Favorites vie for World Series

CLEVELAND (AP) — Jacobs Field was an evil place for New York long before David Wells was taunted by rowdy fans. But the ballpark where the Yankees’ season ended so abruptly last October became the site of their biggest win in ’98.
Wells, motivated by vulgar chants about his mother, pitched into the eighth and Mariano Rivera exorcised the eighth-inning demons of his failure here last year as the New York Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians 5-3 Sunday to take a 3-2 lead in the AL championship series.
After coming to town distracted, in disarray and near disaster, the Yankees are heading home in control and in reach of their next goal — a trip to the World Series.
Chili Davis drove in three runs as New York saved its record-setting season with two wins this weekend. And now the Yankees are one victory away from getting to the only place their fans will allow their magical year to finish.
“I’m very proud of this team,” New York manager Joe Torre said. “Every time they’ve been faced with a challenge they’ve responded.”
And for all his griping about the urgency to flee the Bronx and build a new ballpark, even New York owner George Steinbrenner will be happy to see the old neighborhood again.
Wells overcame a rough start caused by the Indians and by some of their fans, who made remarks about his mother, who died about 11 years ago.
“There was a lot of negative stuff out there, people talking about your mom,” he said. “I don’t appreciate stuff like that. I appreciate the fans who appreciate a good game of baseball.”
So after giving it to the Indians for 7 1-3 innings, Wells gave it to Cleveland’s fans as he walked off the field in the eighth. As fans booed, the left-hander removed his cap and shook it toward the crowd in sarcastic gesture that summed up the Yankees visit here.
So long, Cleveland, we won’t miss you.
“To all those idiots out there, this one’s for you,” Wells would say later.
Wells struggled early, allowing two runs in the first. But once the left-hander settled in, he gave up just Jim Thome’s homer in the sixth and finished with a personal postseason record 11 strikeouts.
“He fought it, he battled,” Torre said. “I’m even more proud of him than the shutouts or even the perfect game for that matter because of when he did it.”
The Indians, whose Game 5 lineup looked more like the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons than the defending AL champs, now face the awesome task of trying to win twice in Yankee Stadium where the fans will surely be fired up after hearing about Wells’ experience.
The Yankees, who won 62 home games during the regular season, will start David Cone on Tuesday in Game 6 against Charles Nagy.
“We’ve got to win two,” Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. “It’s going to be tough. As I’ve said a thousand times before, you don’t win 114 games by being lucky. These guys are good.”
Brave comeback
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Just in time, Andres Galarraga and the Atlanta Braves solved San Diego’s pitching.
With the Braves facing elimination and trailing in the seventh inning, Atlanta rallied for six runs, capped by Galarraga’s 459-foot grand slam, and beat the Padres 8-3 Sunday in Game 4 to avoid an unthinkable sweep in the NL championship series.
After postseason hero Jim Leyritz hit a solo homer in the sixth that put the Padres ahead 3-2, Javy Lopez tied it with a leadoff home run in the seventh.
The Braves went on to load the bases with two outs before Galarraga, who had no RBIs and just one single in his 12 previous at-bats this series, unloaded. The Big Cat stood at home plate and watched his ball sail into the seats in left-center, hushing the crowd of 65,042 that had come to celebrate.
Ozzie Guillen, who started at shortstop because Atlanta manager Bobby Cox thought he could get something going, was on third base and turned to watch Galarraga’s shot sail away. He threw his hands in the air as he headed for home.
Padres pitching proved to be mortal after all, from starter and loser Joey Hamilton to relievers Randy Myers and Dan Miceli, who allowed Galarraga’s slam. Atlanta, batting just .200 in the first three games of the series, finished with 12 hits.
Even the Padres knew it wouldn’t be that easy to sweep the Braves. Now, after a good effort from Denny Neagle, Atlanta will come back Monday night with the first of its Big Three pitchers.
John Smoltz will start for the Braves and the Padres will counter with Andy Ashby. Both pitchers got no-decisions in Game 1, a 3-2, 10-inning win for the Padres Wednesday night in Atlanta.
No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in playoff history. If the Braves can get past Monday night and take the series back to Atlanta, its other two Cy Young pitchers, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, will be ready to go.
Galarraga hit 44 homers this year, but only two in September and none in October until Sunday. His shot came on a 1-0 pitch off Miceli, who had come up big in clutch situations earlier in the playoffs.