Baseball: Triumphant Yankees want place in history

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The Independent Online
THE New York Yankees have reached their second World Series in three years after beating the Cleveland Indians 9-5. The Yankees, whose 114 wins in the regular season were an American League record, took the best-of-seven League Championship Series by four games to two thanks to Tuesday's win. They now await the winner in the National League, where the San Diego Padres lead the Braves three games to two as the series returns to Atlanta.

The Yankees, who defeated the Braves in the 1996 World Series, pounded out 11 hits, including a three-run homer by Scott Brosius, to beat Cleveland. "It's a great feeling, like you've done something to help out," said Brosius, who blossomed this year after a dreadful showing the season before with Oakland.

The Indians scored all five of their runs in the fifth on David Justice's bases-loaded walk and Jim Thome's grand slam, a mammoth shot half-way up the top deck in right field that cut the lead to one and gave the Indians hope.

But it was not be their night and now the 1998 New York Yankees will be aiming to prove they are one of the best teams in baseball history.

Tuesday's win earned the Yankees a record 35th AL pennant, something that seemed inevitable as early as May. "We expected it," shortstop Derek Jeter admitted. Now they will be full of confidence when they open the World Series at home on Saturday night.

"It was something we fought hard all year for," the championship series' Most Valuable Player, David Wells, said.

And the year was special practically from the start. On 17 May, Wells pitched a perfect game against Minnesota. Then, from 28 June to 20 August, New York set a major league record by leading in 48 consecutive games. Also in August, the Yanks became the first team in history to clinch a play-off spot in that month. On 4 September they won their 100th game - the earliest date ever - and later broke the AL record for wins set by Cleveland in 1954.

No such magic for the Indians, who beat the Yankees in the first round last year and came within two outs of winning its first World Series since 1948. On Tuesday night they failed to force a seventh game because they allowed five unearned runs.

Umpires were the centre of controversy again. Ted Hendry, the second- base umpire, appeared to blow a call and ruled Williams safe on a force play. But that will all be forgotten as the Yankees aim for their 24th World Series title. "Hopefully, we can wrap it up in four," said Wells.