Yanks Take Wild Game 1


Botched-Play Boys, all is forgiven.

Tino Martinez

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  • hit a grand slam and Chuck Knoblauch hit a three-run homer in a seven-run seventh Saturday night that rescued the New York Yankees, giving them a 9-6 victory over the San Diego Padres in Game 1 of the World Series.

    Knoblauch and Martinez, infamous for the blown bunt that cost them Game 2 of the AL championship series against Cleveland, surely atoned for it this time.

    "I don't know about demons or redemption, but it was definitely a fun night," Knoblauch said.

    Two home runs by Greg Vaughn and a two-run shot by Tony Gwynn sent San Diego ahead 5-2. But with the underdog Padres heading toward a startling win and the sellout crowd of 56,712 sitting quietly, the Yankees rallied.

    What was supposed to be a pitching duel between aces Kevin Brown and David Wells instead turned into a game of home-run derby. And it was Martinez and Knoblauch, both slumping below .200 in this postseason, who won it.

    "I tried to tell myself take it day by day," Martinez said. "I knew one day I'd eventually get a big hit to break out to help the team win."

    Game 2 will be Sunday night, with Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez starting for the Yankees against Andy Ashby.

    "I don't think it's a wasted opportunity. Sure, you hate to lose a 5-2 lead," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "But that's a good ballclub over there."

    Brown took a three-run lead into the seventh and looked in control when he retired leadoff man Scott Brosius on an easy grounder.

    Then the Yankees broke loose, as they did all season in setting an AL record with 114 wins. Jorge Posada singld and rookie Ricky Ledee, who hit a two-run double and a single in his first two at-bats, drew a walk.

    Bochy decided Brown was done. A few batters later, the Padres were done, too.

    Donne Wall relieved and Knoblauch lofted the third pitch high into the left-field stands for a home run that made it 5-all. Derek Jeter followed with a single, and it was Mark Langston's turn to relieve.

    But this was not the kind of outing Langston was hoping for in his first Series appearance in a 15-year career. After getting the second out, Langston threw a wild pitch and then intentionally walked Bernie Williams.

    Chili Davis also walked to load the bases, and up stepped Martinez. An All-Star who has had a history of postseason failure, he made up for it in a big way.

    Martinez took a close 2-2 pitch for a ball, then hit a grand slam into the upper deck in right. The fans who had blamed him and Knoblauch for the bone-headed play 10 days ago rewarded Martinez with a long, loud standing ovation that he acknowledged with a curtain call.

    "Basically, from my standpoint, the play in the ALCS, I tried to put that to bed when I stepped on the field in Cleveland for Game 3," Knoblauch said. "I tried to move beyond it."

    Martinez hit the 17th slam in Series history, and the first since Lonnie Smith did it for Atlanta in 1992. It was the Yankees' first Series slam since Joe Pepitone connected in 1964.

    Tino Martinez
    Tino Martinez's grand slam put the Padres away and capped a seven-run seventh-inning rally. (AP)

    Down 9-5, the Padres tried to come back in the eighth. Gwynn led off with his third hit of the night and, with two outs, Knoblauch made an error on Wally Joyner's grounder to second and a run scored.

    Steve Finley represented the potential tying run, but Mariano Rivera got him on an easy grounder to end the inning and the Padres' last chance.

    Rivera finished up for a save and Wells wound up with the victory. The ALCS MVP improved to 4-0 in this postseason and 8-1 overall, winning despite a shaky outing.

    Wall got the loss. Brown, who had an 0.38 ERA in three postseason starts this year, entered the game with a 12-3 career record against the Yankees, the best mark in history vs. New York by a pitcher with at least 10 wins.

    Brown was hit in the left shin by Davis' ball in the second, yet stayed in the game.

    "He took a good shot. He wouldn't say much about it, but it caught him pretty good," Bochy said.

    The win was the 114th in Series history for the Yankees, trying to win their record 24th championship. San Diego's only previous Series appearance came in 1984, when it lost in five games to Detroit.

    Vaughn, the 50-homer man who missed most of the Nchampionship series because of a strained left quadriceps, hit a two-run shot in the third inning that tied it at 2. It stayed that way until the Padres' three-run fifth.

    Quilvio Veras singled with two outs and Gwynn followed with a first-pitch line drive that banged off the facade of the upper deck in right. The homer was a good sign for Gwynn - the eight-time NL batting champion had been hitting only .220 in this postseason.

    Vaughn was next and the slugger, nearly traded to New York last year, sent Wells' pitch high and deep to left field for a 5-2 lead. It marked the 40th multihomer game in Series history and the first since Atlanta's Andruw Jones did it in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium in 1996.

    Gwynn and Vaughn connected for the 12th set of back-to-back homers in the Series, with Moises Alou and Charles Johnson doing it last year for Florida.

    Ledee, not even on the Yankees' postseason roster when the AL playoffs began, hit a two-out, two-run double that landed on the right-field line in the second. Earlier in the inning, Davis singled off Brown's left shin.

    The 24-year-old Ledee sat out the Yankees' first-round victory over Texas and was added to the roster when Darryl Strawberry was sidelined by colon cancer.

    Notes

  • The Padres and Yankees had played only once before, a rain-shortened tie in spring training last March.
  • Padres DH Jim Leyritz , a Series hero for New York in 1996, got a nice ovation in pregame introductions and tipped his cap.
  • Sign of Big Games Dept.: A notice posted outside the players' and preferred parking lot next to Yankee Stadium -- "No Stretch Limousines."
  • Strawberry watched the game from his home.
  • The 15 runs were the most in a Game 1 in 20 years, since the Dodgers beat the Yankees 11-5 in 1978.

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