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BASEBALL / ROSS NEWHAN

Brosius Posts Biggest Hits of Postseason

October 21, 1998|ROSS NEWHAN

SAN DIEGO — It silenced a Qualcomm Stadium crowd of 64,667 but came as no surprise to Derek Jeter.

"Put a guy on base and he's going to deliver," the New York Yankee shortstop said. "He's been doing it all year. I've never seen anything like it."

Jeter was talking about teammate Scott Brosius, who delivered again in Game 3 of the World Series on Tuesday night.

Delivered big time.

* A solo home run to lead off the seventh inning and put a dent in the 3-0 shutout that Sterling Hitchcock, the San Diego Padre left-hander, had working.

* A three-run homer off closer Trevor Hoffman in the eighth inning to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead and ultimately a 5-4 victory that virtually drove the Padres into the Pacific, trailing 3-0 in games and on the verge of being swept.

"This was the type of thing that as a kid you dream about, something I've done in my backyard a hundred times, but you never know if you're going to get the opportunity to do it and if you can realistically respond if you do," Brosius said.

It's a long way between the backyard and the batter's box, of course, but this is how well Brosius has been doing it:

A .395 postseason average with four home runs and 14 runs batted in for 43 at-bats.

"He's carried us," Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman said.

Of course, as Jeter said, the Yankees have been seeing it all year.

Their third baseman batted .372 with runners in scoring position while driving in 98 runs from the bottom third of the batting order with 19 home runs and a .300 average, rebounding from a shockingly bad season with the Oakland Athletics in 1997 to replace Wade Boggs and Charlie Hayes with Gold Glove-caliber defense and an overall performance, Jeter said, worthy of MVP consideration on a team of MVPs.

"Most definitely," Jeter said. "What hasn't he done?"

What Brosius did Tuesday night--he also singled and drove center fielder Steve Finley to the warning track to make a twisting catch--deprived the Padres of wresting a measure of momentum from the Yankees and provided Maury Brosius with a memorable elixir.

Brosius' dad has been battling colon cancer. He was not well enough to make the trip to New York from his Oregon home, but did fly to San Diego.

"This whole season has been a positive distraction for him," Brosius said of his dad. "It's kind of nice to have some moments like this where we can stop thinking of real life and enjoy the dream a bit."

This has definitely been a dream season after the nightmare of 1997, when Brosius, who had hit .304 with 22 homers and 71 RBIs in '96, barely topped the Mendoza line at .203 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs.

"I sometimes think it was harder to hit .200 than it is to hit .300," he said in reflection.

"It was just a year where if anything could go wrong, it did. Everything from just at times swinging the bat horribly, to other times swinging it pretty good and just being unlucky. I wasn't entirely healthy either and the whole thing kind of snowballed.

"I mean, I don't think anybody would want to go through it, it was that rough, but you never know. The game can humble you and then turn right around, and that's what happened this year. It's been a great turnaround." Brosius' stock was so down that he was the player to be named in the deal that sent pitcher Kenny Rogers to the A's.

Yankee scout Ronnie Brand convinced management that Brosius could fill the defensive void at third and recapture his offensive skills.

"Ronnie basically said to ignore '97," Cashman said in the Yankee clubhouse Tuesday night, "and he was right. I don't know that we could have expected this, but he's been everything we hoped for and more."

To the point that the Yankees hope to re-sign Brosius--who made $2.5 million this year--to a multiyear contract as a free agent, although one of their top prospects, Mike Lowell, is a third baseman.

"We told Scott in September that we want him back and not to take our non-offer to that point as a lack of interest," Cashman said.

"He understands that we'll sit down and negotiate when the season is over."

Brosius may have driven up the price when he collared the fastballs thrown by Hitchcock and Hoffman in Game 3, the first multi-homer Series game by a Yankee since Reggie Jackson hit those three against the Dodgers in Game 6 in 1977.

Of his eighth-inning game winner, Brosius cited Hoffman's renowned changeup and said, "I was just trying to stay back, see the ball and hit it up the middle." He got a 91-mph fastball and hit it about 410 feet up the middle, clearing the center-field fence and a leaping Finley. Brosius pumped his right arm as he rounded first and later said that nothing pumped his game back to '96 levels more than simply being part of a prolific lineup.

"I remember saying in spring training that I could hit .300 for this team and still bat eighth in the order," he said.

"The way it is, I feel glad to be batting anywhere in this lineup."

There were no major adjustments, batting instructor Chris Chambliss said. Brosius anchored himself defensively and then took off offensively.

He generally hits sixth, seventh or eighth, positions where he feasts on fastballs. "No one in this lineup feels he has to be the guy," Chambliss said. "The pressure is relieved from top to bottom."

Said Brosius: "Any time you go to a new team, it's like going to a new school. You never know what your class is going to be like, but I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was for me to fit in. There were no egos or any of the things you think of in New York."

There have been 124 victories, however, and with one more Scott Brosius will be getting a ring. It's a long way from that backyard. A long way from Oakland.

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