Yanks prove world class Indians bounced, 9-5, as N.Y. avenges '97 to flag down pennant

Thome slam trims 6-1 gap

Errors, Jeter gapper in 6th seal 121st win

October 14, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Revenge was a nice complement to the champagne being sprayed inside the New York Yankees' clubhouse last night. Both tasted sweet.

One year after being bounced by the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series, the Yankees spun the tables, wrapping up the American League Championship Series in six games with a 9-5 victory over the Indians before 57,142 at Yankee Stadium.

Down 2-1 in games, the Yankees ran off three straight wins to clinch their 35th trip to the World Series and avoid watching a record-setting season unravel. They won't play again until Saturday against either San Diego or Atlanta. The Padres hold a 3-2 lead in the National League Championship Series, with Game 6 today.

Should the Braves rally, it would set up a rematch of the 1996 fall classic, which the Yankees won in six games during Joe Torre's first season as manager.

New York took a 6-0 lead into the fifth inning before a bases-loaded walk by starter David Cone and a Jim Thome grand slam into the third deck silenced the crowd and cast doubts about the outcome. But Derek Jeter tripled off the base of the fence in right-center field in the sixth, the ball hitting well below the ill-timed leap of Manny Ramirez as two runs scored, and the bullpen closed out the Yankees' 121st victory.

Ramiro Mendoza allowed just one hit in three scoreless innings of relief. Mariano Rivera tossed a perfect ninth.

"To me, this is probably the tensest part, getting here," Torre said. "If we win the World Series, it will be magnificent and we'll celebrate, but getting there is such a tough mountain to climb."

Thanks to an offense that awakened after producing a .198 series average before last night, and three Cleveland errors that led to five unearned runs, Torre no longer must fret over a Game 7 starter. His choices included troubled left-hander Andy Pettitte, who had given up four homers in 4 2/3 innings of Game 3.

Pressed earlier in the day to announce a starter, Torre gave an icy stare and little comment. "I'm not talking beyond Game 6," he said.

Soon after, Torre admitted, "We don't want to play tomorrow. There's no question about that. And we'll do everything we can to win tonight."

That included pouncing on Cleveland right-hander Charles Nagy, who had allowed only two runs in 14 2/3 innings in the postseason. He was chased after the third last night, permitting six runs (three earned) and eight hits. Included in the wreckage was a three-run homer by Scott Brosius in the third that followed another controversial call by umpire Ted Hendry.

Hendry, whose failure to call out Travis Fryman for running outside the baseline contributed to the Indians' Game 2 win, ruled that shortstop Omar Vizquel's foot came off the bag while fielding Enrique Wilson's wide throw at second on one hop. Replays indicated the Indians should have gotten the force and the inning's first out, which would have denied Brosius the chance to take Nagy deep with two outs in the inning.

The Yankees raced to a 2-0 lead as rain fell in the first inning. Jeter reached on an infield hit with one out and took third on a single by Paul O'Neill. Bernie Williams lined a single to right, scoring Jeter, and Chili Davis drove Ramirez to the fence in right for a sacrifice fly. Williams added an RBI single off reliever Paul Shuey in the sixth.

A single by Joe Girardi with one out in the second inning and a double by Game 2 goat Chuck Knoblauch had increased the lead to 3-0. Girardi came around as the ball slipped from left fielder Brian Giles' hand as he gathered Knoblauch's hit and prepared to throw on the wet night.

The Indians threatened against Cone in each of the first three innings without breaking through. Thome struck out looking to end the third, but payback came in the fifth after the Indians had pushed across their first run on three straight singles and a walk to David Justice. Ramirez struck out, but Thome launched his fourth homer of the series, an ALCS record. The grand slam was his 12th career postseason homer, tying Yogi Berra for fifth place on the all-time list, and it reduced New York's lead to 6-5.

Cone was visited by Torre and trainer Steve Donohue after walking Justice. He said, "I'm all right," but was replaced by Mendoza after the fifth. He threw 103 pitches, striking out eight.

"I just lost a little command and Joe wanted to see if my arm was all right," Cone said.

"I think he had trouble staying loose," Torre said.

The Indians had trouble making plays. Their third error occurred in the sixth inning, this one on a high throw off a routine grounder to Vizquel, who had tied former Oriole Mark Belanger's record by going 17 ALCS games without a miscue. It also proved costly when Jeter tripled off reliever Dave Burba as Brosius and Girardi scored.

"We played with fire all night long with the three errors and we got burned by it," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove, whose club was denied a third trip to the World Series in four years.

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