10/22/2003 10:41 PM ET
Sierra may be NY's secret weapon
Veteran delivers game-tying triple in ninth inning
Sierra ties it with a triple: 56K | 300K
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
MIAMI -- It might have been difficult for some Yankees fans to remember that Ruben Sierra was on their team.
But on Wednesday night in Game 4 of the World Series, he did something unforgettable, blasting a game-tying triple with two outs in the ninth inning.
The Yankees ended up losing the game, 4-3, in 12 innings, but they were alive for that long because of Sierra, the veteran slugger who came to New York from Texas on June 6 in a seemingly innocent trade for outfielder Marcus Thames.
Sierra had been your basic end-of-the-bench afterthought.
He only played 63 regular-season games for the Yankees and was behind Karim Garcia, Juan Rivera and David Dellucci on the outfield depth chart for the playoffs.
Once October began, there were even fewer Sierra sightings, it seemed.
He had five at-bats in four playoff games before entering Game 4 against the Florida Marlins. One was a clutch pinch-hit home run in a losing cause against the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
On Wednesday, he came into an even more pressure-packed situation.
The Yankees were trailing, 3-1, there were two outs in the ninth inning and there were runners on first and second.
Sierra took Florida reliever Ugueth Urbina to a full count, fouled off two pitches, then unloaded with the biggest hit of his career to that point, a game-tying two-run triple into the right-field corner that prolonged the game for another three innings.
The Yankees lost on an Alex Gonzalez homer in the bottom of the 12th, but they might have found their secret offensive weapon for the last three games of the Fall Classic.
"I just tried to put the bat on the ball," said Sierra, a veteran of 16 big-league seasons who has 269 career homers and 1,169 RBIs.
"He's a great pitcher, so I just tried to stay back, concentrate more, and look for the right pitch."
Sierra got it and delivered, giving the dormant Yankees offense some life.
"The way things were going, we were going to lose in the ninth," Bernie Williams said. "It took a great at-bat by Ruben to get us back in the game, but we weren't able to score after that. We came back with the feeling that we still have a lot of fight in us."
Before Sierra's big hit, the Yankees had been busy missing out on opportunities to break the game open -- mostly in the second inning.
After the Marlins had scored three runs on five consecutive hits in the first inning, including a two-run home run by Miguel Cabrera, the Yankees -- and first base umpire Ed Rapuano -- put themselves in a great position to answer right back.
Williams led off with a single and moved to second when Hideki Matsui beat out a slow roller to shortstop for an infield hit. Well, almost beat out.
Televised replays indicated that first baseman Derrek Lee recorded the out just before Matsui stepped on the bag, but Rapuano ruled him safe and the inning continued.
The next batter, Jorge Posada, hit a high chopper to second base that Luis Castillo fielded, but he couldn't get Posada despite an admirable last-resort glove-shovel toss to first. That loaded the bases with nobody out.
Florida starter Carl Pavano fell behind Garcia in a 3-and-1 count, and Garcia crushed a ball deep to left field but barely foul. That proved to be the hardest-hit ball the Yankees would have in the early innings. Garcia would strike out swinging.
Aaron Boone delivered the Yankees' first run with a sacrifice fly to center, but New York pitcher Roger Clemens was next with two outs, and he hit a harmless, inning-ending grounder to first.
That was as dicey as it would get for Pavano.
In the third, Jason Giambi and Williams strung together two-out singles, but Matsui flied out to deep left to end that threat.
In the fifth, the Yankees looked to have something going when Clemens led off with a bloop single over shortstop, but Alfonso Soriano struck out and Derek Jeter hit into his second 4-6-3 double play of the game.
Pavano then pitched perfect baseball for the next three innings before departing in favor of Urbina.
"We had our chances, like bases-loaded, no outs (in the 11th)," Jeter said. "We
had a few of them, we just didn't come up with the hit when we needed it."
But Sierra did, and it was a feat Yankees hitting coach Rick Down said shouldn't be taken lightly.
"It's extremely difficult to have such infrequent plate appearances and then get hits when you're needed," Down said. "What he does is get himself a good pitch to hit. He always seems to get the bat on something.
"He doesn't panic. He knows he's up there to swing the bat."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.