09/30/2003 8:04 PM ET
Yanks field questions about fielding
Sixth-inning misplays contribute to Game 1 defeat
NEW YORK -- All season, Joe Torre said that the Yankees' below-average defense hadn't cost
them a single game. As a result, he wasn't overly concerned with the lack of arms in the
outfield or the inexperience of Alfonso Soriano at second base.
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
That all changed Tuesday, as New York's defense made a few crucial mistakes, helping the
Minnesota Twins take Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium.
The biggest play of the game came in the sixth inning. With Matt LeCroy on first base, Torii
Hunter lined a single to center field, as the Twins tried to increase their 1-0 lead. As Bernie
Williams went to field the ball, it took a strange hop and skipped past the center fielder, rolling
all the way to the wall.
"I thought I had a chance to get that ball, it just skipped very hard to my left," Williams said.
"By the time I was able to react, the ball was by me. I was trying to get to it as soon as I could
so I could hit the cutoff man. It was very frustrating."
LeCroy rounded third and headed for home, while Hunter ran toward third base in search of a
triple. Williams fielded the ball and threw it to Alfonso Soriano, who turned around to make a
relay throw to the plate. Once he saw that he had no chance of getting LeCroy, Soriano turned
and fired to third, where the ball soared over the head of Aaron Boone, allowing Hunter to
"I thought I was going to throw to home plate," said Soriano, who also missed a ground ball in
the third inning that was ruled a single, eventually leading to Minnesota's first run. "When I
saw the runner, I thought my only chance was at third. I just didn't make a good throw."
"When it hit the ground, it bounced to the right," Hunter said. "It hit some kind of knot in the
ground and bounced to the right. It was going right to him, then jumped to the right. I saw it
and I just hauled butt."
A 1-0 game had become a 3-0 game, and the Twins' bullpen made sure that the three runs
would be enough to take the opener of the best-of-five series.
"You have to make the plays when you play in postseason because they are magnified," Torre
said. "We know what we're doing. We just didn't do a good job of it on that play."
Although Williams' misplay of Hunter's ball was ruled a triple by the official scorer -- mostly
because Williams never actually touched the ball before it got by him -- it could have just as
easily been called an error.
"Defensive mistakes are part of this game, you just try to minimize them," Williams said. "We
try to do the best we can. Plays like that happen. We have to try to erase them and move on."
As costly as that play was, Williams and the Yankees weren't out of the game as a result of it.
Going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position certainly didn't help their cause, nor did
Shannon Stewart's spectacular grab at the left-field wall of Hideki Matsui's hard-hit ball in the
"It was still early in the game, so I thought we had an opportunity to come back. We just
couldn't score any runs on them," Williams said. "We hit the ball hard a couple of times, they
just came up with some great plays. Shannon made a great play in the ninth."
"Shannon's play was the biggest of the game," said Aaron Boone. "The play we didn't make in
the sixth, they may have scored anyway. We didn't have an out, but they did. I don't think
those plays doomed us, but Shannon's play saved them."
Soriano, who was charged with the only error of the game on his wild throw to Boone in the
sixth, didn't think Hunter's triple and the events that followed were the reasons that the
Yankees now find themselves in an 0-1 hole.
"They pitched very well today. They didn't make any mistakes," Soriano said. "We were
1-for-10 with men in scoring position. That's where we lost the game. We had chances, we just
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.