ATLANTA -- For two games, the Atlanta Braves gave the New York Yankees nothing -- nothing to hit, no defensive lapses to exploit, no hope whatsoever, playing almost perfect baseball. What the Yankees needed, New York manager Joe Torre said, was some kind of a break to get started.
The Braves provided a couple of breaks for the Yankees in Game 3 of the World Series last night, and New York seized upon them and beat Atlanta and Tom Glavine, 5-2, in a must-win game. Bernie Williams drove in three runs and David Cone pitched six strong innings for the victory, the Yankees' sixth straight on the road, a postseason record.
The Braves still have the upper hand in the best-of-seven series, leading two games to one with a favorable pitching matchup tonight, Denny Neagle throwing against New York's erratic Kenny Rogers.
But at least the Yankees have hope.
Cone said of the pre-game feeling: "I think the general mind-set of the team was we had been embarrassed."
They never led the first two games of the World Series in New York. Their inability to put runners on base prompted one smart-aleck writer to note that renegade fans running onto the field reached second base more often than the Yankees.
But the Yankees jumped ahead last night. Glavine walked Tim Raines to start the game, and Torre, wanting to get something going, ordered Derek Jeter to sacrifice. A first-inning bunt, a sign of the Yankees' desperation, but it worked; Raines moved into scoring position.
Williams smashed a ground single to center, and lo and behold, the Yankees led 1-0.
They scored again in the fourth inning, capitalizing on a defensive mistake. Williams laced a liner at shortstop Jeff Blauser, who held his ground. The ball landed just in front of him, on a short-hop, but he fumbled it, and Williams was safe on the error.
Cecil Fielder walked and a flyout moved Williams to third. This was still Glavine's inning, with the left-handed-hitting Darryl Strawberry coming up.
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.
The Yankees' rally continued when, with two outs, Glavine walked Joe Girardi, pitching around him and loading the bases so he could face Cone, who hadn't batted in a regular-season or postseason game since he played with the New York Mets in '92.
Cone then slammed a hard grounder down the third base line, a ball destined for the left-field corner, a potential double and three RBIs. The Braves' Chipper Jones snared the ball with a dive to his right, however, scrambled and tagged third base.
Cone held off Atlanta through the first five innings. As the sixth inning began, the Braves were well aware that Mariano Rivera, perhaps the most effective pitcher in the American League 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, Raines trapping but not catching the ball. Lemke failed twice to bunt, popping out on his second attempt.
But Cone walked Chipper Jones to load the bases, and 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? Cone answered yes and Torre left him in to face left-handed slugger Fred McGriff.
The Braves first baseman popped out to short center, and the runners had to hold. Ryan Klesko battled Cone to three balls and two strikes and took a breaking ball over the plate -- and high, according to home plate umpire Tim Welke. Glavine walked home, and Torre and bench coach Don Zimmer screamed at the ump.
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.
Glavine departed for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh, exposing the weakest part of the Braves' juggernaut, their middle relief. Greg McMichael, bothered by elbow problems throughout September, started the eighth inning and allowed an infield single to Jeter and a two-run homer to Williams. Fielder doubled, leading to New York's final run.
Jeter opened the door with an error to open the Braves' ninth, but John Wetteland, with the help of a questionable third-strike call on Andruw Jones, held on for the save.
Pub Date: 10/23/96