Yankees ‘Marching Through Georgia,’ baseball-style
Who would have thought Joe Torre was such a prophet back in 1996? The Yankees lost the first two games of the World Series to the Braves at Yankee Stadium, but the ever-cool Torre promised Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner he would bring the Series back to the Bronx by winning the three games at Atlanta.
“That is my town,” said Torre, who both played and managed for the Braves and lived in Atlanta for more than a decade. “We’ll win the games there and wrap up the Series in Game 6 here.”
Lord knows what Steinbrenner made of such a boast other than to respond, “You better!”
Thanks to the pitching of David Cone and Andy Pettitte, the hitting of Bernie Williams and Jim Leyritz and the fielding of sore-legged Paul O’Neill, the Yanks did precisely that by sweeping the Bravos in their own yard and capping off the Series with a victory at home over Hall of Fame-bound Greg Maddux in Game 6.
And the Yankees have not stopped winning in Atlanta ever since, including this weekend by completing a three-game sweep with a 20-6 battering of the Braves.
Chase Headley and Stephen Drew each homered and drove in four runs. Drew reached base in all six of his plate appearances with three singles and two walks to go with his 16th dinger that got his season batting average over .200 (.201).
Jacoby Ellsbury started the parade against Braves starter Julio Teheran with a three-run home run in the second inning after two were out. The Yankees made it 7-0 in the third with four more two-out runs on two-run home runs by Headley and Drew.
Nathan Eovaldi, who has benefit from abundant run support all season, was fine through five innings but gave up three straight hits at the start of the sixth. All three runners eventually scored as the Braves cut the deficit to 8-5.
The Yankees pulled away with a vengeance in a 27-minute top of the seventh as they sent 14 batters to the plate and scored nine runs. A bases-loaded single by Alex Rodriguez pinch hitting got the first two runs in, and the line just kept moving on RBI hits by Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Greg Bird, Headley and Drew.
Three more runners crossed the plate in the eighth, one on a double by Branden Pinder, the first extra-base hit by a Yankees pitcher in six years. The Yankees finished with 21 hits with each spot in the batting order getting at least one hit and one run. At the top of the order Ellsbury and Gardner batted seven times apiece in a nine-inning game.
All those runs helped push Eovaldi’s record to 14-2, the best winning percentage (.875) for a starting pitcher this season. The righthander extended his unbeaten streak to 13 starts over which he is 9-0 with a 3.32 ERA in 78 2/3 innings.
McCann had a splendid homecoming to his former stomping grounds in batting .300 with one double, one home run and six RBI in 10 at-bats in the series. He walked five times and scored five runs. Didi Gregorius also had a big series by going 7-for-12 (.533) with a double, a homer and seven RBI.
So after dropping two of three games to Houston at Yankee Stadium in which they batted .165 with two extra-base hits and four runs (1.3 per game), the Yankees bashed away at a .365 clip with 19 extra-base hits and 38 runs (12.7 per game) against the Braves.
That is what playing in Atlanta can do for them.
The Yankees’ .857 all-time winning percentage at Turner Field based on a 12-2 record is their highest at any ballpark in club history (minimum two games played). They have an eight-game winning streak dating back to June 24, 2009 at the Ted, which is in its 19th and final season as the home of the Braves, who will move to the suburbs next year. The only longer winning streak by an opponent is a nine-gamer by the Phillies from June 6 to Sept. 18, 2008.
The Yankees have won all five road series at Turner Field (3-0 this year, 3-0 in 2012, 2-1 in 2009, 2-1 in 2000 and 2-0 in 1998). They scored at least six runs in nine of their 14 games at the Ted.
Including postseason play, the Yankees’ all-time record in Atlanta is 17-2 (.895), featuring a perfect 5-0 in World Series play. In addition to those victories Torre promised the Boss in 1996 in the last three games played at old Fulton County Stadium, the Yanks won both World Series games at Turner Field in their four-game sweep in 1999.
After what the Yankees saw of Braves pitching over the weekend, they can be sure there will be no World Series in Atlanta this year.