Rallying Yanks a win away Brosius' 3-run homer in 8th caps another N.Y. comeback, 5-4

No relief for 0-3 Padres

Hitchcock blanks N.Y. for 6

Cone: no-hit bid

October 21, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- If there was any remaining doubt that the 1998 New York Yankees are one of the best teams in baseball history, it disappeared into the clear California sky in the eighth inning last night.

Third baseman Scott Brosius, the No. 9 hitter in the Yankees' batting order for most of the season, blasted a long three-run home run off super reliever Trevor Hoffman to overcome another late-inning deficit and send the San Diego Padres to a 5-4 defeat in Game 3 of the 94th World Series.

That pretty much cinches it. Hoffman was the Padres' last line of defense. He was the one guy who had not been beaten and bowed during the first two games in the Bronx. He was the primary reason the Padres emerged as the best team in the National League.

Last night, he was just another piece of Yankee roadkill, and today the Padres are on the brink of a humbling four-game sweep -- the first since the Cincinnati Reds made short work of the mighty Oakland Athletics in 1990.

Padres pitching ace Kevin Brown is the only thing standing between the Yankees and a postseason so impressive that no one will be able to dispute their lofty claims to baseball immortality. Left-hander Andy Pettitte will try to make the final argument when he takes the mound for New York.

"Obviously, our backs are to the wall," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy. "All we can do now is go out and play our hearts out."

Brosius launched a 2-2 fastball over the center-field fence to silence a deafening sellout crowd of 64,667 at Qualcomm Stadium. It was his second home run in two innings and it punctured the aura of invincibility that has surrounded Hoffman all season.

He was the best closer in either league, compiling a National League-record 53 saves. He had three more in the first two

rounds of the playoffs. But he had had five days' rest, his longest idle period of the season.

And he had never faced the Yankees.

Shades of Game 1, when the Padres went into the seventh inning with a three-run lead and watched their hopes of an early advantage disappear on the wings of two heart-breaking home runs.

This time, they broke up a no-hit bid by Yankees starter David Cone in the sixth inning and went on to score three runs on an RBI single by Tony Gwynn, a throwing error by the normally dependable Paul O'Neill and a sacrifice fly by Ken Caminiti.

It looked good. Really good. Padres starter Sterling Hitchcock was working on another postseason gem. He already had three playoff victories and looked as if he was on his way to his first World Series win, but that's when the Yankees are most dangerous.

Maybe it was a wake-up call. They came back to score two runs in the seventh. The first came on Brosius' first homer. Then they worked former Oriole Randy Myers for a leadoff walk and Hoffman for a one-out base on balls before Brosius came up and delivered again.

"He is such a force on this ballclub," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "Guys look up to him. He has been there in so many situations and had so many big hits for us."

What a career turnaround for a guy who hit .203 for the struggling A's a year ago. Brosius batted sixth last night, but he was the last hitter in the Yankees' order for most of the season and still managed to drive in 98 runs. He has been the club's top run-producer in the postseason, with four homers and 14 RBIs, but last night's performance took his contribution to another level.

"This is what you dream about when you're a kid playing in the back yard," Brosius said. "It's just a great feeling."

The Padres showed some resilience. They scored a run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Greg Vaughn and came up with a pair of two-out hits against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth, but they knew. Everybody knew. This is the year of the Yankee.

They may not finish up tonight, but they will get their world championship. No big-league team has ever lost after taking a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven postseason series.

"Hey, we've got Kevin Brown tomorrow, so we're not overconfident by any means," said Cone, who was charged with three runs, two earned, but gave up only two hits over six innings. "We're ecstatic to be up 3-0, based on the fact that he's pitching tomorrow. I thought this would be a very important game because of that."

If the Yankees complete the sweep, it would be the first time that a Yankees club has swept a World Series since 1950, when a club led by Joe DiMaggio took four in a row from the Philadelphia Phillies.

"That's the last thing I'm concerned about at this point in time," said Torre. "We just want to win the fourth game -- not necessarily the fourth, but our fourth, and cap off a great year for us."

No one should have been surprised that the game was slow to develop offensively. Hitchcock came in with a 3-0 record and an impressive 1.13 ERA in three postseason starts. Cone won 20 games during the regular season and took the mound with a 2-0 record and a 2.89 ERA in his three postseason appearances of 1998.

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