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TWIN-YANKEE REPORT

Stewart's Catch Saves Twins' Day

October 01, 2003|From Times Wire Services

NEW YORK — Shannon Stewart fought off the fans, pulled down the ball and perhaps preserved the win for the Minnesota Twins.

No Jeffrey Maier to save the New York Yankees this time.

Stewart's leaping grab of Hideki Matsui's ninth-inning drive helped the Twins hold off New York, 3-1, in Tuesday's American League playoff opener.

"Who knows what would have happened at that point?" Yankee Manager Joe Torre said.

Bernie Williams had led off the inning with a single off Eddie Guardado, and Matsui probably would have had a double if Stewart had failed to make the catch and the ball had bounced off the upper part of the wall.

Stewart, acquired from Toronto during the All-Star break, had to fight off the sun in the first early-afternoon postseason game at Yankee Stadium since 1981.

"I just went back on the ball," Stewart said. "It was a tough sun out there. I picked it up at the last minute."

Stewart hit the wall and fell to the field. It wasn't immediately clear whether he held on to the ball.

"I saw it go in his glove," Guardado said. "I was watching closely, believe me. Then I saw him hit the wall, and I was hoping he held it."

As Stewart went back, several fans reached out. It was reminiscent of the 1996 AL championship series opener, when Maier, a 12-year-old fan, leaned over the wall, reached above Baltimore right fielder Tony Tarasco and caught a fly ball in the eighth inning. Derek Jeter was given a tying home run on the play, and New York went on to win on Williams' home run in the 11th.

"The only thing I was worried about was that with the fans reaching out, he might get poked in the eye," Minnesota right fielder Jacque Jones said.

Aaron Boone followed with a double and Alfonso Soriano hit an RBI infield single with two outs before Guardado retired Nick Johnson on a game-ending groundout.

"If Matsui's ball drops in, then maybe it's a different game," the Yankees' Jorge Posada said.

*

Yankee center fielder Bernie Williams drew boos from Yankee Stadium fans after he slipped while rounding first base, couldn't throw out a runner at home on a sacrifice fly and misplayed a hit by Minnesota's Torii Hunter's that went for a triple.

"I saw the first bounce," said Williams, 35, who sat out 42 games after knee surgery in May. "Then it skipped past me. It went by too fast. By the time I reacted, it was gone."

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