Everything's coming up Brosius

Wednesday, October 21, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Scott Brosius watches his three-run HR in the eighth inning.
(AP photo)

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SAN DIEGO -- Scott Brosius has been here before. As a boy, in the backyard, he had hit the big home run a hundred times. He imagined himself coming through in the clutch, usually in the World Series.

Dreams do come true. Scott Brosius' dream surely did.

The third baseman of the New York Yankees homered twice Tuesday night, and he will be seeing the second in his sleep. He took baseball's best relief pitcher deep, to the deepest part of the ballpark, to deepen San Diego's desperation in the best-of-seven series.

Brosius' eighth-inning three-run homer off Trevor Hoffman carried the Yankees to a 5-4 victory that left them one game from a series sweep.

Off Padres closer

Padres manager Bruce Bochy summoned his closer with no outs in the eighth. Paul O'Neill had drawn a leadoff walk from Randy Myers, so Trevor Hoffman made his way to the mound to the sound of AC - DC's "Hell's Bells," a noisy spectacle guaranteed to send a shiver down every San Diego spine.

Hoffman had blown only one save all season, and tied a National League record by succeeding 53 times, but he was not often asked to get six outs. Fifty-one of his 66 regular-season appearances spanned one inning or less.

But this being the World Series, and the Padres trailing two games to none, and Bochy's bullpen springing leaks like the Lusitania, there was really no other choice.

But if Hoffman brought his best stuff with him from the bullpen, the Yankees had better stuff. When Bernie Williams made the inning's first out with a fly ball to the warning track in right, it suggested Hoffman's smoke wasn't up to snuff. When Hoffman then walked Tino Martinez on five pitches, Brosius appeared at home plate.

He had been the Yankees' best hitter all night. In the second inning, Brosius hit a ball to the wall in center field. In the fifth, he singled to center.

Then, after the Padres had dented David Cone for three runs in the bottom of the sixth, Brosius began the Yankees comeback with a full-count leadoff homer in the seventh off San Diego starter Sterling Hitchcock. When he came up again in the eighth, the Yankees had trimmed San Diego's lead to 3-2.

Hoffman's first pitch was tempting, and Brosius' half-hearted wave at it was ruled a strike on appeal.

Hoffman's next two pitches were balls in the dirt, prompting Padres pitching coach Dave Stewart to visit the mound to promote the throwing of strikes. Brosius fouled Hoffman's next delivery down the third-base line to bring the count even at 2-2.

Then BOOM. Finley, playing shallow, turned and raced for the wall in straightaway center. The effort was futile -- Brosius' ball was hit too far for an over-the-fence play -- and noisy Qualcomm Stadium was suddenly very quiet. Rounding first base, Brosius raised his hands in triumph.

"I don't think I was trying to do anything in particular," Brosius said later. "I was just looking for something to hit. I was just thinking to stay up the middle with him and hit it the best I could."

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Brosius hit .300 during the regular season, homered 19 times, and drove in 98 runs. Considering his place in the batting order, it was an extraordinary season. Considering the quality of his defense -- one of the determining factors in the American League Championship Series -- he makes a strong case for Comeback Player of the Year.

Brosius hit .203 last season in Oakland, and joined the Yankees in spring training with no clear title to third base. He was seen as a potential stopgap as the Yankees groomed Mike Lowell for long-term duty. Neither team management nor Brosius himself knew exactly what to expect.

"I remember saying in spring training, I could hit ,300 for this team and still bat eighth in the order," Brosius said. "But I feel glad to be batting anywhere in this order. This is a lineup that can make a pitcher throw 100 pitches by the fifth inning. There are tough hitters everywhere in the lineup."

Tuesday night, the Yankees' toughest hitter was batting sixth.

Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your E-mail. Message him at tsullivan@enquirer.com.