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Yanks field questions about fielding
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09/30/2003  8:04 PM ET 
Yanks field questions about fielding
Sixth-inning misplays contribute to Game 1 defeat
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Torii Hunter's sixth-inning base hit gets by Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams in the sixth inning, resulting in an RBI triple. (Kathy Willens/AP)
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.

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.

    Bernie Williams   /   CF
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 205
Bats/Throws: S/R

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"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 score.

  Alfonso Soriano   /   2B
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 180
Bats/Throws: R/R

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"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 ninth inning.

"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."

    Aaron Boone   /   3B
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 200
Bats/Throws: R/R

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"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 couldn't hit."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.




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