Soriano's game-winning hit:
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|Yanks' Alfonso Soriano hits a game-winning single in the 12th inning of Game 5.
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NEW YORK -- Alfonso Soriano sure hasn't played like a rookie this postseason.
Soriano made the two biggest plays in the extra innings of Game 5, helping the Yankees take a 3-2 decision, giving New York a 3-2 lead in the World Series as the teams head to Phoenix for Saturday's Game 6.
With one out in the 11th inning and runners at second and third, Joe Torre opted to intentionally walk Steve Finley to load the bases for Reggie Sanders. The hope was that Mariano Rivera could induce a double-play ball to end the inning. Instead, Sanders hit a line drive to the right of second base. Soriano made a diving catch, stranding all three runners on their respective bases. Rivera got Mark Grace to ground out to third, ending the threat.
"Once I saw the contact, I knew it wasn't hit very well," Soriano said. "I tried to get it without diving, I tried to run under it but I couldn't, so I had to dive at the last second. Thankfully I got it."
"It's a huge play," said shortstop Derek Jeter, who has made some huge plays of his own this postseason. "I don't think he hit it that well, but not too many people hit balls well off Mariano. Soriano made a huge play to not only catch it but to keep it in the infield."
But Soriano was just getting started.
Chuck Knoblauch singled off Albie Lopez to open the 12th inning, moving to second on Scott Brosius' sacrifice bunt. Soriano stepped to the plate with the chance to be a hero, just as he had been in Game 4 of the ALCS when he hit the game-winning home run off Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki.
"Being on a team like this, we have a lot of veterans and they have never turned their back on me," Soriano said. "They've helped me out all season, which gives me confidence to play relaxed."
Soriano took two balls, then fouled off the third pitch he saw from Lopez. He reached out on the fourth pitch and pushed the ball to right field, scoring Knoblauch from second base for the game-winning run. He had come through in the clutch once again.
"I was waiting to see if they were going to send him," said Soriano. "Once they did, I was just watching to see if he scored safely. When he did, I jumped up and down, I was so happy."
"The one thing about Soriano," said Manager Joe Torre. "For a kid with the limited experience, he knows situations and he is really, really good at hitting according to situations."
"You win with defense," Jeter said. "Both teams played great defense, Soriano made a huge defensive play. He's got a lot of confidence, came up in a huge situation and came through with a clutch hit."
Mike Stanton said that earlier in the season, pitchers were able to fool Soriano into chasing off-speed pitches. Now, the 23-year-old from the Dominican Republic is making opposing pitchers pay with a new-found patience at the plate.
"He doesn't play like a rookie, especially in the postseason," Stanton said. "He's probably matured three or four years this season. He's one of our mainstays now, and you can't overlook him at all. They used to just throw him breaking balls, but now he hits them too. He's a superstar in the making."
Knoblauch, the Yankees' former second baseman, said that the game-saving play Soriano made in the top of the inning was just one example of how much talent the kid has.
"He hasn't seemed like a rookie ever since I met him a few years ago," Knoblauch said. "He's obviously a phenomenal athlete and a great talent. He's learning the game every day. He's not playing like a rookie. I know he's probably enjoying it."
He certainly is. When asked about his growing resume, he said that this moment ranked right at the top of the list.
"Seattle was a very big moment, but that was the playoffs and this is the World Series. This is a very big moment in my career," Soriano said. "I was thinking about my family and about my team. It gave us a huge victory, it's very special, but we need to win one more game. Then, it will be a very special time."
"I didn't expect what happened last night and tonight, but I did expect to win a World Series," added the rookie. "What is happening now with this team is something I will remember forever."
Mark Feinsand is the site reporter for Yankees.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.