The Yankees came to town distracted, in disarray and near disaster. They're heading home in control and in reach of their next goal - a trip to the World Series.
David Wells pitched well enough to win, Chili Davis drove in three runs and Mariano Rivera got out of a hairy eighth inning Sunday as the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians 5-3 to take a 3-2 lead in the AL championship series.New York saved its record-setting season with two wins this weekend at Jacobs Field, where its season ended last year. Now, the Yankees are one victory away from the season's final destination and the only place their fans will allow their magical year to finish.
"I'm very proud of this team," New York manager Joe Torre said. "Every time they've been faced with a challenge they've responded."
And for all his griping about the urgency to flee the Bronx and build a new ballpark, even New York owner George Steinbrenner will be happy to see the old neighborhood again.
Now the Indians, whose lineup looked more like the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons than the defending AL champs, face the awesome task of trying to win twice in Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees, who won 62 home games during the regularseason, will start David Cone on Tuesday in Game 6 against Charles Nagy.
"We've got to win two," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. "It's going to be tough. As I've said a thousand times before, you don't win 114 games by being lucky. These guys are good."
Rivera, who gave up the eighth-inning homer to Sandy Alomar here last year in Game 4 that swung the series to Cleveland, this time got his team to the ninth.
After Wells was pulled with one out in the eighth and New York leading 5-3, Jeff Nelson came on and hit Travis Fryman. Manny Ramirez singled and Torre summoned Rivera, who was also brought in with one out in the eighth last year before yielding Alomar's homer.
This time was different, though. Rivera got Mark Whiten to hit into an inning-ending double play that brought the Yankees charging out of the dugout.
With the Yankees trailing in the series Saturday, Wells, who easily handled the Indians in Game 1, asked New York manager if he could pitch Game 4. An amused Torre said no, and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez took care of the Indians Saturday.Wells, who entered the game 6-1 in the postseason in his career and 3-0 vs. Cleveland, figured to be a lot for the Indians to handle. And their task got tougher when Alomar and David Justice were scratched from the lineup because of injuries and Indians manager Mike Hargrove was forced start three rookies.
Wells struggled early, allowing two runs in the first. But once the left-hander settled in, he gave up just Jim Thome's homer in the sixth and finished with a personal postseason record 11 strikeouts.
"He fought it, he battled," Torre said. "I'm even more proud of him than the shutouts or even the perfect game for that matter because of when he did it."
Wells said he was bothered by some fans who taunted him while he warmed up in the bullpen before the game. Later, he said some of them made references to his late mother.
"To all those idiots out there," he said afterward. "This one's for you."
Hargrove elected to start Chad Ogea, who won two World Series games for the Indians last year, over Jaret Wright. Wright had been rocked by Boston in his first playoff start and again in Game 1 at New York.
But Ogea didn't fare much better, failing to get out of the second inning after giving up four runs and four hits in 1 1-3 innings with three walks and two hit batters. Wright came in and allowed one run and two hits in six innings but walked seven.
There was a whole ballgame crammed into a 40-minute first inning. The Yankees spent 22 minutes scoring three runs against Ogea on two hit batters, two grounders off Cleveland infielder's gloves and an RBI groundout.
With Chuck Knoblauch at first and one out, Ogea got Paul O'Neill to hit a bouncer toward the middle. Ogea instinctively reached for the ball and deflected it into left field past shortstop Omar Vizquel, who was covering as Knoblauch broke on the pitch.
Had Ogea not touched it, Vizquel would have likely turned a double play and the Indians would have been out of the inning. Instead, after Bernie Williams walked, Davis hit a bouncer that tipped off first baseman Richie Sexson's glove and into right for a two-run single.
"Those are the breaks of the game," Hargrove said. "Those things happen. ... But that's as gut-wrenching as anything because that was a fairly routine ball."
After Ogea hit Tino Martinez, Tim Raines brought in New York's third run with a groundout and the Indians' first-inning playoff troubles continued. They've now been outscored 15-3 in the first this postseason.
Wells cooled off after his pregame warmup watching his teammates, and the Indians scored two runs in the bottom of the inning. Kenny Lofton led off with a homer just inside the pole in right and after two singles, two steals and a wild pitch, Ramirez's sacrifice fly brought Cleveland within 3-2.
The Yankees came back with a run in the second to chase Ogea on O'Neill's RBI single, and Davis' two-out homer in the fourth made it 5-3.