- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

NEW YORK New night, same miraculous finish.

And anyone who still doesn't believe in the Yankee mystique after last night's 3-2, 12-inning victory needs a serious reality check.

Twenty-four hours after their incredible rally to win Game 4 of the World Series, the New York Yankees beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in grand fashion again when Scott Brosius belted a two-run homer off Byung-Hyun Kim with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Alfonso Soriano singled in Chuck Knoblauch from second in the bottom of the 12th.

Knoblauch had singled off reliever Albie Lopez to start the inning, snapping an 0-for-13 slump. He moved to second on Brosius' sacrifice bunt and Soriano (who hit a game-winning homer against Seattle in the ALCS) singled cleanly to right field. Reggie Sanders' throw skipped past catcher Rod Barajas and Knoblauch scored to cap an incredible night at Yankee Stadium.

With perhaps the greatest back-to-back wins in World Series history, the Yankees have taken a 3-2 series lead and now head to Phoenix needing one win against either Randy Johnson in Game 6 tomorrow night or Curt Schilling in Game 7 Sunday to capture their fourth-straight crown.

If the Diamondbacks do not prevail in the series, it won't be for a lack of outstanding starting pitcher. Schilling, Johnson, Brian Anderson and Miguel Batista (last night's starter) have a combined 1.00 ERA in 36 total innings.

Having been given 7 2/3 courageous innings from the unheralded Batista and surprise home runs from Steve Finley and Rod Barajas, Arizona manager Bob Brenly once again entrusted a two-run ninth-inning lead to 22-year-old closer Kim. And Brenly once again had his heart broken by a Yankee home run with his team one out from victory.

Left-hander Greg Swindell had retired the final batter of the eighth and figured to return to face one batter lefty Jorge Posada in the ninth. But Brenly summoned Kim to start the inning, and Posada made him pay by dumping a double down the left-field line. Kim rebounded to get Shane Spencer on a ground out and Knoblauch on a strikeout, but he fell behind Brosius 1-0 and then left a rising, belt-high pitch over the plate.

Brosius, 3-for-16 in the series entering the at-bat, clobbered it to left field and everyone in the park knew where it was headed. Brosius raised his left arm in the air, Kim fell into a heap and Brenly sat motionless in the Arizona dugout, his eyes staring into space as he contemplated what had just occurred.

He and his players had to shake off the disappointment, though, because they still had a chance to win the game in extra innings. Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, however, would have no part of that. Rivera retired the side in the 10th, then loaded the bases in the 11th with one out. Reggie Sanders tagged an 0-2 cut fastball from Rivera up the middle, but rookie second baseman Alfonso Soriano made a dazzling, diving catch of the line drive for the second out, and Mark Grace grounded weakly to third for the final out, opening the door for New York once again.

Mike Morgan, at age 42, relieved Kim and gave the Diamondbacks 2 1/3 perfect innings. Brenly then turned to Lopez, a trading-deadline acquisition who lost 19 games this year and was banished to the bullpen.

Batista has taken an obvious back seat to Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson this season, but like Game 3 starter Brian Anderson, he has shown an ability to pitch well in high-pressure situations. The 30-year-old journeyman, pitching for his sixth major-league organization, won a career-high 11 games this year and became a fixture in the Arizona rotation late in the season.

He tossed six strong innings in the Diamondbacks' crucial NLDS Game 3 win over the Cardinals, then allowed only two hits but was the hard-luck loser in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Braves.

After escaping a two-on, two-out jam in the first, Batista went on to face the minimum for the next four innings.

The Yankees threatened in the seventh, when Spencer drew a two-out walk and David Justice in the midst of one of the worst World Series performances in recent memory (1-for-11 with nine strikeouts) managed to take ball four to put runners on first and second. But Brosius flied out weakly to right field, and the New York rally was quashed.

The Yankees put two on again in the eighth, driving Batista from the game. But Swindell got Game 4 hero Tino Martinez to fly out, end the inning and bring Kim in with a chance to save the game.

Batista's batterymate last night was an even unlikelier hero. Damian Miller has started every postseason game behind the plate for the Diamondbacks, but he apparently suffered a strained calf muscle in Game 3, then re-aggravated it Wednesday night.

Originally written in the Arizona starting lineup, Miller was scratched about an hour before game time last night and Barajas, who has appeared in 62 major-league games in his career and holds a lifetime .178 batting average, was inserted as the No. 9 hitter.

When the 26-year-old catcher singled up the middle in his first at-bat, that figured to be the crowning achievement of his brief playoff career. Little did anyone know. He gunned down Alfonso Soriano trying to steal second in the third, then came through again at the plate in the fifth.

Finley had started the inning off by belting a 1-2 changeup from Mike Mussina to right field for a solo homer, Finley's first home run in 113 career postseason at-bats. Three batters later, Mussina got ahead of Barajas 1-2 and tried to get the rookie out on one of his signature knuckle-curveballs. The pitch stayed over the plate, and Barajas tagged it over the left-field for a shocking home run that gave the Diamondbacks and Batista a 2-0 lead.

This was precisely the kind of game Mussina hoped to pitch in when he left the Baltimore Orioles last winter and signed a six-year, $88.5 million contract with the Yankees. And down the stretch of the season, he was earning every penny of that salary, ending the regular season on a five-game winning streak.

But Mussina's first World Series appearance was a forgettable one, tagged by the Diamondbacks for five runs in three innings in the Game 1 loss to Schilling at Bank One Ballpark. And while he pitched an effective game last night, allowing five hits and striking out 10 over eight innings, two of those hits were home runs on a night Batista wasn't giving in to anyone.


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