A change of scenery didn't change a thing for the San Diego Padres.
Scott Brosius made sure of it.
Brosius hit his second homer of the game in the eighth inning, a stunning three-run shot off relief ace Trevor Hoffman and the New York Yankees moved within one win of a World Series sweep with a 5-4 victory in Game 3 Tuesday night.
A sweep would be the Yanks' first since 1950 and could come in the very unfriendly confines of Qualcomm Stadium - amid the plam trees, fish tacos and beachballs - a continent away from the Bronx.
"We feel like we're on the brink of something special," starting pitcher David Cone said.
No team in baseball history has overcome an 0-3 deficit in the postseason, and now the Padres must try to do it against a club that wants to cement its place as the best ever.
A win would give the Yankees an overall record of 125-50 - at .714, the best winning percentage since the Murderers' Row team of the 1927 Yankees.
"There's nothing more fun than this," Brosius said. "When you grow up you want to get a chance to play in the World Series, that's what you play for. We'd like to get 125, that would feel really good. We're in pretty good shape."
| Scott Brosius celebrates as he watches his three-run homer. (AP) |
"Sure, it's tough taking this. It's the hard part of the game," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "The only thing we can do now is go out there and play our hearts out."
Hitless for five innings against Cone, the Padres took a 3-0 lead in the sixth on a burst started by Hitchcock's unlikely single. Yet with 64,667 crazed fans roaring and the cranked-up rock music blaring, these Yankees would not break.
Hoffman wound up with the loss while Ramiro Mendoza won in relief. Mariano Rivera held on for a save, working around a pair of two-out singles by Carlos Hernandez and pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney by striking out Andy Sheets with runners at the corners for the last out.
Brosius led off the seventh with a home run against Hitchcock, MVP of the NL championship and a member of the Yankees' rotation with Cone in 1995. New York closed to 3-2, but shortstop Chris Gomez made an eye-popping catch to start an inning-ending double play.
But in the eighth, there was no one left to save the Padres.
| Scott Brosius is greeted at home after his three-run homer in the eighth. (AP) |
It was Trevor Time, and Hoffman walked in as AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" sent the crowd into a frenzy. Hoffman had been successful on 53 of 54 save chances during the regular season, though a blown chance in the NLCS against Atlanta perhaps was a bad omen.
"This place was rocking all night long," Brosius said. "It's a lot like Yankee Stadium, only we're on the other side of it."
After O'Neill's walk, Bernie Williams came close to putting the Yankees ahead, hitting a fly ball that Gwynn caught on the warning track in right. Tino Martinez followed with a walk and then Brosius, moved up to sixth in the batting order because the Yankees played without a DH, homered to center for a 5-3 lead.
Hoffman had not worked in five days, his longest idle period of the season, and clearly was not effective with his mix of changeups and fastballs. He gave up another hit in the eighth before ending the inning.
"With Trevor, he's the type of pitcher that you know you have to battle and hope you get a pitch to hit," Brosius said. "On the second pitch, he threw me a fastball that I fouled off. Later, he came back with another one that I stayed back on and hit it."
Brosius' shots marked the 41st multihomer game in Series history, coming after Greg Vaughn's performance in Game 1 for the Padres. Reggie Jackson was the last do it for the Yankees, hitting three in the clinching Game 6 in 1977.
The Padres tried to rally in the bottom half of the eighth, with a double by Quilvio Veras, a single by Gwynn and a sacrifice fly by Vaughn closing the gap to a run.
Rivera made it interesting in the ninth before holding on for his second save, doing the job that Hoffman could not. Rivera has pitched 12 scoreless innings in nine postseason appearances this fall, recording five saves.
Twilight seemed to take its toll on the hitters. With the game starting early, neither team had a hit through three innings, the first time that had happened in the Series since 1965, when Sandy Koufax of Los Angeles and Mudcat Grant of Minnesota did it in Game 2.
Cone became the first pitcher to take a no-hit bid into the sixth since Atlanta's Tom Glavine in Game 6 of 1995. Hitchcock, a career .120 hitter, brke it up with a single.
After a walk to Veras, Gwynn singled hard to right field. O'Neill retrieved the ball but made a wild throw across the diamond that went into the Yankees dugout for a two-base error that allowed another run to score. Ken Caminiti's sacrifice fly made it 3-0.
Caminiti gave it back in the seventh, though, when his error at third base gave the Yankees a run.
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved