IIATMS Top Moment #4: "Back, at the track, at the wall, we are tied!"

96WSring Date: October 23, 1996 Place: Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia Event: Game 4 of the World Series

Up to this point: The defending champion Atlanta Braves had beaten the Yankees handily in the first two games of the World Series in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees recovered nicely and picked up a Game Three victory In Atlanta thanks to the pitching heroics of starter David Cone and the hitting heroics of Bernie Williams. So going into Game Four down 2-1 in the series, the Yankees looked to starter Kenny Rogers to bring them back into the series.

That didn't exactly happen.

In fact, the Yankees found themselves down 5-0 after the end of the third inning and down 6-0 after the end of the fifth inning.

The top of the sixth started with a Derek Jeter single off starter Denny Neagle. The play came with some controversy which was routine for Jeter at this point. Earlier in the at bat Jeter lifted a ball, a pop foul near first base, that right fielder Jermaine Dye had the best chance of getting but umpire Tim Welke had his back to Dye, didn't move out of the way until the last second and caused Dye to miss the pop up. Neagle then walked Bernie Williams and gave up back to back singles to Cecil Fielder and Charlie Hayes. Jeter and Williams scored on Fielder's knock and Fielder scored on Hayes's single after reaching second on an error on his own single. I know, stick with me.

Now, this being a typical game played in a National League park meant that there were a ton of substitutions, pinch hitters, etc. None bigger than Jim Leyritz coming into the game after Paul O'Neill pinch hit for starting catcher Joe Girardi later in the sixth. O'Neill struck out and the Yankees didn't score again until the magical eighth inning.

Reliever Mark Wohlers came in to pitch for the Braves in the eighth inning and gave up a single on the first pitch to Hayes. Darryl Strawberry followed that up with his own single and the Yankees were set up to have a big inning. Then Mariano Duncan nearly ruined it by almost hitting into a double play but luckily the Braves only got the force at second which advanced Hayes to third and meant that Duncan was safe at first.

Leyritz stepped into the box and fought off a few of Wohlers's pitches. On the fifth pitch of the at bat, Leyritz just barely got his bat on a ball and fouled it off. It could have been strike three if he had swung through it but he didn't. The next pitch Wohlers threw was an 86 m.p.h. breaking ball that made Leyritz's eyes the size of saucers and this happened:

The game was tied and Atlanta, the team and city, were stunned. The hapless Yankees who had lost two games at home by a combined score of 16-1 were not the same Yankees these fans were watching in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. There was no quit in this team.

After a scoreless ninth inning, the game moved into extra innings where it looked like the Yankees were going to go down quietly in the 10th inning after two groundouts. The third batter of the inning, Tim Raines, worked a walk and Derek Jeter followed with another single. Reliever Steve Averywho had replaced Mark Wohlers earlier in the game, intentionally walked Bernie Williams to load the bases. Andy Fox was next in the order but Joe Torre put Wade Boggs in to pinch hit. Avery ended up walking Boggs to put the Yankees up 7-6. Bobby Cox replaced Avery on the mound with Brad Clontz and replaced Fred McGriff at first base with Ryan Klesko which proved to be a mistake as Hayes hit a pop fly between first and second that Klesko lost in the lights which caused everyone to be safe and Jeter to score.

The Yankees would win the game 8-6 and ultimately win the series in six games. The comeback from being down 6-0 was the second biggest comeback in World Series history.