The Yankees took a big step in their quest for a championship today when they closed out the Texas Rangers by a score of 6-4 to advance to the ALCS. They’ll now face the Baltimore Orioles for the pennant.
Cecil Fielder came through with the decisive hit to put the Yankees on top with two outs in the seventh, Bernie Williams clubbed two home runs and David Weathers turned in an impressive relief performance to help the Yankees come back from an early 4-0 deficit. In fact, the bullpen has been the lifeblood for the Yankees this series, as the allowed just one earned run in 19 2/3 innings.
“We like ourselves,” said Manager Joe Torre. “We respect each other as players and staff. I’ve never seen the likes of this club. They look flat and then something happens as if they were hit with a wet towel. They get shocked back into reality.”
Starter Kenny Rogers gave up two over two innings and was removed quickly by Torre, who wasn’t taking any chances. Brian Boehringer then surrendered a record-tying fifth series home run to Juan Gonzalez, and the Yankees were down 4-0 early.
Bernie Williams began the comeback in the fourth when he lead off with a single to center. He then came around to score on Fielder’s single. Mariano Duncan drove in the second run which knocked Ranger starter Bobby Witt out of the game. Derek Jeter then tapped the ball to third and hustled to first, avoiding an inning-ending double play. A run scored to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Williams came up in the fifth and sent a Roger Pavlik 3-2 pitch over the wall in right to tie the game at four. Williams hit .447 in the series and was a vital cog in the Yankees’ offense.
“I think it was the whole atmosphere, all the things you go through that seem to bring out the best in me,” he said after the game.
Weathers relieved Boehringer in the fourth and come on to escape a jam. He ended up tossing three innings of scoreless ball, turning into the Yankees’ unsung hero of the game.
The Yankees took a 5-4 lead in the seventh when Fielder singled home Tim Raines with two outs. Williams added his second homer of the game in the ninth as the Yankees tacked on an insurance run.
Mariano Rivera had already come on in the bottom of the seventh, and wound up pitching two scoreless frames. John Wetteland converted the save, but not after he put two men base. Dean Palmer struck out swining to end the game, and the Yankees celebrated on the mound.
“We were not going to quit,” Fielder said. “That’s the bottom line. For nine innings and until the final out is made. That shows the character of this ball club.”