Subway Series taking southern detour


NEW YORK -- A Subway World Series? If it's going to happen this year, the New York City Transit Authority had better start digging a new subway line to Atlanta.

The Yankees are on their way to holding up their end of the deal after coming from behind to beat the Red Sox in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series last night, but the Mets are in big trouble after losing the first two games of the NL Championship Series to the Braves.

Things can change in a hurry, of course, as the Red Sox proved with their remarkable Division Series comeback against the Indians. But the apocalyptic ending so fitting for the last season of the century -- the five boroughs of New York going up in flames with two local teams playing for a World Series title -- clearly is in jeopardy.

The merchants are praying for it, the tabloids are all but begging for it and the fans don't quite know what to think, other than it would be nuts even by New York's standards.

"I'm not sure the city could handle it," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said.

The rest of the country would rather watch a tape of abdominal surgery, of course. You can understand why. A Yankees-Mets "Wuld Seeries" would reinforce every New Yorker's general world view, which, without getting too specific, is that their town has all the good restaurants and everywhere else just got running water and phone service. Seven games of that might be tough to take.

On the other hand, it would be fun to watch Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton's head spin around as she pretended to "root" for her "hometown" teams. And hey, there'd be a guarantee that at least half of the city would bawl uncontrollably after the last out. That's something.

But while this is one of those terrific issues that doesn't allow for a middle ground, like cheering for John McEnroe or the Dallas Cowboys -- either you're for the Subway Series, or you'd rather have teeth pulled -- there's no use debating it now.

After watching Bobby Bonilla make a miserable last out for the Mets in Game 2 yesterday, striking out without lifting his bat off his shoulders, no one is suggesting that we're watching the second coming of 1969 for the Mets.

The Braves aren't blowing it for a change, and as Mets manager Bobby Valentine recently told Sports Illustrated, a lot of his players aren't too bright, anyway.

Not that anyone at Yankee Stadium seemed to care or even notice early yesterday evening as the Mets took a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning and squandered it in Atlanta. It was an electric moment for New York, with one team playing in a league championship game as another was getting ready for one, but as usual, there was only one New York team in the Bronx.

The final innings of the Mets game took place as the Yankees and Red Sox were taking batting practice, but there was no mention of it at Yankee Stadium aside from a small running tally on one scoreboard. The game wasn't piped onto the stadium scoreboard, as often happens in other parks. The public-address announcer gave no updates to early-arriving fans.

The fans didn't even seem to be paying attention, in fact, even though it was a team representing their hometown playing for a berth in the World Series. There were no cheers or boos when the Braves rallied to take the lead, and there were no cheers or boos when Bonilla struck out.

Mets game? What Mets game?

Had the Yankees gone on to lose, too, it would have made for a miserable day in the city.But while the Yankees avoided a loss, they didn't have the cakewalk many fans had expected.

The Red Sox scored two runs in the first inning and another in the second off Orlando Hernandez, the Yankees' hottest pitcher. Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra protected the lead with spectacular leaping catches to end the first and third innings, possibly saving four runs in the process.

But the Yankees' Scott Brosius hit a two-run homer cut the lead to one run, and the Yankees tied it in the seventh before the game went into extra innings as intermittent rain showers muddied the field and slowed play.

Bernie Williams finally won it with a home run off Boston's Rod Beck in the bottom of the 10th, reinforcing every Yankees fan's feeling of invincibility.

"Bernie does big things," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

The Red Sox had made a statement -- whatever happened against the Indians wasn't a fluke -- but the Yankees still had won, as they always seem to do. And to make matters worse, Williams admitted after the game that he'd come "very close" to signing with the Red Sox last winter.

Just what Sox fans need, more angst.

With the Yankees' comeback from a 3-0 deficit, the New York City Transit Authority doesn't need to worry about adding a line to Boston, too, if it's going to hold that Subway Series this year.

But Atlanta? You bet.

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