After Jose Vizcaíno’s heroics in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series, the Yankees went up 2-0 before the series shifted crosstown to Shea Stadium. While the Mets fought back with a Game 3 win, the Yankees answered the next day to get on the verge of a third-straight World Series title.
Despite the 3-1 lead, pretty much every game had been a close contest. Game 5 would be no different, and it would also produce an unforgettable moment.
Final Score: Yankees 4, Mets 2
Game MVP: Luis Sojo
The pitching matchup in Game 5 would be a rematch of the series opener as Andy Pettitte and Al Leiter took the mound for their respective teams. Leiter arguably led on the judges’ scores that day, but it was the Yankees who delivered a knockout against the Mets’ bullpen.
In Game 5, the scoring got started much earlier than it had in Game 1. After a scoreless first inning, Bernie Williams stepped to the plate to lead off the second. He worked the count full against Leiter before taking the eighth pitch over the wall in left field.
The homer was Williams’ first hit of the World Series, as he had gone 0-for-15 over the first four games.
However, the lead would not last long. Pettitte retired the lead-off hitter to start the bottom of the second, but then issued a walk to Bubba Trammell and a single to Jay Payton. He then got a grounder that did advance both runners, but also got Pettitte on the verge of escaping the jam. It was especially crucial because, with the series still in the Queens and playing under NL rules, it brought Leiter to the plate. Even for pitcher standards, Leiter was not a good hitter, finishing his career with a -34 OPS+.
Looking to manufacture something, Leiter laid down a bunt. First baseman Tino Martinez slightly fumbled the ball before having to rifle off an underhand throw to Pettitte who was racing towards the bag. Pettitte couldn’t cleanly corral the toss, making for an E1, as Leiter reached safely as the tying run scored. To make matters worse, the bunt allowed the top of the Mets’ order to come back. Benny Agbayani took advantage, and singled home a run to put the NL champs in front.
With the lead, Leiter then held the Yankees in check. He retired nine of the next 11 hitters he faced, with the only exceptions coming on singles, with neither runner getting past first base. In the sixth, the top of the Bombers’ order was due up. With one out in the inning, Derek Jeter came to the plate. To that point, Jeter had been having a very valuable (hint, hint) series, OPSing 1.357 through the first four games. In Game 5, he came through once again, homering to tie things up.
With new life, Pettitte would go on to throw two more scoreless innings, getting out of a two on, one-out jam in the sixth, and working around a lead-off single in the seventh.
As Leiter continued on and threw a scoreless eighth, the Yankees had used Chuck Knoblauch as a pinch-hitter for second baseman José Vizcaíno. That came to nothing, but did lead to an important double switch in the bottom half of the inning.
Joe Torre decided that Pettitte’s day would be over after the seventh, after the starter had allowed two runs on eight hits. He sent in reliever Mike Stanton in Knoblauch’s spot in the lineup, and brought in Luis Sojo for Pettitte in a double switch that we’ll call “Chekhov’s Sojo.”
Facing 6-7-8 in the Mets’ lineup, Stanton threw a scoreless inning to keep things tied up. At that point, Bobby Valentine decided to stick with his starter, as Leiter came back out for the ninth, despite him being over 120 pitches into his outing. While obviously that would never happen in a potentially season-ending game in 2023, the gambit seemed to work as he struck out Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill to start the inning.
That brought Jorge Posada to the plate. After working the count full and fouling off several pitches, Posada eventually drew a walk on the ninth pitch of the battle. Still, Valentine stuck with Leiter, who then allowed a single to Scott Brosius. Even still, Leiter remained in the game as Sojo stepped into the box. On Leiter’s 142nd pitch of the night and the first Sojo saw, he sent a thousand-hopper back up the middle.
It evaded both middle infielders, but center fielder Payton came up throwing, hoping to get Posada at the plate. Payton’s throw was on line....just on Posada’s line instead of home plate. The throw hit off Posada as he neared home plate and ricocheted into a dugout. That allowed not only Posada to score, but for Brosius to trot home as an insurance run. Leiter was finally removed after that and John Franco got out of the inning, but the Mets were suddenly down to their last three outs of the series.
Mariano Rivera was brought in for the ninth as the Yankees looked to close out a third-straight World Series. He got a pinch-hitting Darryl Hamilton to start the inning, but then issued a walk to Agbayani. Defensive indifference and a Edgardo Alfonzo fly out moved Agbayani to third as the tying run came to the plate in the form of Mike Piazza. The Mets’ star already had two hits on the day and was exactly the person they would want up in that spot. On the second pitch of the at-bat, he gave one a ride and looked like he may have saved the Mets’ season.
The fly ball died just in front of the warning track and fell safely in Williams’ glove for the final out of the game and series.
If there was any doubt the Yankees were a dynasty, the 2000 win put any of those weird doubters to bed. For the fourth time in five years, the Bronx Bombers were champions. Jeter was named MVP after recording nine hits in the series.
Sojo’s go-ahead single doesn’t have quite the replay-ability of some of the other notable Yankees’ playoff moments from this era, but it put the cherry on top of an incredible era of Yankees’ dominance. In an era of Wild Cards and ever expanding playoffs, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that a team can put together a ‘four titles in five years’ run like what the Yankees completed in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series.