NEW YORK -- David Justice didn't get the start on Monday, as Joe Torre opted to stack his lineup with righties against left-hander Mark Mulder. But Justice knew that if his teammates could chase Mulder from the game, he would get a chance to do something.
|David Justice has 14 career home runs in the postseason.
He did just that.
With Mulder out of the game and right-hander Tim Hudson on the mound for the Oakland A's, Torre called on Justice to pinch-hit for Randy Velarde, who started for the Yankees as the designated hitter. The Yankees were clutching to a 4-3 lead when Justice strolled to the plate.
"Once Mulder came out of the game, I figured that either Paul O'Neill or myself would get the call," Justice said. "I just didn't know who would get it."
Justice was Torre's man. He looked at ball one, then took a called strike. Hudson delivered his 1-1 pitch, one which Justice jumped on, launching it to deep right field and over the wall. The Yankees had a 5-3 lead, and were on their way to completing an improbable comeback in the best-of-five series.
"Their team had been pitching all of us in," Justice said of the A's. "In the first game, Hudson threw me a lot of fastballs in, so I had a feeling I might get one. I was just hoping he would throw it over the plate and not throw it inside. He did."
Justice entered the game 2-for-11 in the series, and Torre had elected to sit both he and O'Neill against the A's young lefties. The home run moved him into fifth place on the all-time playoff home run list with 14, and extended his own record with his 55th career postseason RBIs. Derek Jeter said that the home run may give Justice some momentum heading into the ALCS.
"It's huge," said Derek Jeter. "He swung the bat a lot better last game, but to come off the bench and get a hit like that is a big boost for your confidence."
Justice, who missed about one-third of the season with groin injuries, said that he doesn't even think about his performance in the regular season once the calendar turns to October.
"I'm thinking about how I can help us win each game we play in the playoffs," said Justice, who was the MVP of last year's ALCS against Seattle. "The bottom line is team success, not individual success -- especially in the regular season. What does that have to do with right now? Nothing."
GLORIOUS GEORGE: After watching his team pull off a feat never accomplished by any team, Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner was in his glory after the team's 5-3 win wrapped up their ALDS series against the A's.
"This team did more for New York when they really needed it than anything I could have ever imagined. (New York City mayor) Rudy (Giuliani) was just so happy, and the players should be too, for what they have done for New Yorkers."
But Steinbrenner admitted that he wasn't very confident as his team headed off to the West Coast down 0-2 to the young A's.
"I have to be honest, it was very difficult for me to believe that we could pull this off," Steinbrenner said. "Anyone that's honest will tell you the same thing. But you can never count these guys out. This Oakland team was a great team, but Joe Torre did a tremendous job. The players didn't know how to say quit."
Steinbrenner was particularly proud of Derek Jeter, who hit .444 in the series and made two of the most spectacular plays in recent memory.
"I have never seen any athlete dominate a series in football, basketball or baseball like Derek Jeter did," Steinbrenner. "He's got to be one of the greatest competitors to ever play the game, let alone for me. He's just a big-game player."
The Boss said that this comeback ranks right up with the six championships that he has seen his team capture during his tenure.
"This is one of the biggest moments, right here," Steinbrenner said. "With the emotional things going on in New York, they needed this. You don't think those people standing there singing 'New York, New York' didn't need this? They were going crazy. They needed it and we gave it to them."
SPIRIT OF NEW YORK: One of the proudest fans in attendance on Monday was New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who attended the game with his son, Andrew. After the Yankees finished off Oakland, the city's "First Fan" said that the Bronx Bombers symbolized all that New York stood for.
"I told Joe that this is terrific and unbelievably helpful to the city," Giuliani said. "I've never seen a comeback like this before."
Following the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, Giuliani said that the Yankees could bring some needed joy to the devastated city.
"The spirit of the Yankees and the spirit of New York are one and the same, it's probably been that way since Babe Ruth, but certainly since 1996. With this particular Yankee team, it's a love affair with the city of New York."
As for the team's playoff future, Giuliani said he had no doubt that the Yankees would raise the Commissioner's Trophy before all was said and done.
"I always see a world championship," the Mayor said. "I'm a Yankee fan."
Mark Feinsand is the site reporter for Yankees.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.