Subway Series taking southern detour


NEW YORK -- A Subway World Series? If it's going to happen this year, the New York Transit Authority had better start digging a new 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 American League Championship Series last night, but the Mets are in big trouble after losing the first two games of the National League 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.

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

Most of the rest of the country would rather watch a tape of abdominal surgery, of course, and 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 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 for 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 this year, and as Mets manager Bobby Valentine recently told Sports Illustrated, a lot of his players aren't too bright, anyway.

Not that anyone in Yankee Stadium seemed to care or even notice as the Mets took a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning and squandered it early yesterday evening 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, as a matter of 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 to end the game.

Mets game? What Mets game?

The fans were expecting the Yankees to cruise, of course, but the Red Sox made it clear last night that things wouldn't be nearly that neat and tidy.

The Yankees had won eight of their past nine postseason games at Yankee Stadium, and the Red Sox were starting Kent Mercker, of all people, after blowing out their pitching staff against Cleveland, so a Yankees victory seemed almost inevitable. But 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 then protected the lead with spectacular leaping catches to end the second and fourth innings, possibly saving four runs in the process.

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 in the bottom of the 10th, reinforcing every Yankees fan's feeling of invincibility. The Red Sox had made their statement -- whatever happened against the Indians wasn't a fluke -- but the Yankees still had won, as they always seem to do.

The New York Transit Authority doesn't need to add a line to Boston, too, if it's going to hold a Subway Series this year.

But Atlanta? You bet.

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