NEW YORK - They will not go away.
Having been beaten for eight innings by hunch plays and a grinding starting pitcher, the New York Yankees reversed a game and quite possibly a World Series last night with a pair of home runs that gave them a stirring 4-3, 10-inning Game 4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Yankees didn't just even the Series, they punctured an upstart opponent's dream.
First baseman Tino Martinez gave the Yankees a 3-3 tie with a two-out, two-run homer off Diamondbacks reliever Byung-Hyun Kim in the ninth inning. When Kim returned for the 10th, shortstop Derek Jeter halted a 1-for-16 slump with a two-out, opposite-field home run.
For eight innings, the Yankees appeared vulnerable against a manager's run of hunch plays and starting pitcher Curt Schilling's appearance on short rest. But against the Diamondbacks' 22-year-old closer, they again found the intangible that now allows them to ponder a fourth consecutive world championship.
"It was really an unbelievable game to be able to come back," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "You win a game like this when you're on the threshold of going down three to one, it's huge. It's huge for our confidence."
Jeter, anointed Mr. October by no less an authority than Reggie Jackson, ended a run of feeble plate appearances by ramming a fastball into Yankee Stadium's short right-field patio. Coming at 12:04 a.m., it was actually the first major-league home run ever hit in November as well as the first game-ending blast of Jeter's career.
"When I first hit it, I had no idea it would go out. I had never hit a walk-off home run before. It was a pretty special feeling," said Jeter, who leaped onto the plate with the winning run.
One out removed from the unenviable position of trailing the Diamondbacks three games to one, Martinez's first hit of the Series did more than return the Yankees to even footing after once trailing by two games. It reminded a determined opponent of how this team wins despite hitting .160 with only seven runs in the Series.
Jeter's home run marked the 12th time a World Series game had ended with a home run. The player's team has won 10 of those Series.
"You never quit on this," Torre said with emphasis. "When all the dust clears and you know you weren't good enough that particular week, you accept that. But until that time comes, you know there's only a few more games left in the season. And we play hard."
"We've been battling," Jeter said. "We haven't been swinging the bats the way we like. This is a huge moment because it was a big game for us. But we never lose confidence. We feel something is going to happen every time somebody steps in."
Kim had struck out all three batters he faced in the eighth inning. He sandwiched outs around Paul O'Neill's single in the ninth to bring Martinez to the plate with the Yankees' last gasp. Waiting for nothing, Martinez, who admitted to consciously trying to hit a home run, turned on Kim's opening pitch. As Yankee Stadium created a mountain of noise, the drive cleared the center-field wall as Steve Finley climbed after it in vain.
All month the Yankees have insisted they are playing with a higher calling - not just for themselves but for a battered city. Last night confirmed it.
Held to three hits while striking out 12 times through eight innings, the Yankees doubled their hit total during their ninth-inning rally.
Recognized for their cool professionalism while winning four of the past five world championships, the Yankees no longer bind their emotion. Martinez jumped from the dugout after his blast to absorb the applause of 55,863.
The Yankees now enjoy a sizable tactical advantage. Though the Series is tied, they will send Mike Mussina tonight against Miguel Batista, a journeyman right-hander until surrounded by better talent this season. Mussina has won 19 games between the regular season and playoffs.
The home runs by Martinez and Jeter erased a series of winning gambles by Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly, beginning with his decision to start Schilling on three days' rest for only the second time in his career. Schilling allowed three hits and struck out nine before being removed prior to the eighth inning in favor of Kim.
"I thought he had great stuff," Martinez said of Schilling. "He was throwing the ball hard the whole night and I thought he was just as sharp as he was in Game 1, three days' rest or not."
When Kim appeared, the Diamondbacks led 3-1. Designated hitter Erubiel Durazo's one-out, eighth-inning double against reliever Mike Stanton had broken open a tie game for the Diamondbacks. The world champions, masters of the late innings, were seemingly out. Yankee Stadium quieted, but never slept.
The left-handed-hitting Durazo gave the Diamondbacks the lead only because Brenly allowed him to face the left-hander Stanton with one out rather than go to his bench for right-handed Danny Bautista. Durazo split the night with a drive that bounced on the center-field warning track. Luis Gonzalez sprinted from first base, beating a wild relay. Durazo took third base on the throw and was replaced by pinch runner Midre Cummings. The move proved key against a drawn infield as Cummings scored on Matt Williams' two-hop grounder to shortstop.
Having surrendered only three hits in seven innings in Saturday's Game 1, Schilling struck out seven in the first five innings last night. His only "mistake" was a second-pitch fastball that Shane Spencer sliced to Yankee Stadium's cramped right field. In almost every other major-league park, Spencer's ball would have been caught or fallen in for nothing more damaging than a double. Here, the pop crawled within the opposite-field foul pole 314 feet away for a home run to break a scoreless game.
The home run represented a strong omen for the Yankees. During Spencer's career, they are 28-5 in the regular season when he homers.
But Halloween night wasn't supposed to be guided by precedent, or else Schilling would never have appeared. Aside from a game that followed a power failure and two-inning outing, Schilling had never started on fewer than four days' rest. He flaunted a trend in which starting pitchers working on three days' rest were 1-9 since the '99 postseason.
Yankees starter Orlando Hernandez, the only pitcher in major-league history to win nine of his first 10 postseason decisions, held the lead for only two hitters. Immediately following a double-play grounder, first baseman Mark Grace yanked an upper-deck home run to right field to force a 1-1 tie.
Hernandez not only battled the Diamondbacks but plate umpire Ed Rapuano as well. While Schilling worked both sides of the plate effectively, Hernandez struggled for command. His frustration boiled over during the third inning when he offered a string of profanities after Rapuano refused to give him a first-pitch strike against Williams. Rapuano stalked halfway to the mound to reprimand Hernandez as Torre hustled from the dugout and a boisterous crowd booed.
The Yankees right-hander moved from crisis to crisis, always escaping behind his exaggerated leg kick and his opponents' impatience.
Three times shortstop Tony Womack reached to lead off an inning. Three times Craig Counsell bunted him along. And three times the Diamondbacks failed to complete their one-run strategy.
New York Yankees vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
(Best of seven; *-if necessary)
(Arizona leads series 2-1)
Game 1: Arizona 9, New York 1
Game 2: Arizona 4, New York 0
Game 3: N.Y. 2, Arizona 1
Last night: N.Y. 4, Ariz. 3, 10 inn.
Tonight: at New York, 8 p.m. (Miguel Batista, 1-1, 3.95, vs. Mike Mussina, 2-1, 2.81)
Saturday: at Ariz., 7:30 p.m. (Andy Pettitte, 2-2, 2.93, vs. Randy Johnson, 3-1, 1.36)
*Sunday: at Ariz., 7:30 p.m.
TV: Chs. 45, 5