NEW YORK -- You must come armed with your own adolescent to win in Yankee Stadium, a lesson the Orioles learned the hard way. The New York Yankees have Jeff Maier, a one-dimensional 12-year-old, all field and no hit. The Atlanta Braves have Andruw Jones, 19 years old, who can field -- and hit.
Jones bashed two homers in his first two at-bats in Game 1 of the World Series last night, added a single later and drove in five runs as the Braves routed the Yankees, 12-1. Atlanta right-hander John Smoltz, working with a huge early-inning lead, did not allow a hit until two outs into the fifth inning. "We ran into a buzz saw tonight," said Yankees third baseman Wade Boggs.
Going back to their final three games of the National League Championship Series against St. Louis, the Braves have won their last four postseason games by combined score of 44-2.
Willie Mays never hit a World Series homer, nor did Ted Williams or Stan Musial. But Jones already has two, and he is 19 years, 5 months and 29 days young today. Before last night, only Braves fans, rabid readers of Baseball America -- the periodical that chronicles the minor leagues -- and citizens of the tiny country called Curacao knew much about Jones.
He signed with Atlanta at age 16 in 1993, scouts already swearing that he would be a star. Jones played 63 minor-league games in 1994, hitting three homers in 238 at-bats, and was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year for his play in 1995; at age 18, he hit 25 homers and drove in 100 runs in 139 games for Single-A Macon.
He began this season at Single-A Durham, playing against the Frederick Keys, but jumped to the big leagues by Aug. 14, helping fill the void left by injured David Justice. Starting in left field last night, he became the first teen-ager to start in a World Series game since Mickey Mantle in 1951, but that achievement would be a mere aside, compared to what he would accomplish.
Jones, listed at 6 feet 1 but probably two or three inches shorter than that, came up with two outs and Braves catcher Javier Lopez on first in the second inning, and battled Andy Pettitte to a full count.
Pettitte later blamed himself for getting into that situation. "We knew he was a dead fastball hitter," Pettitte said, "and I got myself in a position where I had to throw him a fastball, two outs and a runner on first."
Pettitte meant to throw the fastball on the outside corner, but his pitch drifted across the plate. Jones whacked it, and as the ball soared off his bat, the Yankee Stadium crowd responded as a boxer when punched in the stomach: Ooooooh. Two runs down early, against the best pitcher in the game this year, John Smoltz.
Nonetheless, Pettitte felt good about the situation, felt he had good stuff. He never had a sense of foreboding after Jones' homer, as if he'd been hit by the first flakes of an avalanche. "I thought I was going on a roll," said Pettitte.
Didn't happen. Jeff Blauser singled and Marquis Grissom singled to lead off the third, and Mark Lemke advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt. New York's infield moved in, with the exception of shortstop Derek Jeter, who stayed back in his normal position -- until, with two strikes, he moved in, too.
Naturally, Chipper Jones singled through the shortstop hole -- Jeter could've at least stopped the ball if he had stayed back -- and both runs scored. The avalanche was headed down the mountain, and Pettitte was in the way.
Fred McGriff singled home a run, Lopez walked and Yankees manager Joe Torre headed to the mound, along with catcher Jim Leyritz, to make a change. Torre said something encouraging to Pettitte, that he would get another chance to beat the Braves. Leyritz said nothing.
"It's tough in that situation to think of anything to say," said Leyritz. "When he's at his best, he establishes both the inside and outside corners, and he never really did that. I don't know what happened."
Yankees right-hander Brian Boehringer relieved, not knowing he was about to become part of history. Jermaine Dye flied out, and Andruw Jones was introduced again. Yankee Stadium responded with taunts, a sure sign of respect for anyone other than Bobby Bonilla, who is merely taunted here.
Jones again battled to a full count, and Boehringer threw him a hanging slider, and again Jones took advantage, this homer landing just over the wall in left-center. Jones' face brightened as he saw the ball drop out of sight, and he rounded the bases, the first player to hit two homers in his first two World Series at-bats since Oakland catcher Gene Tenace in Game 1 of the '72 Series.
Leyritz shook his head later, recalling how the scouting report had portrayed Jones -- a mistake hitter, a guy who could hurt you if you make a mistake. "He definitely did that," Leyritz said. "We made two mistakes on him, and he hit both out of the park."
Somebody asked Chipper Jones if the rookie left fielder knew the game of baseball is supposed to be hard, in theory. "He made it look awful easy," the third baseman replied, "didn't he?"
They all did, the Braves. Jones' three-run homer gave Atlanta an 8-0 lead, McGriff homered to make it 9-0. The game's other building drama -- how long could Smoltz go without allowing a hit? -- ended when Boggs doubled home a run in the bottom of the fifth.
The game got so out of hand that Cox pulled Smoltz after six innings, after he had allowed two hits and a run. The last few innings resembled nothing like a World Series game, bench players inserted to get in a few innings, pitchers, like Atlanta Game 4 starter Denny Neagle, used for fine-tuning, hitters swinging at pitches early in the count to speed the game along.
"You definitely don't like a team to come in here and beat you 12-1," said Leyritz. "But it makes it easier to accept. It doesn't take a whole lot out of you emotionally."
Yankees second baseman Mariano Duncan said: "I'd be more disappointed if we lost 3-2."
Sure, if you're the Yankees, you wipe off the loss, forget about some rookie bopping two homers, forget about Smoltz, forget about the blowout in your home park. You go home and start thinking about Game 2.
And how you've got to beat Greg Maddux, the best pitcher of this generation.
New York Yankees
vs. Atlanta Braves
Best of seven
(Atlanta leads series 1-0)
Last night: Braves, 12-1
Tonight: Braves' Greg Maddux (15-11, 2.72) at Yankees' Jimmy Key (12-11, 4.68), 7: 30
Tomorrow: at Atlanta, 8: 15
Wednesday: at Atlanta, 8: 18
Thursday*: at Atlanta, 8: 15
Saturday*: at New York, 8: 01
Sunday*: at New York, 7: 35
*- If necessary
TV/Radio: Chs. 45, 5/ WBAL (1090 AM)
Pub Date: 10/21/96