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Sierra saves the day for Yanks10/10/2004 1:42 AM ET
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ruben Sierra did not collect his first hit of this ALDS until the fourth inning Saturday. Besides a home run that was ruled fair and then foul in Game 1, Sierra was almost non-existent in this series.
So when he stepped to the plate with two runners on base and one out in the eighth inning, the 52,498 at the Metrodome breathed a sigh of relief. Sierra was not nearly as dangerous as Derek Jeter or A-Rod or Gary Sheffield -- or even Jorge Posada for that matter.
Yet, Minnesota right-hander Juan Rincon was playing a risky game. He was throwing breaking balls in virtually the same spot, hoping to get Sierra to pop up and not advance the runners. But his 2-2 pitch was about three inches closer to the plate than his previous four and Sierra crushed it over the right-center-field wall for a three-run homer to tie the game at 5.
The shot silenced a Metrodome crowd that was ready to celebrate the win and prepare for a pivotal Game 5 on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. And they were practically sulking the rest of the evening, resigned to the fact that Yankees would eventually rally with Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera on the mound.
And that's exactly what happened when Alex Rodriguez scored the winning run on a double, stolen base and wild pitch.
But it was the ageless Sierra who saved the day.
"Yeah I knew it was gone," he said. "I was trying to make contact, get something close to the plate. I was hoping he would throw something close. No sense of quitting with this team. They are always coming back like that in any kind of ways."
Sierra is a streaky hitter who still has awesome power. But with that power comes a large strike zone and some wild swings. That was the case in the first three games.
"I know he worked hard today in the batting cage," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "The first couple of games he seemed to get outside of himself and was really too long with his swing. He had an idea (today). He stayed right with the (pitch) and didn't try to hit it too hard."
Sierra was a Yankee before, for part of the 1995 and '96 seasons before getting into a dispute with Torre and being abruptly traded to the Detroit Tigers for Cecil Fielder. Sierra has since apologized for complaining about Torre and he was given the ultimate compliment last week when he was allowed to manage the season finale against Toronto.
Torre said Sierra is a different man than the one who was shipped out eight years ago.
"He was a guy who left in '96 and was like 'good riddance' as far as I was concerned," Torre said. "When he came back last year, he has been nothing but not only a good pinch-hitter but a good player off the bench."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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