MIAMI - In his 1997 book Chasing the Dream, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre called Ruben Sierra the toughest player he ever had to manage.
Good thing those two patched up their differences.
Sierra rescued the Yankees when they were down to their final out last night in the ninth inning. He came up as a pinch hitter and had a brilliant eight-pitch at-bat against Florida Marlins closer Ugueth Urbina.
It ended with Sierra hitting a two-run triple down the right-field line, which tied the game 3-3 and sent it into extra innings.
In 1996, when Torre was in his first year managing the Yankees, he clashed with Sierra over playing time. At one point, Sierra called Torre a liar, and 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 reacquired Sierra from the Texas Rangers for Marcus Thames.
"You never know in this game," Sierra told the Hartford Courant at the time.
"I wasn't mature then. This is a new Ruben. I am older now. I understand how things have to go. I'm happy to be back here."
So Sierra strolled to the plate last night, a switch-hitter batting from the left side, and Urbina threw him three consecutive change-ups, all of them missing the outside corner for balls.
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, with pretty much the same pitch, and Sierra fouled it off.
The crowd gasped. Then Urbina made the same exact pitch again - a fastball headed for the outside corner, and Sierra fouled it off yet again. There was another gasp from the crowd.
On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez set up on the outside corner again. But Urbina grooved the pitch, belt-high, over the inner half of the plate, and Sierra drilled it down the left-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.
A large contingent of Yankees fans cheered, and the Marlins fans stood there in stunned silence.
Urbina, who recorded a four-out save in Game 1 of the World Series, came into the game with a 2.38 ERA for the postseason.
It was Sierra's first hit of the World Series, and he came into the at-bat hitting just .200 for the postseason.
As a pinch hitter during the regular season, Sierra hit .238, with five hits in 23 at-bats. All of those hits were singles, and he had just two pinch-hit RBIs.
But Sierra was there when Torre needed him last night. In the end, the Marlins still evened the Series at two games, but a night when it didn't seem possible, the Yankees still put a huge scare into them.