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SUBWAY SERIES

Sojo in Right Place at Right Time

Yankees: Inserted for defensive purposes, utility infielder delivers winning hit in ninth inning.

October 27, 2000|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Talk about a charmed life.

That's what Luis Sojo leads, or so it seems when the New York Yankees perform in the October spotlight with hero roles available.

The utility infielder delivered again Thursday night, helping the Yankees complete another smashing postseason run.

Sojo's ninth-inning single broke a 2-2 tie and produced two runs after a Met error in a 4-2 Game 5 victory that clinched the Yankees' 26th World Series championship.

A defensive replacement, Sojo seized the opportunity in his only at-bat with runners on first and second and two out.

He lined a first-pitch fastball from Met starter Al Leiter--pitch No. 142--through the middle.

Jorge Posada scored from second and Scott Brosius from first when center fielder Jay Payton's throw hit Posada and bounced into the Mets' dugout, igniting a celebration in the Yankees' dugout and among their fans in a sellout crowd of 55,292 at Shea Stadium.

"I never ever get used to this," said Sojo, who replaced Jose Vizcaino at second in the eighth. "I don't know how to explain this. It's just like a dream come true."

Closer Mariano Rivera completed the Yankees' dream, nailing down his second save of the series, the club's third consecutive World Series championship and fourth in five seasons.

The Yankee stars did their part, but an understudy brought the curtain down on the Subway Series.

"Luis Sojo is one of the best clutch hitters on our team," said left fielder David Justice after embracing Sojo in a typically wild, on-field celebration.

"We knew he could come through in that situation because I don't know how many times we've seen him do that before. If you're in a tight [game], and you need a single, there's no one else on this team I'd rather have up there.

"If you're looking for a home run, then OK, Luis isn't the best guy for that job. But for what we needed tonight, what we needed at that moment, we definitely had the right guy in the right spot."

That is Sojo's knack, shortstop Derek Jeter said.

"The thing about Luis, about our team, is that we've had different people pick us up throughout [their run]," said the Yankees' marquee player. "Luis has been there a lot of times, and he's come through a lot of times."

Sojo had doubted he would again.

He played a key bench role on Yankee championship teams in 1998 and '99, but was not re-signed.

Sojo was languishing with the Pittsburgh Pirates when the Yankees reacquired him Aug. 7 after he had cleared waivers.

Because of Chuck Knoblauch's defensive problems, Sojo played more than expected down the stretch, forming a solid tandem with Vizcaino.

"I never expected to be back in this position," Sojo said. "When the Yankees got Vizcaino [in a June 21 trade with the Dodgers], I told my wife, 'That's it, I'm don't think there's a place for me there.'

"Then the Yankees called me and told me [they had reacquired me]. I couldn't believe it. Like I said, this is like a dream."

Sojo, 34, might not return next season.

Not surprisingly, Sojo focused on the present while awaiting his third World Series ring.

"In the eighth inning, we [the Yankee reserves] knew one of us was going to get a chance to do something," he said. "It didn't matter who got the chance, but I got it and I'm happy I did."

The Yankees are too.

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