NEW YORK (AP) -- John Rocker came out on top Saturday in his
battle against New York.
Protecting a two-run lead, Atlanta's colorful closer relieved
with two outs in the eighth inning, loaded the bases by hitting
Derek Jeter with his first pitch, then went to a 3-0 count on Paul
With a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium roaring, Rocker rebounded
to throw three straight strikes, and the Braves went on to an
exciting 10-6 victory.
Then, he came into the Braves' clubhouse and dismissed reporters with a crude remark.
And then he left.
Chipper Jones homered and drove in four runs as Atlanta rallied
against the Yankees' struggling middle relievers and improved to
7-1 on its longest road trip this season.
Jones was drained from the Rocker-O'Neill confrontation.
"There are about 25 guys in our clubhouse who were expecting
something bad to happen right there," Jones said. "Rocker's one
of those guy that kind of pitches by the seat of his pants. He's
going to wring out every emotion from everybody in the stadium and
the dugout before he gets the final out."
Atlanta wasted a 5-1 lead and fell behind 6-5 on Bernie
Williams' two-run, opposite-field homer, then went back ahead in
the seventh. Wes Helms and Quilvio Veras singled off Randy Choate
(2-1), Andruw Jones hit a sacrifice fly against Carlos Almanzar and
Brian Jordan doubled for a 7-6 lead.
Helms homered in the eighth off Mike Stanton.
Rocker, in his first appearance at Yankee Stadium since he
denigrated New Yorkers, immigrants, homosexuals and others in a
Sports Illustrated article two years ago, entered to loud boos from
the sellout crowd of 55,107.
"New York is New York. They're going to hold grudges with
anybody coming through here," said Jordan, who also was booed. "I
had my share. It's all in fun -- until that quarter almost hit me."
Rocker hit Jeter in the left ribs, and the excitement built with
each of the first three pitches to O'Neill.
Rocker then threw a fastball at the letters. O'Neill took a step
toward first before umpire Tim McClelland called it a strike.
Braves manager Bobby Cox thought it was down the middle. Yankees
manager Joe Torre viewed it differently.
"I thought the 3-0 pitch was a little high," he said, "but
you have to remember, you're dealing with a new strike zone."
O'Neill, often temperamental, didn't challenge the call.
"I don't question Tim McClelland," he said. "Tim is the best
umpire in the league, in my opinion. The thing this year is, 2-0,
3-1, the strike zone is huge, and it gets the pitcher back in the
Rocker followed with a fastball that O'Neill swung through. Then
Atlanta had escaped.
"He threw fastballs right by me," O'Neill said. "He flat-out
It was one of those classic moments that become highlights of a
"We don't get that, the game might have turned around
completely," Cox said.
Rocker finished with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 17th save in 19
chances, making a winner of Jose Cabrera (4-1), who pitched a
When Jones walked to the plate in the first, he heard those
familiar New York boos and turned to Yankees' catcher Todd Greene,
an occasional golf partner.
"Man, they love me here," Jones told Greene.
"As a professional athlete, you have to learn to tune those
things out," he said later.
John Smoltz, in his fifth start since returning from ligament
replacement surgery in his right elbow, allowed four runs and six
hits, leaving after three innings because of a sore back. In
addition, one of his feet hurt.
"He just ached," Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone said.
Yankees' left-handed hitters were 6-for-8 against Smoltz, but
right-handers were 0-for-7 with four strikeouts against him.
While Atlanta's bullpen allowed two runs and two hits in six
innings, New York's Choate, Almanzar and Stanton really struggled.
With Mendoza in the rotation because of Orlando Hernandez's toe
injury, the Yankees' middle relief has become shaky.
"We've got to figure the bullpen out," Torre said. "That's
our No. 1 priority."
Jones has 22 multihomer games, four this season. ... Javy
Lopez also homered against Knight. ... New York's Jorge Posada hit
the 20th homer into the center-field bleachers since the remodeled
Yankee Stadium opened in 1976, a drive that bounced up the rows all
the way to the back wall.