Yankees lead the way

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The Independent Online

The Atlanta Braves lost that game, and their boss Bobby Cox suffered through an interminable eighth inning when a series of his managerial decisions backfired, as the New York Yankees won the 95th World Series opener 4-1 at Turner Field in Georgia, Atlanta.

The Atlanta Braves lost that game, and their boss Bobby Cox suffered through an interminable eighth inning when a series of his managerial decisions backfired, as the New York Yankees won the 95th World Series opener 4-1 at Turner Field in Georgia, Atlanta.

New York, attempting to win their third World Series in four years and the 25th in their famous history, shut down the Braves as Cuban defector Orlando 'El Duque' Hernandez allowed just one hit - a home run by Chipper Jones - in his seven innings of starting pitching.

Despite his dominance, Atlanta, hoping to avenge their 1996 World Series defeat to New York, led 1-0 going into the eighth.

The wheels came off for Atlanta. Instead of replacing Greg Maddux at the first sign of trouble when New York slugger Scott Brosius led off with a single, Cox left his starting pitcher in the game.

The Yankees pinch hitter Darryl Strawberry followed with a walk and when Bryan Hunter failed to cleanly field Chuck Knoblauch's sacrifice bunt, New York had the bases loaded with no outs.

"I didn't think I would get to it," Hunter said. "Then I had more time than I thought I did (to make the throw). The ball just slipped out of my hand."

Cox, ironically, had inserted Hunter in the eighth because he is better defensively than starting first baseman Joe Klesko.

It was a game of inches becuase Maddux, facing Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, believed he had thrown a third strike.

But home plate umpire Randy Marsh ruled the 0-2 pitch had missed by an inch, and Jeter then singled to left field to drive in Brosius with the tying run.

"There were some extremely, extremely close pitches," Cox said. "A bunch." Cox finally replaced Maddux with relief ace John Rocker.

The Atlanta boss moved his infielders in and prayed for a ground ball so the Braves could force the runner at the plate and then throw to first for a double play.

The decision, again, backfired.

Paul O'Neill hit a ground ball into right field, driving in two runs on the play. Had he left his team playing at normal depth, O'Neill would have hit into a double play.

Rocker struck out the next two batters, but with Jim Leyritz pinch hitting, umpire Marsh again denied an Atlanta pitcher a called third strike.

The relief ace ended up walking Leyritz to give the Yankees their fourth run.

"If we win four more games, it's no big deal," Maddux said. "We've been down 0-1 before. We were down 0-1 to Houston (in the first round of the play-offs) and came back."

"You have the taste right there on the tip of your tongue and you blow it in the eighth inning," said Atlanta centre fielder Brian Jordan said.

"We made mistakes. You can't make mistakes against the Yankees and expect to win. It's sad to see with Mad Dog throwing seven strong innings."

The omens were not good before the first pitch for the National League champions who are attempting to avenge their 1996 series defeat to the Yankees.

The Braves had intended to start Tom Glavine on the mound, but he was a no-show at Turner Field suffering from stomach flu. Cox, instead, handed the ball to Maddux.

Hernandez had now won five decision in his six play-off starts over the past two seasons, and the Yankees, who swept the Padres last season in four, have won nine World Series games on the trot.

"He continues to just make you shake your head," said Yankees manager Joe Torre.

Game Two is in Atlanta tonight, with the third, fourth and (if necessary) fifth at Yankee Stadium. The final two games, if needed, will be in Atlanta.

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