The Subway Series made its final stop last night and the destination was wholly familiar.
Behind Luis Sojo’s ninth-inning, game-winning RBI single, the New York Yankees continued their dynastic reign at the top of baseball, capturing their third straight championship by defeating the New York Mets 4-2 in Game 5 of the World Series last night before 55,292 at Shea Stadium.
Derek Jeter hit his second home run in as many nights, and Bernie Williams added a homer for the Yankees.
With the victory, the Yankees dismissed the Mets 4-1 in the best-of-7 series, the first ever World Series meeting between the two teams and the first all-New York series since 1956.
It was the fourth World Series victory in five years for the Yankees, who became the first team since the 1972-74 Oakland Athletics to win three consecutive titles. The Yankees have won 26 championships, 17 more than any other team.
“I think we can hold up to what any of the great teams have done because of what we have accomplished,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said before the game. “With free agency and players changing teams so often, and anything that can happen in a five-game series, to find ourselves here again is a pretty good run.”
Of all the Yankees’ recent titles, this one may have been the sweetest. Despite a star-studded roster and a $100 million-plus payroll, the Yankees struggled with age and injuries throughout the season, staggering into the postseason with the worst record of the eight playoff teams (87-74) and needing a Game 5 to put away upstart Oakland in the first round.
“There was a lot more going on this year than in other years, a lot more to tend to,” Torre said before the game. “It’s more satisfying when you accomplish things when it’s a little tougher.”
Talk about tough: With three of the five games decided by one run, the ballyhooed Series was nothing if not taut, and last night’s contest was no exception.
At 2-2 in the top of the ninth, Mets starter Al Leiter allowed a two-out walk to Jorge Posada and a single to Scott Brosius, bringing up journeyman Sojo. Sojo, acquired by the Yankees in August, hit a single up the middle past three diving Mets, scoring Posada.
Center fielder Jay Payton’s running throw from center hit Posada as he slid into home, allowing Brosius to score and stake the Yankees to a 4-2 lead.
The Mets got a runner on when Benny Agbayani walked with one out in the ninth inning, but Mets slugger Mike Piazza flied to center to end the game.
Earlier, Leiter battled Yankees starter Andy Pettitte to a draw. Leiter (16-9), a left-hander who had never earned a victory in 10 career post-season starts including a no-decision in Game 1 continued his streak of hard luck. Leiter gave up four runs on seven hits over 8 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out nine.
Pettitte (21-9), a lefthander, recorded a no-decision, giving up eight hits and two runs over eight innings, striking out five and walking three.
Mariano Rivera earned his seventh career World Series save for the Yankees, breaking the record held by Rollie Fingers.
Game 3 hero Agbayani batted in a run for the Mets, and surprise starter Bubba Trammell scored on an error.
Trailing 2-1 in the sixth, the Yankees evened the score on a home run by Jeter. Having blasted a leadoff home run on the first pitch of Game 4, Jeter delivered again by depositing a Leiter fastball into the left-field bleachers, with the ball landing in almost the same spot as the night before.
Looking to spur the Mets’ offense and give Pettitte a change of pace from Game 1, Mets manager Bobby Valentine juggled his club’s regular order, batting Agbayani leadoff and benching Timo Perez and Mike Bordick in favor of reserves Trammell and Kurt Abbott.
“It’s still fresh in [Pettitte’s] memory [that] he did pretty well against us [in Game 1],” Valentine said before the game. “I would like to change it around a little.”
However, it was the Yankees who struck first, as Williams hit a 365-foot home run to lead off the second inning. Williams crushed a 3-2 Leiter fastball deep and just inside the left-field foul pole, snapping his Series-long slump (0-for-15) and staking the Yankees to a 1-0 lead.
Valentine’s revamped lineup paid dividends in the bottom of the second, though, as the Mets scored two runs on a pair of Yankees errors. After Trammell drew a one-out walk and Payton singled to center, Abbott advanced them to second and third with a groundout to Jeter.
Leiter then bunted past Pettitte. First baseman Tino Martinez scooped up the ball and flipped it to the pitcher, but Pettitte mishandled the ball. That allowed Leiter to avoid the out and Trammell to score from third.
The Mets scored again when the next batter, Agbayani, hit a grounder that was that third baseman Scott Brosius couldn’t handle. Payton scored on what was ruled an infield single to give the Mets a 2-1 advantage.
With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Valentine’s replacements nearly punished Pettitte again. Payton and Abbott hit one-out singles and advanced to second and third on a sacrifice by Leiter. Agbayani, however, could not duplicate his second inning RBI, grounding to Jeter to end the inning.
Pettitte escaped a similar jam in the fourth. With one out and Payton on first, Abbott drew a walk after fouling off a series of 3-2 pitches. That brought up Leiter, but before the Mets could capitalize, Pettitte owner of the American League’s best pickoff move nailed Abbott at first. Leiter grounded out to end the inning.
During his at-bat, Abbott shattered his bat on a fastball, and a fragment landed in front of Jeter. Abbott jogged out to the infield, where Jeter handed him the shard eliciting a chant of “Roger, Roger” from the crowd, a sneering reference to Roger Clemens’ ash-hurling tantrum in Game 2.
The Mets squandered another opportunity in the fifth. Mike Piazza stroked a two-out single to the left center gap, and Pettitte intentionally walked Zeile to bring up Robin Ventura. However, Ventura flied out to deep left.