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Spencer Slams Door on Arizona

June 11, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Late in the game, crowd going crazy. The Arizona Diamondbacks trying to protect a lead at Yankee Stadium.

It happened again--only this time Arizona didn't need closer Byung-Hyun Kim to blow it.

Shane Spencer hit a two-out grand slam in the eighth inning Monday night and the New York Yankees rallied past Arizona, 7-5, in a rematch of last year's World Series.

"Yeah, it's weird," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "It really is weird."

Spencer homered on a full-count pitch from Bret Prinz after the Yankees chased Randy Johnson (9-2) earlier in the inning. An intentional walk set up Spencer's full-count shot that overcame a 4-3 deficit.

A crowd of 45,698 that already had seen a remarkable home run by rookie Marcus Thames--he homered on his first major league pitch, against Johnson--roared as Spencer rounded the bases.

Then again, these fans at Yankee Stadium had seen similar things.

Last year, New York won Games 4 and 5 of the World Series with dramatic homers against Kim. Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius--no longer with the Yankees--and Derek Jeter all went deep.

Add Spencer to the list.

"Unfortunately for them, it happened that way," Spencer said. "Not quite as dramatic as the World Series. The atmosphere was a little different."

Luis Gonzalez, booed for his Game 7 heroics, and Tony Womack delivered key hits as NL West-leading Arizona tried to win its fifth in a row. But the Diamondbacks remained winless at Yankee Stadium after dropping all three World Series games in the Bronx last year.

Johnson was not as dominant as he was when he defeated the Yankees three times in the Series, including a victory in relief in Game 7. But the Big Unit still struck out eight, moving past Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry for seventh on the career list with 3,535.

Johnson made his first start at Yankee Stadium in seven years and his first appearance at the park since 1996. He's 6-8 lifetime against the Yankees in the regular season, but is 5-0 against them in postseason play.

"I thought it was just another game, honestly," the Series co-most valuable player said.

In the eighth, Jason Giambi drew a one-out walk and Jorge Posada doubled. With two out, Prinz relieved Johnson and intentionally walked pinch-hitter Robin Ventura before Spencer hit his fourth career slam.

"You go with your best pitch," Prinz said. "I just didn't execute."

Mike Stanton (3-0) gave up Chris Donnels' solo homer in the ninth.

Thames, promoted from triple-A Columbus before the game, provided the early excitement with a smashing debut.

Thames became only the second player in Yankee history to homer in his first at-bat, hitting a two-run shot over the left-field wall. He became the 17th player to homer on his first pitch.

"I couldn't believe it," Thames said. "I walked to the plate and put my head down. If I'd looked at Randy, I would've been more nervous."

With bench coach Don Zimmer and other Yankees laughing in amazement, Thames came out of the dugout for a curtain call.

"Mr. Torre pushed me out," he said.

Thames got another big ovation from the fans when he trotted to his position in right field after the inning ended. After the game, teammate Alberto Castillo gave Thames a shaving-cream pie in the face.

"I didn't mind at all," Thames said.

Many players have homered in their first at-bat in the majors. St. Louis pitcher Gene Stechschulte (2001) was the last to do it, and Tampa Bay pitcher Esteban Yan (2000) was the last to accomplish the feat in the AL, both coming on the first pitch.

John Miller (1966) is the other Yankee to connect in his first at-bat.

Steve Finley's two-run double tied the score in the fourth. In the fifth, Womack led off with a double and eventually set up run-scoring singles by Junior Spivey and Gonzalez.

Last year in Game 7, Womack's run-scoring double keyed a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth against Mariano Rivera, a comeback capped by Gonzalez's bloop single.

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