ATLANTA -- The New York Yankees could do nothing more than wait for the Braves to stop playing perfect baseball, which is what Atlanta achieved in Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. For two days in New York, the Braves performed virtually mistake-free, giving the Yankees nothing to hit, no defensive lapses to exploit, no hope whatsoever.
But the inevitable cracks finally appeared in the rock-solid Braves in Game 3 last night, and the Yankees seized upon the mistakes and beat Atlanta and Tom Glavine, 5-2.
New York center fielder Bernie Williams hit a homer and drove in three runs, and David Cone pitched six strong innings in the Yankees' sixth straight road victory in the postseason, a record.
The Braves still have the upper hand in the best-of-seven series, leading two games to one with a very favorable pitching matchup tonight, 1995 All-Star left-hander Denny Neagle throwing against New York's erratic Kenny Rogers.
But the Yankees, seemingly dead as they left New York after Game 2, have a collective pulse, a steady pulse.
"I think we were thinking small," said New York manager Joe Torre, "and I think that's what we have to do to win. I think anytime you win in a short series, the momentum is on your side."
Torre said after Game 2 he felt the Yankees needed to get a break or two to get rolling. New York never led in the first two games of the World Series, and its inability to reach base prompted one smart-aleck writer to note that renegade fans running onto the field at Yankee Stadium got to second base more often than the Yankees.
Cone said: "I think the general mind-set of the team was we had been embarrassed."
But the Yankees got several breaks last night, and their first came immediately. Home plate umpire Tim Welke, who would be berated by both teams all night for his interpretation of the strike zone, perturbed Glavine with a couple of his calls on the first hitter of the game, Tim Raines, and Raines walked.
Torre, wanting to score the first run, ordered Derek Jeter to sacrifice. A first-inning bunt, a sign of the Yankees' desperation, but it worked; Raines advanced into scoring position.
Williams smashed a ground single to center. Raines raced around third, and lo and behold, the Yankees led, 1-0. Right then, Cone said later, he began to have a good feeling about Game 3. "It was nice to get started like that," Cone said.
The Yankees' second break came in the fourth inning. Williams laced a liner at shortstop Jeff Blauser, who held his ground, and tried to field the ball on a short-hop. But Blauser fumbled, and Williams was safe on the error. Glavine got ahead in the count to Cecil Fielder, one ball and two strikes, and then tried to get him to chase a ball out of the strike zone. Fielder waited, though, fouled off two two-strike pitches, and drew a walk.
Glavine pitches like Fernando Valenzuela pitches -- it seems like he's never comfortable unless there are runners on base, never really at his best until the circumstances are at their most dire. Charlie Hayes lined a ball to right, and had it fallen in between the outfielders, two runs would've scored.
Hayes hit the ball right at Andruw Jones, however, and all Williams could do was tag up and run to third. This was still Glavine's inning, with the left-handed-hitting Darryl Strawberry coming up, a great matchup for the left-handed Glavine; Strawberry had struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat, the last a sweeping breaking ball.
But Glavine threw Strawberry a fastball over the outside corner -- probably covering more of the plate than Glavine intended -- and the strangest thing happened. Strawberry, who pulls the ball so often that the Braves positioned three infielders on the right side in New York, singled to left, and Williams scored. New York 2, Atlanta 0.
A diving grab by third baseman Chipper Jones later in the inning on a shot by Cone -- who bats left-handed in those rare instances when he's called upon to hit -- saved the Braves a few more runs.
Cone held off Atlanta through the first five innings, and as the sixth inning began, the Braves were well aware of that Mariano Rivera, perhaps the most effective pitcher in the AL this year, would certainly take over in the seventh, if not sooner. The Braves had one last shot at the tiring Cone.
Glavine, perhaps the best-hitting pitcher in baseball, drew a walk leading off, and Grissom hit a soft single to left. Mark Lemke failed twice to bunt, popping out on his second attempt, but Chipper Jones walked, filling the bases.
With left-hander Graeme Lloyd and the right-hander Rivera warming up in the bullpen, Torre went to the mound and asked Cone: Are you OK?
"I wanted him to be totally honest with me," Torre said later.
Cone: "I lied to him, and told him I wasn't losing my stuff."
Torre believed the fib and left Cone in to face left-handed slugger Fred McGriff. He threw a fastball and McGriff swung -- and popped up into short center. Braves manager Bobby Cox grumbled later about how Atlanta missed chances to beat Cone. "We got the pitches [to hit]," said Cox. "They were right there."
Ryan Klesko battled Cone to three balls and two strikes and took a breaking ball over the plate -- and high, according to Welke. Glavine walked home, and Torre and bench coach Don Zimmer screamed at the ump, incredulous at his call.
If Javy Lopez, the next hitter, had driven a ball in the gap, Torre would've been second-guessed all winter for not replacing Cone with Rivera, who would start the seventh inning anyway. Lopez popped to the catcher, though, ending the inning with the Yankees still ahead, 2-1.
"To me, that was as big a game as I've pitched," said Cone.
The Yankees' final break came after Glavine departed for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh. When Glavine left, Cox had to call on his middle relievers, the weakest part of the Braves' juggernaut.
Greg McMichael, bothered by elbow problems throughout September, started the eighth and allowed an infield single to Jeter and a two-run homer to Williams. Fielder doubled, leading to New York's final run.
And so the Braves' perfect World Series came to an end, and maybe, just maybe, a New York comeback began.
Hits and misses
On the field: Atlanta manager Bobby Cox started Andruw Jones in right field and benched Jermaine Dye for two reasons: Jones is hot, and Jones is a great outfielder. Jones made a nice play in the right-field corner in the third inning and started a double play in the fifth by making a running grab while crashing into the wall.
In the dugout: Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Torre held separate meetings with his pitchers and hitters, to go over the Braves' hitters and pitchers again, and to remind them how they had come back against the Rangers and Orioles.
In the clubhouse: Denny Neagle describes himself as a goofy left-hander. "My thing is to make a lot of goofy noises and [imitate] movie roles to keep the guys loose," he said. "That's when I felt like part of the team here, [when] I started breaking out a bit and made some noises for these guys to keep them loose."
Pub Date: 10/23/96