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Cook: Brenly makes right move, but gets bad results

Friday, November 02, 2001

NEW YORK -- This time, Arizona Diamondbacks Manager Bob Brenly was not wrong.

Brenly had to bring in hammer Byung-Hyun Kim to pitch the ninth inning against the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the World Series last night. Kim had been his horse all season, had 19 saves, had a 2.94 ERA, had 113 strikeouts in 98 innings.

Every manager in baseball would have gone to Kim in the ninth with a 2-0 lead.

Forget that Kim had thrown 62 pitches and blown the save the night before in Game Four by giving up a two-out, two-run homer to Tino Martinez in the ninth, then losing it in the 10th by allowing a two-out home run to Derek Jeter. Those things happen. Closers are human. They aren't perfect. Kim just happened to pick a bad night to prove it. That doesn't change the fact he was Brenly's best option in the bullpen.

Every manager in the game would have gone right back to Kim and been prepared to live with the results.

In Brenly's case, it won't be easy.

Not after Kim gave up another two-out, two-run homer, this one to Scott Brosius.

Not after the Yankees came back from the dead for the second consecutive night to win, 3-2, in 12 innings.

"He's our closer," Brenly said through the pain afterward. "I talked to B.K. at length this afternoon. He was fine. I talked to [bullpen coach] Glenn Sherlock as he was warming up. He said his stuff was electric. He's our closer and he wanted the ball. He just happened to make one bad pitch again to Scott Brosius."

Just as they had been in Game 4, the Diamondbacks were comfortably in control. Miguel Batista, a journeyman right-hander who once pitched in a thoroughly forgettable game for the Pirates in 1992, had shut out the Yankees on five hits for 72/3 innings. Steve Finley and Rod Barajas, who got the last-minute start at catcher only because Damian Miller had a strained calf, had hit home runs off Yankees ace Mike Mussina.

All the Diamondbacks needed were those three final outs in the ninth and they would head home to Arizona with a 3-2 lead in the World Series and Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling standing by, ready to pitch Games Six and Seven.

Brenly felt confident going back to Kim.

"We make our decisions based on what we see with our eyes," he said. "We know our ballclub better than anyone ... Everything doesn't always work out the way you want it to."

The Yankees' ninth started ominously for the Diamondbacks when Jorge Posada hit a double to left field. If Kim was shaken as Yankee Stadium rocked, he didn't show it. He got Shane Spencer to bounce out to third base and quickly struck out Chuck Knoblauch.

Just as in Game 4, Kim needed only one more out.

And just as in Game 4, he didn't get it.

Brosius, a career .391 hitter in the World Series going into this series, had struggled like the other Yankees against Arizona pitching. He was 0 for 3 against Batista and 3 for 16 against the Diamondbacks when he stepped to the plate against Kim.

Who could have predicted what happened next?

It seemed too unreal to believe.

Brosius knew he had a home run the second the ball left his bat. Kim looked as if he was going to get sick on the mound. Brenly had the same look in the Diamondbacks dugout. The gleeful Yankees rushed out of their dugout to greet Brosius just as they had Martinez and Jeter the night before.

"It's Groundhog Day," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said.

The old stadium has seen many, many other wonderful games, but it's hard to believe it ever saw two in a row quite like these two.

"Mystique And Aura Appearing Nightly," read a sign in the stands, a hilarious dig at Schilling, who, before the World Series, had scoffed at the idea of Yankees magic.

"Mystique and Aura are dancers in a nightclub," Schilling said.

Yeah, right.

"These are the two most amazing games I've ever managed," Torre said.

Here's hoping Brenly, who blew Game 4 by taking out Schilling prematurely, doesn't second-guess himself over this one. He couldn't have known Kim would blow another save, certainly not like this.

Brenly did all he could do. He was right to take out Kim immediately, so shaken was Kim by two consecutive nights of Mystique and Aura. The poor guy might never recover from this little trip to Yankee Stadium. Brenly said he won't hesitate to go back to Kim again -- "Absolutely" -- but he would be a fool to do that.

In the meantime, here's hoping Brenly can take a lesson from former Pirates Manager Chuck Tanner, who always said, "I never made a bad decision. Some just didn't work out."

If ever there were a night that was true of a manager, it was this amazing night.


Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com.

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