Darryl Strawberry encouraged his New York Yankees teammates to "get 'em." Thanks to Shane Spencer, they did -- eventually.
Spencer hit a three-run homer and Paul O'Neill had a solo shot in the top of the sixth to put New York ahead. David Cone retired the first two batters in the bottom half of the inning before play was stopped at 10:08 p.m. ET.
The game didn't resume until 1:24 a.m. ET and ended at 2:26 a.m.
"It's a cause for celebration," Cone said of the sweep. "These don't come easily."
More than two inches of rain fell during the three-hour, 16-minute holdup, which threatened to cause the first suspended game in postseason history. Plans had been made to resume the game, if halted, on Saturday at 1:07 p.m. ET. Around 5,000 of the 49,950 fans remained and were as loud as the full house had been.
| Rusty Greer stepped into the batter's box when play was delayed in the bottom of the ixth. (AP) |
The 3-0 start to the postseason enhances New York's claim to being one of baseball's greatest teams ever. The Yankees won an AL-record 114 games in the regular season and are eight victories from a second World Series championship in three years.
New York plays the winner of the Boston-Cleveland series in the AL championship series, starting Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. The Indians beat the Red Sox 4-3 Friday to take a 2-1 lead, and Game 4 is Saturday.
The Yankees held the AL's best-hitting team to only one run and 13 hits in the entire series, but were struggling themselves until scoring all four runs off Aaron Sele in the sixth inning.
O'Neill hit a hanging curveball into the New York bullpen in left-center to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead with one out. Three batters later, Spencer added to his phenomenal story by smacking another hanging curve a few rows above the 14-foot-high fence in left.
"It hasn't settled in," Spencer said. "I'm enjoying it."
The shot gave the 26-year-old rookie nine homers and 24 RBI in his last 33 at-bats. He had a solo homer and scored another run in Game 2 after hitting three grand slams among his 10 homers in 67 regular-season at-bats.
"I hope they keep coming," he said.
The success of the newcomer replaced the production void left by Strawberry, but his absence loomed large in the clubhouse a day after learning he has colon cancer.
Players sent Strawberry a good-luck video Thursday and he responded with one of his own Friday. The Yankees watched it before batting practice and took the field in a better mood, manager Joe Torre said.
"Go get 'em tonight guys. Get 'em," Strawberry said, pointing at the camera.
Following batting practice, New York players traded in their hats for new ones that had Strawberry's No. 39 embroidered in white on the back.
"Darryl, if you're listening, we love you and hope you feel the vibes we do," Game 1 winner David Wells said during the rain delay.
Strawberry, who watched the game from his hospital bed, is scheduled to have surgery at 1 p.m. ET Saturday. The Yankees planned to fly back to New York by early Saturday afternoon.
"All of us would like to get home and see Darryl," Cone said. "We hope that all goes well with his surgery."
Cone came into the game burdened by the news about Strawberry, also his teammate with the Mets from 1987-90, and the death Wednesday of Dan Quisenberry, another former teammate.
But Cone proved he was locked in by striking out leadoff batter Tom Goodwin. He allowed only two hits, with neither runner getting past second. He struck out six and walked one.
His dominance encapsulated the theme of the series: great pitching stops great hitting.
Graeme Lloyd relieved Cone after the rain delay and retired one batter. Jeff Nelson and Mariano Rivera completed the combined three-hitter.
The Rangermay have hit an AL-best .289 for the year, but they did nothing against the staff with the league's lowest ERA.
The single run in 27 innings was easily Texas' worst of the year. The Rangers scored five runs in three games twice during the season and went 1-2 in each stretch.
"Not that I didn't expect low-scoring ballgames, but I expected more than 13 hits," Texas manager Johnny Oates. "We've had that many in one inning before."
Rusty Greer, Juan Gonzalez, Will Clark and Ivan Rodriguez -- the 3-4-5-6 hitters -- were 4-for-44. Greer, Gonzalez and Clark each had more than 100 RBI in the season but were shut out by the Yankees.
"I don't think we need to isolate on any one individual," Oates said. "We can name Rusty or Juan or Will or Pudge, but you go one-through-nine and we really never got a sustained offense. We never got anything going from anybody."
New York had some problems at the plate, too. AL batting champion Bernie Williams was 0-for-11 with four strikeouts and O'Neill's homer was the first RBI by one of the first first six hitters in the Yankees lineup. Spencer, O'Neill and Scott Brosius combined to drive in all eight New York runs in the series.
Sele, making his first postseason start, gave up eight hits, struck out four and walked one. The homers were the first he'd allowed in eight starts since giving up two to the Yankees Aug. 14.
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