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  Thursday, Oct. 26 8:00pm ET
New York's finest? Still the Yankees

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Yankees took turns parading their World Series trophy around the field, hoisting it high so fans could see it gleaming gold in the lights.

Derek, El Duque, the Rocket -- each one holding on tight.

Mariano Rivera
Closer Mariano Rivera finds himself in the middle of another World Series celebration, this time with Scott Brosius, left, and Tino Martinez.

That the scene unfolded on the green grass of Shea Stadium, home of their Subway Series rivals, hardly mattered.

They were champions again. Best in the city, best in baseball.

The Yankees, thought to be too old and too banged up to make it this far, became the first team in more than a quarter-century to win three straight titles, beating the New York Mets 4-2 Thursday night.

Luis Sojo, one of many midseason pickups, hit a two-out, tiebreaking single off Al Leiter in the ninth inning to decide Game 5 and give the Yankees their record 26th championship overall.

Sojo, borrowing reserve Clay Bellinger's bat for the key hit, set off a crosstown celebration that was a mere 14-minute drive from Yankee Stadium.

"This was super satisfying," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It's never easy, but we had a lot of trouble putting things together this year."

Derek Jeter homered and was the MVP after batting .409, earning his fourth ring at only 26. Meanwhile, it turned out to be a short ride for New Yorkers who had waited 44 years to see another one of these.

Game 5 at a glance
Every game a hero
Luis Sojo started the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He ended it by knocking in the game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning in the clinching game of the World Series. On Al Leiter's 142nd pitch of the night, Sojo singled up the middle with two outs to score Jorge Posada. Jay Payton's throw bounced off Posada's leg, allowing Scott Brosius to score as well for a 4-2 lead.
Key move
Bobby Valentine went with his best, but did he leave Leiter in too long? Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill fanned to start the ninth, but Posada worked a nine-pitch walk -- at which time John Franco began warming up. Scott Brosius singled to left to set up Sojo's game-winner.
Key play
Posada's walk. Leiter had fanned four of the previous five hitters. At 2-2, Posada fouled off two pitches, took a pitch just inside, lined another pitch foul and then drew ball four.
Key numbers
Three straight. In the Yankees' run of three straight World Series titles -- the first team to win three in a row since the 1972-1974 Oakland A's -- they are 33-8 in the postseason, an amazing winning percentage of .805.
ESPN analysis
In the ninth inning, Jorge Posada had a nine-pitch walk that was like Paul O'Neill's 10-pitch walk in Game 1. As much as Al Leiter was trying to keep his arm up and get some downward tilt on the ball, his slider was starting to flatten out when he gave up the single to Scott Brosius on pitch No. 141.

Mets manager Bobby Valentine went with his heart. He knew he probably should have brought someone in, but when a guy like Leiter has been a big pitcher for you, you have to leave him in. Leiter is not a really good fielding pitcher, and Luis Sojo was able to bounce one past him.
-- Dave Campbell

"The Mets are -- in my opinion -- the best team we've played in my years here," Jeter said.

The Yankees quickly matched the Oakland Athletics' three in a row from 1972-74, and won their fourth title in five years.

Only two other runs in baseball history can compare -- Joe DiMaggio led the Yankees to five crowns from 1936-41, and Mickey Mantle helped take the Bronx Bombers to six titles from 1947-53.

"Whether you like us or not, we're winners," Yankees right fielder Paul O'Neill said. "Everybody was ready for the collapse. Everybody was waiting for us to lose."

And while the lasting image of this Series is certain to be Roger Clemens throwing the bat toward Mike Piazza, this is the picture the Yankees will prefer to savor: owner George Steinbrenner hoisting another big piece of hardware for the team's trophy case.

"The Mets gave us everything we could want. It was great for the city of New York," Steinbrenner said. "I hope we don't have to go through this again for another 44 years."

Slumping Bernie Williams also homered for the Yankees. But it was Sojo, who blossomed into a good-luck charm after rejoining the Yanks from Pittsburgh on Aug. 7, who delivered the winning hit.

"It's the happiest day of my life. I don't know how to explain it," said Sojo, who entered the game in the eighth inning. "Today they gave me a chance to come through. I did and was it was unbelievable."

Leiter battled all night, and struck out the first two batters in the ninth. Then he walked Jorge Posada and gave up a single to Scott Brosius, and Sojo followed by slapping a single up the middle on Leiter's 142nd and final pitch.

Another run scored on the play when center fielder Jay Payton's throw home hit Posada and bounded into the Mets' dugout. Sojo's single snapped the Yankees' 0-for-16 streak with runners in scoring position, dating to Game 2.

Leiter remained winless in 11 postseason starts, while Mike Stanton won in relief of Andy Pettitte. Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his record seventh save in World Series play.

At the stroke of midnight, Piazza flied out to the edge of the warning track in center field with a runner on base to finish it.

"This is a great group of guys. They deserve a lot of credit, but the Yankees deserve more -- they're world champions," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said.

Had this happened in the Bronx, Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" would have been echoing off the facade at Yankee Stadium and fans would have yelled at the top of their lungs.

It was a different scene in Queens, where Mets fans filed out quickly while the Yankees celebrated with no background music and just a cluster of several hundred rooters around the dugout.

In fact, most of the Yankees stayed out of the clubhouse, which was flooded the day before, and partied on the field.

Outshouted all evening, Yankees fans in the sellout crowd of 55,292 finally had a chance to let loose. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, rooting for the Yankees from the front row, joined the celebration.

"You don't count out champions," he said.

The Yankees had the highest payroll in the majors at $113 million, though a steep price might be what it takes to keep a championship team together these days. Those A's of the mid-'70s did not have to deal with free agency.

Unlike the overmatched San Diego Padres in 1998 and the overwhelmed Atlanta Braves in 1999, the wild-card Mets were in it all the way. Their best chance, however, really may have ended when closer Armando Benitez could not hold a one-run lead in the opener.

These Yankees went into the playoffs with seven straight losses, and also dropped the opener in their AL series against Oakland and Seattle. In the end, though, Torre's team showed what October experience is all about.

Even with so much at stake, there was room to have a little fun -- with a broken bat, no less.

Kurt Abbott shattered his bat on a foul ball in the Mets fourth, and the jagged barrel skittered out toward Jeter at shortstop.

With the crowd starting to hoot, mindful of the Clemens-Piazza encounter in Game 2, Jeter made a nice show in defusing any hint of trouble. He fielded the broken piece with his glove, laughed and handed it to a Mets batboy.

On the Mets' bench, Piazza chuckled. But in the Yankees' dugout, Clemens just stared straight ahead as the crowd chanted "Rah-ger, Rah-ger."

Had it gone to Game 6, Clemens would have started Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.

Williams put the Yankees ahead 1-0 when he homered leading off the second. The cleanup man had been 0-for-15 through four games and hitless in his last 22 Series at-bats overall.

Trying to ensure that the skid was behind him, he singled and walked his next two times up.

"I didn't care how I was hitting as long as we were winning," Williams said.

Jeter, who homered on the first pitch of the game the previous night, made it 2-all by hitting a shot into the Yankees' left-field bullpen in the sixth.

The Mets had to work much harder for their runs.

Bubba Trammell, starting because of his career success against Pettitte, walked with one out in the second and Payton singled. The runners moved up on a groundout and Leiter, an .053 hitter this season, dragged a perfect bunt past the mound.

First baseman Tino Martinez bobbled the ball for a moment and made an underhanded flip to Pettitte, but the pitcher dropped the throw. Pettitte was charged with an error -- denying an RBI to Leiter, who had none this year -- but a run scored and the Mets were satisfied.

Benny Agbayani followed with a slow roller that third baseman Brosius tried to play with his bare hand, but the ball escaped his grasp and went for an RBI single that gave the Mets a 2-1 lead.

Game notes
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was not at the game. Earlier in the day, his mother-in-law, Barbara Bresnan, died of a heart attack at 63. ... Piazza doubled, giving him hits in all five games. ... The Yankees were 4-2 against the Mets in interleague play this season. ... Jeter also was the All-Star game MVP. The only other player to win the Series and All-Star MVP awards was Frank Robinson, who did it in different seasons.

Baseball Scoreboard

NY Yankees Clubhouse

NY Mets Clubhouse

Nobody aboard: Subway Series sets futility ratings mark

Stark: Yankees' run is stuff of legend

Klapisch: Mets suffer stinging defeat

Frozen moment: Je-ter! Je-ter! Je-ter! sounds so good

McAdam: Democracy in action

At-bat of the night

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