Sunday, October 22, 2000

Yankees win opener, 4-3

Longest World Series game ends at 1:04 a.m.

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jose Vizcaino exults as he runs to first on his game-winning hit.
(AP photos)
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        NEW YORK — The 44-year period interval since the last so-called “Subway Series” ended Saturday night, though witnesses endured another prolonged wait.

        The New York Yankees mustered a run in the bottom of the 12th inning on Jose Vizcaino's fourth hit, a bases-loaded, two-out single that defeated the New York Mets, 4-3, in Game 1 of the 96th World Series.

        The four-hour, 51-minute contest was the longest game in Series history, eclipsing the 10 innings in Game 4 that required 4:17 for the Yankees and Atlanta to complete on Oct. 23, 1996.

        “I like to believe we find a way to win and don't quit,” said Yankees manager Joe Torre, whose club established a record with its 13th consecutive Series victory.

Teammates mob Vizcaino.
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        The end came after Tino Martinez singled with one out in the 12th off Turk Wendell, the Mets' fifth reliever. Jorge Posada then doubled to right-center field, prompting an intentional walk to Paul O'Neill that filled the bases for a potential double play.

        Luis Sojo fouled out before Vizcaino stroked a low line drive to left field on Wendell's first pitch.

        “In that situation, you know he's trying to throw the first pitch for a strike,” Vizcaino said.

        Vizcaino's mere presence reflected Torre's magic touch with his personnel. Through most of the postseason, Torre had used Luis Sojo at second base for the scatter-armed Chuck Knoblauch, who started 82 games during the regular season. But Vizcaino owned a .526 career average (10-for-19) against Mets starter Al Leiter, explaining why the switch-hitter received his first start of this postseason.

Manager Joe Torre plants a kiss on his hero.
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        “I was just happy I was able to play in the first game of my first World Series,” said Vizcaino, who came to the Yankees with cash from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Cincinnatian Jim Leyritz on June 21. “I was really comfortable. I was feeling pretty good at the plate.”

        The Yankees forced extra innings by scratching across a ninth-inning run against Mets relief ace Armando Benitez, who converted 41 of 46 save opportunities during the regular season.

        The two-time defending champions blew two subsequent chances to win. The Yankees loaded the bases in the 10th inning before O'Neill grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and one out.

        Mets left-hander Glendon Rusch, who escaped that jam, created another one in the 11th when he threw a wild pitch on ball four to Derek Jeter, advancing Vizcaino to third base with two outs. But Wendell entered the game and forced an inning-ending popout from pinch hitter Glenallen Hill.

        With one out in the ninth, Benitez walked O'Neill after the former Red fouled off two full-count pitches. Pinch hitter Luis Polonia and Vizcaino, the ninth-place hitter, rapped singles to load the bases. Knoblauch, the designated hitter, delivered a sacrifice fly to score O'Neill.

        Earlier, the Mets staged the type of rally that has become their trademark, scoring three seventh-inning runs to erase a 2-0 deficit.

        The Mets, who led the major leagues this year by winning 16 games after trailing through six innings, went ahead on pinch hitter Bubba Trammell's two-run, bases-loaded single and Edgardo Alfonzo's RBI infield hit.

        Benny Agbayani and Jay Payton singled before Todd Pratt walked on Andy Pettitte's full-count pitch to load the bases. Up came Trammell, who owned a .389 (7-for-18) lifetime batting average against Pettitte. Batting for ninth-place hitter Mike Bordick, Trammell rifled a 1-1 pitch into left field, scoring Agbayani and Payton.

        Timo Perez was retired on a bunt, which wasn't ruled a sacrifice but advanced the runners. Alfonzo then beat out a dribbler toward third base as Pratt came home.

        All night, the present was outlined with reminders of the past.

        Don Larsen, whose perfect game for the Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 Series made baseball history, threw the ceremonial first pitch. Taking their cue from the hero of the last Subway Series, Pettitte and Leiter fashioned a scoreless tie through five innings.

        The first pair of left-handers to start a Series opener since 1987 finally faltered in a tumultuous sixth inning, which ended with the Yankees leading, 2-0, on Cincinnati native David Justice's two-run double.

        The game's most bizarre moment occurred in the top of the inning, when the Mets' Todd Zeile ripped Pettitte's 0-2 pitch off the very top of the left-field wall. Had the ball traveled a fraction of an inch higher, Zeile would have had a two-run homer. Instead, the ball caromed to Justice, who collaborated with Jeter on relays that nailed a sliding Perez at home plate.

        “When (Zeile) first hit it, I thought it was a home run,” Torre said. So did Perez, who trotted toward second base and didn't accelerate until he rounded the bag.

        Contemplating Zeile's unlucky drive and Perez's tardy arrival at the plate, Mets manager Bobby Valentine delivered a cliched but fitting remark: “It's a game of inches, huh?”

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