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Yankee Staying Power Is Name of This Game

Baseball: Williams' three-run homer in eighth inning keeps inconspicuous Angels on losing end again.


NEW YORK — In Southern California, the return of the Angels to postseason play is big news. But here in New York, they are only another nameless, faceless opponent, their division series only another preliminary match on what the Yankees hope will be yet another run to a championship.

Cruel, but true.

Bernie Williams proved it Tuesday night in the interview room where he was discussing his game-winning eighth-inning home run against Angel reliever Brendan Donnelly that gave the Yankees an 8-5 victory.

Williams was asked if he was surprised Angel Manager Mike Scioscia had not brought in closer Troy Percival to face him.

"I guess Mike was just taking a chance on the fact that I haven't faced Donaldson," Williams said.


Williams, having glanced around the room and seeing all the puzzled faces, leaned over to a Yankee official and asked for the name of the man he had just added to the long list of Angel victims of a 40-year curse.

"Donnelly," he was told.

Big name or no name, Donnelly wasn't someone Williams stepped in against with any degree of confidence.

"I didn't know what to expect," Williams acknowledged. "Once I saw two pitches, I had a better idea of his velocity and that stuff he had."

Even though those two pitches were strikes.

"At that point," Williams said, "I was thinking that I had to cut down on my swing and try to put the ball in play. The one thing you don't want to do in that situation is strike out."

Instead, Williams hit a towering fly ball on a 2-2 pitch that soared into the New York sky and landed in the right-field seats.

The rest, he said, was a blur.

"Everything happened so quick," he said. "I don't remember running the bases. I remember shaking Derek [Jeter's] and [Jason] Giambi's hands. I remember the curtain call. But it hasn't sunk in yet. When I go to bed tonight, I'll probably have a great moment."

While the homer was huge for his team, it was also big for Williams on an individual level, although he wasn't about to pat himself on the back. Now finishing his 12th season with the Yankees, Williams, playing in his 84th postseason game, hit his 17th postseason home run. That puts him in elite company, tying him with Jim Thome and putting him one behind two former Yankees, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson.

At the other end of the spectrum is Giambi, who was playing his first postseason game as a Yankee, having signed as a free agent in the off-season after seven years with the Oakland Athletics.

It didn't take long for him to fit in. He got a single his first time up, a two-homer on his second at-bat and then, after grounding out, Giambi hit a vicious one-hopper off the glove of Angel first baseman Scott Spiezio to knock in the tying run in the eighth inning, setting up Williams' blast.

So what was it like finally being in New York after having been eliminated by the Yankees his last two seasons in Oakland?

"They never panic," Giambi said. "You don't ever feel the wind getting taken out of your sails on this ballclub."

After getting his big single in the eighth, Giambi turned to first base coach Lee Mazzilli and said, "Thank God I'm in this dugout, not the other one this time."

Now he's in the dugout where everybody knows his name.

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