It's business as usual for N.Y. heroes

October 21, 1998|By Ken Rosenthal

SAN DIEGO -- Derek Jeter has said that Scott Brosius is the New York Yankees' MVP. Well, Brosius might be about to go one better. The guy who batted .203 last season for Oakland might be the World Series MVP.

Brosius hit two home runs to lead the Yankees' comeback from a 3-0 deficit last night, shattering the San Diego Padres on a night they finally used Trevor Hoffman, a night they appeared ready to make the World Series competitive.

Forget it.

Brosius' first homer punctured Sterling Hitchcock's shutout leading off the seventh inning, after San Diego had broken up David Cone's no-hit bid by scoring three times in the sixth.

His second homer, a three-run shot off Hoffman with one out in the eighth, gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead and helped move them within one victory of their 24th World Series title.

The Padres rallied with a run in the eighth and had the tying run at third with two outs in the ninth, but Mariano Rivera escaped the final jam to seal the 5-4 victory and put the Yankees ahead three games to none in the Series.

Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle Brosius?

"My name doesn't really go there," Brosius said. "It's kind of underneath there somewhere."

All of the Yankees' names are -- they lack a standout MVP candidate, yet they're 124-50 for the season. Manager Joe Torre compared them to the old Boston Celtics teams, where every player seemed to average 16-18 points per game.

With those Celtics, with these Yankees, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Brosius, their No. 9 hitter most of the season, batted .300 with 19 homers and 98 RBIs.

How did he ever hit .203?

"Sometimes it seems like it was harder to hit .200 than it was .300," Brosius said. "It was just a year where anything that could go wrong did go wrong. It was one of those things that snowballed. I never really was able to come out of it."

It's funny, but the Yankees might never have acquired Brosius if Greg Vaughn hadn't flunked a physical last season, voiding a trade that would have sent Kenny Rogers to the Padres.

The Yankees kept Rogers and wound up trading him for Brosius in the off-season, figuring the potential free agent would be nothing more than a one-year bridge to third-base prospect Mike Lowell.

"From Day One in spring training, he seemed to fit in," Cone said. "He started swinging the bat from Day One. We all kind of opened our eyes and said, 'We're onto something here.' "

Little did they know that Brosius would dominate a World Series game, hitting one home run off the hottest left-hander in the postseason, and another off the hottest closer in the game.

Hoffman earned 53 saves in 54 chances in the regular season -- the best success rate in major-league history for a pitcher with 30 or more saves. But he blew a save chance in Game 1 of the NLCS after entering with two outs in the eighth, and last night he stumbled in the eighth again.

Manager Bruce Bochy asked him to get the final six outs after Randy Myers walked Paul O'Neill to start the inning. The Padres led, 3-2. Hoffman was rested -- he hadn't pitched in six days.

The crowd of 64,667 went wild as he made his usual grand entrance to AC/DC's "Hell's Bells." But little has gone right for the Padres in this Series.

They couldn't hold a 5-2 lead with Kevin Brown in Game 1. They couldn't compete in Game 2. And they couldn't protect leads of 3-0 and 3-2 late last night.

Brosius began the comeback almost the moment the Yankees fell behind with his leadoff homer in the seventh. His go-ahead homer off Hoffman in the eighth came on a 2-2 fastball with one out.

It nearly was a three-homer night for Brosius, which would have put him in the same company as another Yankees Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. But his second-inning drive was just short, and Padres center fielder Steve Finley crashed into the wall to rob him of extra bases.

As it turned out, Brosius finished 3-for-4, improving his postseason average to .395 and World Series average to .538. The three-run shot was his second in four games -- he hit another off Charles Nagy in the Yankees' ALCS clincher.

"In spring training, it didn't take us long to see how good a player he is," Torre said. "The home runs, the fact that he can hit and run, he can bunt and plays third base lights out. I think he's very underrated defensively.

"He is such a force on this club. Guys look up to him. He's very flexible. He adjusts to situations. He's gotten so many big hits for us, it's incredible."

What's it like, going from .203 to potential World Series MVP?

"It's fun," Brosius said. "This is the kind of thing you dream about as a kid. It's something you do in your back yard 100 times. But you never know if you'll get the opportunity to do it."

He got the opportunity, and he seized it.

He fits in, all right.

He's a Yankee.

Two in one

New York Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius last night became the fifth player this decade -- and the second in this year's series -- with a multi-homer World Series game. In all, it has been done 41 times:

Player, team .............. Date

Chris Sabo, Reds ......... 10-19-90*

Lenny Dykstra, Phillies .. 10-20-93

Andruw Jones, Braves .. 10-20-96*

Greg Vaughn, Padres ...... 10-17-98*

Scott Brosius, Yankees ... 10-20-98*

*-Consecutive at-bats

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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