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World Series 2001
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10/23/2001 05:41 AM ET
Williams is big-game player, record-setter in ALCS
By Spencer Fordin
MLB.com
Bernie Williams hit three big home runs in the ALCS.
Williams' two-run homer: 56k | 300k
More Mariners-Yankees video in Daily Cuts

NEW YORK -- For most players, a crucial home run in the ALCS would qualify as a career highlight. For Bernie Williams, it's just another day with another hit.

Think that's an exaggeration? Take a look at the box scores for this year's edition of the ALCS. If you do your homework, you'll see something that has never been done before. Against Seattle, Bernie blasted a homer in three straight games, becoming the first player to ever do that in the ALCS.

"It's nice to know, but for me, it's infinitely more important that we won the game," Williams said. "We were able to come up with the championship, and we're looking forward to going to the World Series."

If Williams can keep swinging the bat the way he is right now, he may make the Fall Classic his own personal playground. In the last three days, all of his home runs came in key spots. In other words, his team needed him to step up -- and he did so in fine fashion.

In Game 3, Williams gave his team a 2-0 lead with an early homer off Jamie Moyer. The Mariners went on to win 14-3, meaning Bernie's power stroke went for naught -- but at the time he swung the bat, that shot meant everything.


"That big hit is something that doesn't surprise us. Bernie has done it for the six years I've been here."

--Yankees Manager Joe Torre

In the next game, No. 51 saved his homer heroics for a more fitting occasion. In the eighth inning, after the Yankees had been held to only one hit, Williams tied the score at one with a timely shot over the wall in right field.

The home team went on to win, and Joe Torre singled out Bernie's blast as the turning point.

"That big hit is something that doesn't surprise us," Torre said. "Bernie has done it for the six years I've been here."

He certainly has, and on Monday night he provided one more for the memories. With his team needing one win to advance to the World Series, Williams took a competitive game and turned it into a laugher.

New York was leading, 2-0, when Bernie approached the plate in the third inning. David Justice was on second base, and Aaron Sele threw two straight strikes past Williams.

After that, he worked the count full and pounced on Sele's payoff pitch. After he connected, the ball hurtled over the fence in left-center field, instantly doubling the home team's lead.

"Today was such a big home run -- two runs and four runs is a big difference," Torre said. "It looked like Sele was throwing the ball by him. To hit the ball like he did, to the opposite field, was huge for us. It really was."

"Good pitches don't leave the ballpark," Sele said. "Bernie just got good extension on a fastball down the middle of the plate. He drove it right out."

He sure did, for the 16th time of his postseason career. Need some perspective on that? Williams now sits fourth on the all-time list, behind Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Jim Thome. He moved one slot ahead of Babe Ruth, the dean of dingers.

That's just the list for postseason homers -- Williams stands by himself at the top of the RBI list -- in ALCS play at least. He has driven in 21 runs, which is just one more than Jackson's career tally. Mr. October took 45 games to reach that mark, though, while Williams has done it in only 27.

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He has also drawn more walks (21) than anyone in the history of the ALCS, proving that he isn't exactly sneaking up on anyone. Pitchers prepare for this switch-hitter, even if he makes them look like they don't.

Now, with the World Series looming on the horizon, things get even more intriguing. Williams will get a chance to test his sweet swing against two of the best pitchers in baseball -- Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

"We've had some experience against Randy from his years in the American League," Bernie said. "Curt, we faced a couple times when he was in Philadelphia. Obviously, we're going to have our work cut out for us. We have to do our homework."

Get that done, Bernie, and file it under the folder marked foregone conclusion. It may be the World Series, but for Bernie Williams it's just another day with another hit.

Spencer Fordin is the site manager of Yankees.com