Yankees roar back in 9-6 win Padres 'pen writes off 5-2 lead as Knoblauch hits HR, Martinez slam

Brown exits in 7th

7 score

Non-strike call key

Vaughn homers twice

October 18, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Moments after slumping Tino Martinez hit a dramatic grand slam to break open the first game of the 94th World Series, fans in the first deck at Yankee Stadium unfurled a professionally printed banner that read:

"God's a Yankee fan, too."

That remains to be seen, but the Yankees can thank a couple of their previously unlucky stars for last night's 9-6 victory, which came not with help from above, but with the assistance of the opposing manager and -- depending on who you talk to -- maybe the home plate umpire.

Padres manager Bruce Bochy pulled postseason ace Kevin Brown with a three-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning and watched in horror as relievers Donne Wall and Mark Langston gave up seven runs on a pair of homers by the two Yankees regulars who had yet to make a significant contribution in the postseason.

Second baseman Chuck Knoblauch tied the game with a three-run homer off Wall and Martinez took advantage of umpire Rich Garcia's tiny American League strike zone

to stay up long enough to launch a shot into the upper deck in right field off Langston.

Langston appeared to have Martinez struck out on a knee-high fastball, which would have ended the inning with the game tied. Instead, he was forced to come back with the same pitch or risk walking home the go-ahead run.

Martinez, whose bat had been conspicuous by its silence during the first two playoff rounds, didn't miss, hitting the first World Series grand slam since 1992. He hit just .167 with one RBI in the Yankees' first nine postseason games, but he picked the right time to bust out in a big way -- erasing a three-homer performance by the Padres.

"I've been trying to tell myself, take it day by day," Martinez said. "I just kept going, figuring I would eventually come up in a big situation and get a big hit and I finally did. It's a great feeling."

Langston would growl at Garcia on his way off the field at the end of the inning. So would some of the other Padres. But it was too late. The Yankees -- the winningest team in American League history -- had found another way to win.

"It's obvious that we would have liked to have had that pitch," Bochy said. "Langston thought it was there. [Catcher] Carlos Hernandez thought it was there. It certainly turned out to be a big pitch and it didn't go our way."

Garcia is no stranger to postseason controversy. He was the umpire who failed to call interference when Yankees fan Jeffrey Maier turned an apparent flyout into a Derek Jeter home run in the 1996 playoffs against the Orioles.

Bochy is no stranger to controversial pitching changes. He lost a game in the National League Championship Series after bringing in Brown as a reliever. This time, he may have lost it by taking him out for one.

Brown had bounced back from a rocky start to cruise into the seventh, but was lifted after giving up a single to catcher Jorge Posada and a walk to No. 9 hitter Ricky Ledee. He had been pitching on a bruised shin since the second inning and was suffering from a sinus problem, but he had thrown only 106 pitches and could have advanced the Padres' world championship aspirations considerably by finishing the inning.

"We said before the inning started that we were going to go get him if he had any trouble," Bochy said. "He did his job."

Knoblauch isn't known for his power. He hasn't been known for much of anything this postseason except a brainlock in the American League Championship Series. But he worked Wall to a 2-0 count and hit a high fly down the left-field line that just cleared the fence.

"I got ahead in the count 2-0, and I was looking for a good pitch to hit," Knoblauch said. "I wasn't trying to hit a home run. I got some air under it, and it went out."

Bochy may have been trying to preserve Brown for a possible Game 4 start, but he removed one of the best postseason pitchers in the game with the tying run at the plate for a journeyman middle reliever with no postseason experience. Advantage, Yankees.

Knoblauch's homer took Yankees starter David Wells off the hook.

Outfielder Greg Vaughn lined a two-run shot off Wells over the right-center-field fence to bring the Padres back from a two-run deficit in the third inning and joined Tony Gwynn to deliver back-to-back homers and build a three-run lead in the fifth.

Gwynn's tie-breaking two-run shot off the upper deck facade in right field was his first home run in 24 career postseason games. Vaughn hit 50 homers in the regular season. But he had been limited to just eight at-bats in the NL Championship Series by a thigh strain.

Wells, the cornerstone of the Yankees' postseason rotation, had never given up as many as five runs in his nine previous postseason starts. He was 7-1 with a 2.62 career ERA coming into last night -- his first-ever World Series start.

Brown was not as overpowering as he had been in his three previous postseason starts, perhaps because he was hobbled in the second inning by a shot by Yankees designated hitter Chili Davis.

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