Friday, November 02, 2001

World Series Notebook

Knoblauch picks good time for first hit

The Associated Press

        NEW YORK — Chuck Knoblauch's first hit in this World Series couldn't have come at a better time.

        Left out of the starting lineup in Games 4 and 5 after going 0-for-12 to start the Series, Knoblauch came off the bench and sparked the winning rally Thursday night as the New York Yankees beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 in 12 innings to close within one victory of their fourth straight championship.

        Knoblauch entered as a pinch runner in the seventh inning, then singled off Albie Lopez to open the 12th.

        He advanced to second on Scott Brosius' sacrifice and scored the winning run when Alfonso Soriano singled to right.

        “A lot of people don't remember Knobby in the Seattle series, he was always on board,” teammate Paul O'Neill said. “Then to stay ready like that and score a run was huge for him.”

        Yankees manager Joe Torre often talks about how Knoblauch makes the lineup better because he is a natural leadoff hitter.

        But after Knoblauch struggled early in the Series, Torre left him on the bench and bumped Derek Jeter up to the top spot. Shane Spencer took over in left field.

        “Well, you stay ready, for sure, as the innings wear on you go to the clubhouse and run around a little bit,” Knoblauch said. “You just try to stay in the game mentally by watching it, watching some at-bats on TV and seeing what the pitcher has got going if you have to pinch hit.”

        Knoblauch made that approach work when it counted most.

        FREE ADVICE: Don Mattingly thinks he has some good ideas for New York hitters when they face Randy Johnson again in Game 6 on Saturday night.

        “Hope he doesn't get the slider over,” Mattingly said.

        Johnson shut out the Yankees on three hits in Game 2, a 4-0 victory for Arizona.

        Mattingly, the last Yankees captain, ranks ninth in franchise history with a .307 career batting average. And he remembers well what it was like to dig in against the Big Unit.

        Johnson struck out the sweet-swinging first baseman three times in a 1995 playoff series between New York and Seattle.

        “He was a little wilder then,” Mattingly said. “He got me good, too. My kids keep reminding me of that.”

        Mattingly threw out the ceremonial first pitch Thursday night.

        SPENCER FOR HIRE: Tino Martinez, Derek Jeter and Scott Brosius were the most visible heroes for New York in the three World Series games at Yankee Stadium.

        They might never have had a chance to get New York back into the Series had it not been for some clutch contributions from Shane Spencer.

        Spencer, starting in left field for the first time this postseason in Game 3, made a diving catch to save a run. In Game 4, he threw out speedy Tony Womack at the plate and homered off Curt Schilling.

        “It's unbelievable,” Spencer said. “I can say I hit a home run in the World Series, or I made a diving catch in the World Series. Look at Barry Bonds, he's got all those records and he's never gotten a chance to play in the World Series. And I've been in four in a row. I'm really lucky.”

        Spencer was 1-for-4 with a walk in Game 5.

        Spencer hit 10 home runs in 67 at-bats late in the 1998 season. He missed last year's World Series because of a knee injury.

        SUPER SUB: Arizona backup catcher Rod Barajas nearly added his name to a long list of surprising World Series heroes that includes Luis Sojo, Gene Tenace, Bernie Carbo and Chad Curtis.

        Barajas hadn't batted once in the postseason and had appeared in just one game. A .160 hitter with nine RBIs this season, he had three home runs for Diamondbacks all year, the last on April 21.

        Yet moments before the first pitch of Game 5, he was told he would start because Damian Miller had a strained right calf.

        Barajas singled in his first at-bat and homered off Mike Mussina in his second trip to the plate.

        He also threw out Alfonso Soriano trying to steal.

        But Barajas will be nearly forgotten after Arizona blew another late lead and lost to the Yankees 3-2 in 12 innings.

        “I went out there and I tried to help my team the best I could and I felt like I did that early on,” Barajas said.

        The loss didn't take all the excitement away from his home run, however.

        “It's just sheer joy,” Barajas said. “I hit the ball and I pretty much knew it was going to leave the yard. I was overwhelmed. Everybody's dream is to hit a home run in the World Series, and I fulfilled that dream. It was just tough the way it ended.”

        AROUND THE HORN: Roger Clemens took batting practice Thursday in preparation for a possible Game 7 start at Arizona. Clemens has not pitched a postseason game in a National League ballpark since Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, which his Boston Red Sox lost to the New York Mets when Mookie Wilson's 10th-inning grounder rolled through Bill Buckner's legs. ... Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer, 70, jumped in the cage during BP and pushed a bunt toward first base. ... Jimy Williams, hired as Houston manager on Thursday, and former Boston skipper Kevin Kennedy were both fired by Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette. Kennedy now covers baseball for Fox Sports. “He's found a way, especially in Boston, to have success and win under adverse conditions,” Kennedy said of Williams. “That says a lot about him as a manager. I've got to believe there's going to be more stability in Houston, the way they run that system.” ... Arizona second baseman Craig Counsell, the MVP of the NL championship series, is 0-for-19 in the Fall Classic since connecting for a home run off Mike Mussina in his first at-bat.


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