Yankees' Fall Classics 1921-2003 (Continued)
by Michael Aubrecht, Copyright 2004

1998: San Diego Padres (0) vs. New York Yankees (4)

In 1998, the perennial champion New York Yankees set a new standard for excellence in baseball outplaying the 1927 franchise considered by most expert analysts as the greatest team ever to play the game. With an all-star lineup known as "Murderer's Row", New York outscored its opponents by nearly four-hundred runs and hit .307 as a team in 1927. Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest ever, set the original single season mark with sixty homeruns which was more than any other American League team had combined. The Sultan of Swat also had plenty of help from his fellow sluggers in pinstripes. Outfield counterparts, Earle Combs in center and Bob Meusel in left, hit .356 and .337 respectively. Lou Gehrig had his first big season, batting .373 with forty-seven home runs and a league leading one-hundred seventy five runs batted in. Second year man Tony Lazzeri ranked third in the loop with eighteen home runs. The pitching staff boasted four men who won eighteen or more wins, led by Waite Hoyt at 22-7. Herb Pennock and Wilcy Moore gained nineteen victories apiece while Urban Shocker added eighteen. This lethal trio complemented the dominant offense by claiming the league's three best ERAs. Moore, who pitched primarily in relief, led the way with a 2.28 mark. With a 110-44 record, the Bronx Bombers ran away with the American League pennant, winning by a staggering nineteen games.

If '27 was considered the best, then 1998 certainly was the greatest. Manager Joe Torre's version had finished the season with one-hundred fourteen regular-season wins and eleven postseason victories (the most by any team in one-hundred twenty-three years of Major League baseball). Their line-up card included names like Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams and Scott Brosius. In the year of the "pinstriped homer", eight Yankees hit fifteen or more and ten players hit at least ten home runs for an amazing two-hundred seven total. New York's newest rotation was equally lethal and featured David Cone, Orlando Hernandez, Ramiro Mendoza, Andy Pettitte, Mike Stanton, David Wells and the game's top closer in Mariano Rivera.

Their opponents, the San Diego Padres, would certainly have their work cut out for them and although they didn't have any all-time records, they sure had their share of National League All-Stars including Andy Ashby, Kevin Brown, Trevor Hoffman, Greg Vaughn and fan favorite Tony Gwynn. After finishing 98-64, the Nationals took the division 3-1 over the Houston Astros, then defeated the Atlanta Braves (four games to two) in the National League championship. Manager Bruce Bochy's team had scored seven-hundred forty-nine runs (behind the Yankees nine-hundred sixty-five) but only allowed six-hundred thirty-five (under New York's six-hundred fifty-six) with a strong pitching staff led by Kevin Brown and Sterling Hitchcock.

Game 1 opened with a "touch of class" at Yankee Stadium with Tony Bennett singing the National Anthem and Sammy Sosa throwing out the first pitch. David Wells, better known as "The Boomer" took the hill for the home team against Kevin Brown and company. After New York tallied two runs in the second inning, San Diego answered back with two of their own in the third. Down 7-1 (going into the eighth) Brown was replaced by Donne Wall - who was replaced by Mark Langston - who was replaced by Brian Boehringer - who was inevitably replaced by Randy Myers. However, no reliever in a Padres uniform could match up to Jeff Nelson or Rivera who closed the doors on the visitors with a 9-6 opening win. Both Chuck Knoblauch and Martinez dented the cheap seats and were matched by Gwynn and Vaughn (who both had two). Game 2 belonged to the home team as El Duque Hernandez (with support from Stanton and Nelson) held on for a 9-3 triumph that featured home runs from both Williams and Jorge Posada.

Now down two-games-to-none, the Padres hoped to fare better back at their own Qualcomm Stadium. Hitchcock (and three relievers) were given the unenviable task of turning the Series around, but failed to overcome the power trio of Cone, Mendoza and Rivera who maintained the 5-4 advantage. Brosius nailed two homers during the heartbreaker adding to his ever-growing stats that topped out at eight hits, two homers and six runs batted in. The third baseman would go on to win the Series MVP award finishing with a whopping .471 batting average. On the brink of elimination, the National League champions had one last opportunity to prevent a sweep and extend their "Cinderella" season for another day. Brown and Pettitte went head-to-head for five innings, but the Padre pitcher stumbled in the fifth (for one) and the eighth (for two) before being pulled in favor of Dan Miceli and Myers. Although neither would surrender any additional runs, it was too little - too late as Nelson and Rivera (who finished with a 0.00 ERA) went on for the 3-0 clincher and their twenty-fourth World Championship. It was the perfect ending to a perfect season and was summed up perfectly by the players: "Tell them, it wasn't easy. When they look back and see one-hundred twenty-five wins, tell them we never took a single one for granted. Teach them about our passion and our patience. If they ask who was our star, give them twenty-five names. And if you forget our names, just tell them we were YANKEES. And in the season of our lives, we became a team. A team that made people believe that baseball could be magic, and men could be perfect."

1999: Atlanta Braves (0) vs. New York Yankees (4)

As baseball prepared to close its books on the twentieth century, it seemed fitting that the team who had dominated most of it was returning for their thirty-sixth Fall Classic. Following one-hundred fourteen regular season wins and eleven post season victories (the most by any team in one-hundred twenty-three years of Major League baseball) as well as a four game sweep in the Series, the perennial champion New York Yankees were back and ready to cement their title as Team of the Century. Manager Joe Torre was ready for another sweep as his Yankees won the American League Division Series over the Texas Rangers (3-0) and the Championship Series (4-1) over Boston Red Sox. The Bronx Bombers had scored a whopping nine-hundred runs and answered their critics who felt that the record-setting '98 season had been a fluke. The Atlanta Braves had risen as a dominant force in the National League over the last decade and were returning for their ninth Series (winning titles in three different cities). Despite the heavy-hitters on both line-ups, many believed that this Classic would all come down to pitching as each rotation combined for thirteen Cy Young Award winners including Roger Clemens, David Cone, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.

The opener pitted New York's Orlando Hernandez against Atlanta's Greg Maddux. Both aces went-head-to-head (with the exception of "El Duque" surrendering one run in the fourth to Chipper Jones) for eight innings, but the Pinstripes connected for four runs to beat the controversial John Rocker and closer Mike Remlinger 4-1. The games best closer, Mariano Rivera, entered in the last-inning and continued his astounding post-season winning streak.

Game 2 wouldn't give the fans at Turner Field anything to cheer about either. David Cone and company clearly dominated the home team allowing only five hits and two runs that came in the final-inning. The Yankees managed fourteen hits off Kevin Millwood and Terry Mulholland (who came in the third) for the 7-2 victory that put them ahead two-games-to-none.

The third outing finally appeared to tip the scales in the Braves favor as they entered the seventh with a 5-3 advantage, but the never-say-die American's tied it up in the eighth (winning in the tenth) after four clutch homers by Chad Curtis (who had two), Chuck Knoblauch and Tino Martinez. Now ahead by three, the Bombers prepared to seal their second consecutive sweep for the home crowd at Yankees Stadium who had missed the '98 finale that took place in San Diego's house. Game 4 highlighted the tradition of excellence that was part of the Yankee culture with pinstripe legend Whitey Ford throwing out the first pitch. The Chairman set the tone for the contest, as Yankee pitchers would rule the day. Roger Clemens was given the start for the homers against John Smoltz and The Rocket responded with an eight inning masterpiece that yielded five hits and one run. Teammate Jim Leyritz ended the affair after sending a shot into the cheap seats for a 4-1 triumph and a third title in four years.

2000: New York Mets (1) vs. New York Yankees (4)

After a forty-four year absence (1956) the Subway Series finally returned to the Big Apple matching the ever-present New York Yankees against their cross-town rivals, the New York Mets. The American Leaguers had continued to dominate the postseason, winning three out of the last four titles, and the Nationals were determined to finally end their reign. While manager Joe Torre's Yankees were focused on becoming the first team in twenty-six years to win three titles in a row, Mets skipper Bobby Valentine was spending time at St. Patrick's Cathedral looking for some divine intervention.

Game 1 opened in the "House That Ruth Built" with Andy Pettitte taking on Al Leiter. The contest remained scoreless (with two outs in the sixth) when the first break of the Series occurred. With Timo Perez on first, Todd Zeile drilled a 0-and-2 pitch to deep-left but it ricocheted off the top of the fence and was fielded by David Justice - who relayed to Derek Jeter - who pegged home plate to retire the runner. More of an offensive blooper than a defensive gem, Perez's inexperience on the base path clearly cost his team a prime run scoring opportunity. Aware that they had just "dodged a bullet", the Yankees responded with Justice launching a two run double to the left-centerfield gap (in the bottom of the inning) for the go-ahead score. The Mets' Benny Agbayani and Jay Payton answered back with singles in the seventh and Todd Pratt walked. Then Bubba Trammell hit a clutch, two run pinch-single that tied it up at three-all. Three innings later, Jose Vizcaino's single to left against Turk Wendell with two outs in the twelfth ended the longest game ever in the World Series (four hours, fifty-one minutes). The second meeting found the Mets still trying to catch up to their counterparts and they would come close - very close. Clemens started strong and threw two hit shutout ball for eight innings, striking out nine and walking none, but the Nationals threatened to comeback with a five run rally in the ninth. Ace closer Mariano Rivera struggled initially (surrendering a homer) but managed to regain his composure long enough to seal a clutch, 6-5 win that sent the heartbroken Mets crawling back home.

In Game 3 the Mets went ahead quickly (on Robin Ventura's leadoff homer in the second), but the visitors didn't stay behind for long. They tied it against Rick Reed in the third as Derek Jeter hit a two out single followed by a Justice double to the right-field corner. Then they sprinted ahead in the fourth as Paul O'Neill tripled to right-center driving home Tino Martinez. The Mets surged ahead and tied it at two in the sixth on a Todd Zeile double. Rick Reed (six innings, six hits, two runs, eight strikeouts) did his part to keep up with Orlando Hernandez who had always struggled at Shea Stadium. "El Duque" struck out twelve in 7 1/3 innings and was at the top of the game when he got out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the sixth without allowing another Mets run to score. However, the home team managed to add two more in the eighth and emerged with a clutch, 4-2 victory.

Both rotations earned their paychecks in Game 4 as a combined nine pitchers went at it on the mound. The night had a promising start and finish for the Yankees, who set the pace with Derek Jeter's homer on the first pitch and ended it with two scoreless innings by Rivera. Scott Brosius made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly that drove home Paul O'Neill in the second and Jeter led off the third with a triple to right-centerfield and came home on Luis Sojo's groundout. When the Mets Mike Piazza came up again (with two on and no outs in the fifth) Torre lifted the left-handed Denny Neagle in favor of the right-handed David Cone. The surprising move proved brilliant as the Yankees ace forced the All-Star catcher to pop-out. The American League champs bullpen continued to shine while holding the Mets quiet for 4 1/3 innings. The result was 3-2 decision that pushed the Nationals to within nine innings of elimination.

Pettitte, Mike Stanton and Rivera ended the Mets' misery in Game 5 allowing a meager two hits that resulted in two runs. Bernie Williams and Jeter both hit homers as the Yanks netted their third consecutive World Series and their fourth in the five years. A two out single in the ninth by Luis Sojo, was the deciding factor and led the Yankees to celebrate their twenty-sixth World Championship. Only three times in Major League history has any club won as many in a row (the Yankees won five straight between 1949 and 1953 and four straight from 1936 to 1939; the Oakland Athletics won three in a row from 1972-74). And only two other clubs won as many championships in as short a period of time; the Yankees won five of six from 1936 to 1941 and six of seven from 1947 to 1953.

2001: Arizona Diamondbacks (4) vs. New York Yankees (3)

Baseball in 2001 will always be remembered not for he games that took place during the regular season, but for the patriotism and heroic tributes that took place in the wake of the 9/11 terrorists attacks. It somehow seemed fitting that the city of New York, led by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, would show immeasurable strength and host the event after suffering such devastating loss a few months earlier. As usual, the Yankees remained on top of the American League as baseball's most storied franchise prepared to face one of its newest as the National League's Arizona Diamondbacks had just won their first pennant in their fourth year of existence. Many fans felt that this was the year to beat the perennial champions and as a banner hung at Arizona's Bank One Ballpark stated: YANKEES = HISTORY - DIAMONDBACKS = FUTURE.

The simple, yet bold statement was well written and foretold the future as the youngest expansion team in Major League history would come from behind during the ninth inning to de-thrown the kings of baseball.

Midway through Game 1 it was difficult to tell who were the three time defending champions and which was the franchise making it's Classic debut. Arizona ace Curt Schilling continued his remarkable postseason with seven superb innings and Luis Gonzalez homered, drove in two runs and scored twice as the Diamondbacks stunned the Yanks, 9-1. Taking advantage of a rough start by New York's Mike Mussina and some sloppy defense, the Diamondbacks seized the opening advantage that resulted in titles nearly 60 percent of the time. Nothing changed the following day as Randy Johnson tossed a three hitter and Matt Williams added a three run homer in the seventh for 4-0 victory. "he Big Unit was dominant from the start, allowing just a walk and a single over the first seven innings. He struck out eleven and improved to 3-1 in the postseason. In his last three outings, he allowed just two runs and thirteen hits in twenty-five innings.

New York finally bounced back in Game 3 as Roger Clemens and Mariano Rivera combined on a three hitter and Scott Brosius snapped a sixth inning tie with an RBI single for the 2-1 triumph. Leading two-games-to-none, Arizona had a chance to put a stranglehold on the series with a win. The Diamondbacks got a great outing from starter Brian Anderson but committed three crucial errors, three wild pitches and ran themselves out of the opening inning. Despite the win, the Yankees continued to struggle offensively. They got only seven hits, including a home run by Jorge Posada in the second, but the 1-2 combo of Clemens and Rivera prevented an Arizona attack that scored thirteen runs in the first two games. Shutdown by the return of Schilling (on three days' rest), the defending champions were staring at the possibility of a three-games-to-one deficit in Game 4. With one out, Paul O'Neill shot an opposite-field single in front of left fielder Luis Gonzalez and after Bernie Williams struck out, Tino Martinez hit the first pitch he saw from reliever Byung-Hyun Kim over the wall in right-center field. As the ball cleared the outfield barrier, the hometown crowd of 55,863 erupted as the invigorated Yankees spilled out of the dugout. The stadium that had fallen deadly silent after the Diamondbacks scored two runs (in the eighth) was deafening now and would not stop celebrating until Martinez came out on the deck for a curtain call. Rivera (1-0) cruised through the tenth and improved to 2-0 with five saves and a 0.71 ERA in nine postseason appearances. Derek Jeter completed the cycle in what had evolved into one of the most memorable games of all time by lining a 3-2 pitch over the right-field wall for the game-winner.

Game 5 looked to go the distance as well with Mussina returning to save face against Miguel Batista. The veteran right-hander improved greatly and allowed only five hits (including a pair of solo home runs in the fifth) while walking three and striking out ten. One of the two solo homers hit in the fifth came off the bat of little-used backup Rod Barajas (a .160 hitter in the regular season) who was in for starter Damian Miller (a late scratch with a strained calf). With the Diamondbacks holding a 2-0 lead, Arizona manager Bob Brenly returned to Kim to start the ninth. Jorge Posada opened the inning with a double but the Korean sidearmer easily retired the next two batters. With one out to go, things finally appeared to go in Kim's favor, but Scott Brosius begged to differ with a clutch, two-run blast that tied the game at two apiece. Despite the setback, the repentive reliever managed to hold the Yankees scoreless for the first two extra-innings and appeared to be on the road to recovery. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be as Game 4's finale was replayed after Alfonso Soriano singled (with one out in the twelfth) scoring Chuck Knoblauch with the 3-2, game-winning run. After sprinting to a two game lead, the National League champs were now forced into a do-or-die situation for Game 6. Once again, Johnson returned for Arizona to extend the race and responded with a brilliant six hitter that was sweetened with seven strikeouts. At the plate, Johnson's teammates dominated as well, scoring fifteen times over the first four innings for a shocking 15-2 massacre.

Game 7 looked to extend the Yankees consecutive-win streak, but the "never-say-die" Diamondbacks rose to the challenge and put together one of the greatest late-game comebacks in World Series history. After Kim had surrendered the trio of heartbreaking home runs in New York, the Diamondbacks returned home and rallied against the incomparable Rivera who had converted twenty-three straight postseason saves and had struck out the side in the eighth (with a 2-1 lead). As Luis Gonzalez stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees infield moved in to prevent base-runner Jay Bell from scoring. The positional strategy proved disastrous as "Gonzo" connected for a shallow looping single (that just cleared the infield in center) sending home the winning run and sealing the World Series title. The Diamondbacks (many of them veterans getting their first taste of the World Series) exploded from the dugout as the "neighborhood bully" Yankees had finally fallen to the "new kids on the block".

2003: Florida Marlins (4) vs. New York Yankees (2)

The biggest story of the 2003 World Series may not have been the actual Fall Classic, but more so the dramatic pennant race that led up to the Series itself. After years of less-than-stellar ratings, record audiences finally tuned in to the Major League Baseball postseason, making it the most-watched playoffs ever on cable. Fans also flocked to the ballparks setting a new attendance mark with over 1,858,979 tickets sold. Many attributed this renewed interest to the playoff's storybook backdrop that featured two of baseball's most beloved underdogs, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. Both teams had surprised the experts by making the post season and each continued to shock their opponents by battling back in their respective leagues time and time again. After surviving the Divisional round, generations of long-suffering fans from both ball clubs reveled in the possibility that the curse of both "The Bambino" and "The Goat" was finally coming to an end. The baseball god's apparently had other plans and both teams fell just five heartbreaking outs short of making it to the Series.

Unlike the similarities shared between their tragic opponents, both league champions were as diametrically opposed as two teams meeting on the same diamond could be. On the American League side, the New York Yankees, recently nicknamed "The Evil Empire", surprised no one after posting the best record in baseball en route to their 39th Fall Classic. The National League champion Florida Marlins however, had managed to sneak undetected under everyone's "radar" after falling ten games under .500 on May 22. Amazingly, the moderately popular Florida franchise was making its second Fall Classic appearance in only it's tenth year of existence. After the emotionally exhausting playoffs, in which almost every game literally came down to the final pitch, many fans believed that the Series was a foregone conclusion and could not possibly live up to the drama of it's predecessors. Little did they know that another battle of "David vs. Goliath" was about to unfold and that neither team would ever be the same again...

In Game 1 the Yankees opened the Series in the same fashion that they had opened both the American League Divisional Series and America League Championship - with a loss. The 3-2 decision snapped the Yankees' ten-game-home winning streak (in the World Series), dating back to Game 2 of the 1996 Fall Classic. Despite the setback, the pinstripe faithful refused to panic, as the Bronx Bombers were 7-1, in which they had lost Game 1, under manager Joe Torre. Starting pitcher David Wells had surrendered a run in the first inning after Florida's Juan Pierre laid down a perfect bunt single that was followed by Luis Castillo's flare single to right, putting runners at the corners. Ivan Rodriguez lifted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Pierre and giving him a playoff-best seventeen runs batted in. The Yankees tied the game in the third against Brad Penny after Derek Jeter came up clutch with a RBI single to center, scoring Karim Garcia from second and injecting some life into the crowd of 55,769 that was still suffering from an ALCS "hangover". Pierre later put the Marlins back on top in the fifth with a two-run single to left, giving Florida a 3-1 lead, but Bernie Williams answered back with a solo home run with one out in the sixth. It was the eighteenth post-season home run of his career and tied him with fellow Yankees Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson for the most round-trippers in Major League playoff history. Taking no chances, Florida pulled Penny in favor of closer Ugueth Urbina, who struck out Jorge Posada and Alfonso Soriano before inducing Nick Johnson to pop out to center, nailing down the win.

Game 2 evened the score as Andy Pettitte brought the Yankees back to life (for the third consecutive series) with a near-perfect 6-1 outing. Pitching on three days' rest, Pettitte allowed only one unearned run over 8 2/3 innings for his ninth consecutive win. Japanese import Hideki Matsui gave the pitcher all of the offensive support he would need, belting a three-run homer in the first inning. Alfonso Soriano, who had been struggling at the plate throughout the playoffs, added a two-run shot in the fourth that sealed the deal. Marlins right-handed prodigy Josh Beckett was given the start for Game 3 and the twenty-three year-old Texan worked through a lengthy rain delay and an imposing lineup, striking out ten while giving up three hits and two runs. However, Yankees starter Mike Mussina proved better giving up a single run in seven innings. After one-hundred eight pitches through 7 1/3 innings, Beckett was pulled in favor of the left-handed Dontrelle Willis who struggled with his control due to the wet weather. Once again, Matsui came up big at the plate snapping a tie with a two-out RBI single in the eighth. From there, ALCS Game 7 hero Aaron Boone and Bernie Williams both added home runs in the ninth capping off another 6-1 decision over the Marlins.

The fourth game in the Series held a special significance as the fans in attendance witnessed the final appearance on the mound by one of baseball's greatest pitchers, Roger Clemens. The future Hall of Famer came on strong sitting down the first two Marlins in the opening frame. However, things quickly turned sour after Ivan Rodriguez's two-out single sparked an early Marlins rally. Following Rodriguez's lead, Miguel Cabrera, a twenty year-old rookie, drilled a 2-2 pitch the opposite way from the forty-one year-old Clemens deep into the right-field seats, giving Florida a 2-0 lead. Jeff Conine and Mike Lowell followed with singles, putting runners at the corners. Derrek Lee then scored Conine putting the Yankees in a three-run hole after only one inning. Taking their turn, New York rallied around their struggling pitcher and responded by loading the bases with three singles to open the second. Aaron Boone kept their drive alive with a sac-fly to center that scored Bernie Williams cutting the lead to 3-1. Determined to "save face" for his forty-two pitch first-inning debacle, "The Rocket" settled in needing just fifty-four pitches to get through the next five innings.

Clemens returned for the seventh to face Luis Castillo as flashbulbs began to pop with each pitch. Falling behind on the count 1-2, Castillo battled the Yankee ace for five more pitches before looking at strike three on a fastball that tailed over the inside corner. The 65,934 in attendance gave Clemens a standing ovation as he walked off the field for the last time, honoring him for his twenty seasons of pitching supremacy. As the Marlins took the field to start the eighth, some of their classier players tilted their caps to the Yankees dugout. Clemens, who came back on to the field for a curtain call, returned the gesture by waving to the fans and to his opponents. Once again, Ugueth Urbina was summoned from Florida's bullpen but the Marlins reliever stumbled and surrendered two tying runs after Ruben Sierra lined a pitch down the right-field line for a triple, scoring both Williams and pinch-runner David Dellucci. Jose Contreras tossed two scoreless innings of relief for New York, while Florida's Chad Fox, after getting through the tenth, ran into trouble in the eleventh. With runners in scoring position, and Juan Rivera sent in to pinch-hit for Contreras, Braden Looper took the mound. After intentionally walking Rivera, Looper proceeded to strike out Aaron Boone and force John Flaherty to pop out to third leaving all runners stranded on base. As the Yankees prepared to take the field, Torre made a call to his own bullpen that would prove both controversial and costly. The Yankees skipper elected to go with Jeff Weaver in the eleventh, despite the fact that he had not appeared on the mound in twenty-eight days. Weaver, who had been demoted as a starter to a relief role, held the Marlins at bay with a series of well placed fastballs. After Looper tossed a scoreless top of the twelfth, Alex Gonzalez worked the count full to lead off the Marlins' half of the twelfth. Swinging for the bleachers, the shortstop drilled the payoff pitch down the left-field line, barely clearing the 330-foot sign on the wall, nailing a 4-3 win and setting off a celebration both on the field and in the stands. In retrospect, many fans felt that Torre's gamble on Weaver had not only cost the Yankees Game 4, but in the end, the Series.

New York caught another bad break in Game 5 after losing starting pitcher David Wells to a "freak" back injury after just one inning. Florida went on to hit reliever Jose Contreras for four runs in three innings, after clearly taking control in the second. Things then went from bad to worse as the Yankees struggling bullpen allowed six runs from the second through the fifth. Marlins starter Brad Penny took care of the rest while holding the Bombers to only one earned run over seven innings. Once again Florida had defeated the mighty Yankees and moved within one win of a second World Series championship. Game 6 maintained the Marlins' momentum as Josh Beckett, starting on three days' rest for the first time in his young career, dominated the Yankees with a complete-game, five-hit shutout. His rival, Andy Pettitte, who had won eleven consecutive games following Yankees losses, gave New York a valiant effort, holding the Marlins to two runs (one earned) over seven innings. Pettitte sat down the first two Marlins in the fifth, but Alex Gonzalez and Juan Pierre put together consecutive singles to keep the inning going. Pettitte got ahead of Luis Castillo, 0-2, but the second baseman worked the count to 2-2 before lining a single to right field. Outfielder Karim Garcia fielded the hit and went for home, but his throw was slightly up the first-base line, allowing Gonzalez to score with a heads-up slide, avoiding the tag and touching the plate with his left hand. Beckett remained focused and sat the Yankees down in order in the sixth, striking out Bernie Williams (looking) and Hideki Matsui (swinging) to put the Marlins nine outs away from the championship. Jorge Posada led off the seventh with a double to left, but Beckett got Jason Giambi to ground out to third before striking out Garcia and pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra. As a testament to Florida's defensive play, New York remained 0-for-7 on the night with runners in scoring position. After Yankees closer Mariano Rivera came in to prevent any additional runs, Beckett returned to the mound to finish the job, forcing both Williams and Matsui to fly out to left. He then got Posada to squib an inside pitch down the first-base line, which he appropriately, fielded himself tagging the catcher for the final out.

The "routine play" almost seemed anti-climatic as one of baseball's most dramatic post-seasons abruptly came to an end. While Marlins players mobbed each other on the field in celebration, the stands of Yankee Stadium remained silent as fans were coming to grips with another World Championship lost. Much like the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, Florida had managed to beat the odds AND the favored Yankees to become the best in baseball. Unlike the '97 franchise of free-agent "mercenaries", the '03 Marlins boasted a young team that looked to remain intact for future seasons. Things did not look as bright in the Big Apple however where a dynasty was about to see several changes - and a lot of pink slips.

More To Come




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