Weaver's woes erase Yanks' rally

Pitcher allows winning HR after Sierra ties it in ninth

Baseball

October 23, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - Long after the flash bulbs stopped popping for Roger Clemens last night, Game 4 of the World Series came down to two at-bats involving a pair of New York Yankees bench warmers.

The entire Series turned twice.

First it was Ruben Sierra, overcoming his troubled past with Yankees manager Joe Torre to deliver a two-run, game-tying triple with two outs in the ninth inning after a remarkable eight-pitch battle with Florida Marlins closer Ugueth Urbina.

Then it was Jeff Weaver, entering a game for the first time since Sept. 24, only to have his emotions swing from one extreme to the other. He retired the side in the 11th inning before grooving a fastball to Alex Gonzalez, and watching it sail over the left-field fence to give the Marlins a 4-3 victory in the 12th.

Weaver has been relegated to long relief for the Yankees, and in 14 previous postseason games, they hadn't needed him. Suddenly, with Game 4 dragging past midnight, he got the call.

Gonzalez had 18 home runs during the regular season, but this was his first of the postseason.

"I felt real good [in the 11th inning]," Weaver said. "I was working ahead of the hitters and throwing pitches where I wanted to. I didn't want to walk [Gonzalez]. He's normally a base-hit, gap-to-gap type guy. He did a little more with a fastball than I thought he could with a 3-2 count."

By the end, the Weaver moment overshadowed Sierra's moment. But at the time, it looked like Sierra was another unlikely hero, headed toward Yankee lore.

In his 1997 book "Chasing the Dream," Torre called Sierra the toughest player he ever had to manage. Torre and Sierra clashed about playing time in 1996, and at one point, Sierra called Torre a liar.

The club finally solved the problem by trading Sierra to the Detroit Tigers.

A couple of years later, during spring training, Sierra talked to Torre and cleared the air. Earlier this season, the Yankees were desperate for a veteran bat off the bench, so on June 6, they re-acquired Sierra from the Texas Rangers.

"You never know in this game," Sierra told the Hartford Courant at the time.

"I wasn't mature then. This is a new Ruben."

So with two outs in the ninth, and the Marlins protecting a 3-1 lead, Torre summoned Sierra to pinch-hit for Karim Garcia.

Sierra strolled to the plate, a switch-hitter batting from the left side.

With a 3-0 count, Urbina came back with a fastball on the outside corner for a strike. He put his next pitch in the exact same location for strike two. He came back again twice, with the same pitch in the exact same location, and Sierra fouled the pitches off, staying alive.

Then, finally, on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez set up on the outside corner again. But Urbina threw the pitch, belt-high, over the inner half of the plate, and Sierra drilled it down the right-field line.

Down to their final strike, the Yankees had struck again. Bernie Williams scored from third, and pinch runner David Dellucci scored from first. Sierra raced around the bases for a stand-up triple.

"I've never been to the World Series before," Sierra said, "so that was one of the biggest [hits of his career]."

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