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A COUPLE OF BLASTS FROM THE PAST : STRAWBERRY'S 2 HOMERS GIVE YANKEES 3-1 LEAD NEW YORK 8, BALTIMORE 4.

Byline: Ron Blum Associated Press

Darryl Strawberry recaptured his former glory. Now the New York Yankees are one win away from doing it, too.

On a night that seemed implausible just a few months ago, Strawberry homered twice Saturday night, leading the Yankees to an 8-4 victory over Baltimore and a 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series.

Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill each hit two-run homers, moving New York within a win of its first AL pennant in 15 years.

``This is what it's all about - the major-league level and being in the postseason and trying to get in the World Series,'' said Strawberry, rescued by the Yankees twice after a suspension for cocaine use. ``A lot of times people don't remember the experience I have in postseason play.''

New York will try to wrap up its record 34th AL pennant today when Andy Pettitte pitches against Scott Erickson of the Orioles in a rematch of Game 1 starters.

``I don't even want to think about being close,'' said Joe Torre, one win away from his first pennant as a manager. ``That's like thinking about the ninth inning in the first inning.''

Even if the Yankees win Game 5, they may want to stay in Baltimore for the World Series: they're 8-0 in Camden Yards this year, including 2-0 in the playoffs.

``This series is a long way from over,'' Baltimore manager Davey Johnson said. ``Momentum can change quickly in a short series.''

Strawberry, rescued by the Yankees from the Northern League on July 4, hit a solo homer in the second inning off Baltimore rookie Rocky Coppinger and a two-run drive in the eighth off Armando Benitez, his first postseason homers since he was with the New York Mets in 1988.

``Sometimes it's good for no one to want you,'' Strawberry said, thinking back to his stay with the St. Paul Saints. ``Playing there was great for me because it brought a lot of the joy back to me about the game.''

Strawberry, cut by the Dodgers and Giants because of substance problems, was cut by the Yankees last fall. He pleaded guilty to tax-evasion charges last winter, and went to the Northern League when no major-league team made an offer.

But Yankees owner George Steinbrenner thought his team needed more power, and he signed Strawberry over the objections of general manager Bob Watson.

On July 13, in one of his first games with the Yankees this season, Strawberry homered twice in Camden Yards, raising his career total to 299. Torre inserted Strawberry in the lineup Friday in place of the slumping Neill, then used him Saturday in place of left fielder Tim Raines.

``I just liked the way he was swinging the bat yesterday,'' Torre said. ``It looked like he had more life in his hands.''

Strawberry, 36, and 10 years removed from winning a World Series with the Mets, thanked Reggie Jackson, a Yankees specil adviser.

``He sticks by my side and talks with me daily,'' Strawberry said. ``He's one of the greatest players to play the game and he gives me a lot of good advice. I'm glad to have him in my corner.''

Baltimore had closed to 5-4 before the Yankees added three runs in the eighth on Cecil Fielder's RBI groundout and Strawberry's opposite-field shot to left.

ALCS

BALTIMORE VS. NEW YORK (Yankees lead series 3-1)

Game 1 - New York 5, Baltimore 4, 11 inn.

Game 2 - Baltimore 5, New York 3

Game 3 - New York 5, Baltimore 2

Game 4 - New York 8, Baltimore 4

Today - New York (Pettitte 21-8) at Baltimore (Erickson 13-12), 1:07 p.m.

Tuesday x - Baltimore at New York, 5:07 p.m.

Wednesday x - Baltimore at New York, 5:07 p.m.

x-if necessary. All games on NBC

CAPTION(S):

Box

Box: ALCS (see text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 13, 1996
Words:640
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