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Seeking to win their second consecutive world championship and the 25th in franchise history, the New York Yankees entered the 1999 World Series against the Atlanta Braves having breezed through the American League playoffs for the second straight year.  After outscoring the Texas Rangers by a combined margin of 14-1 while sweeping them in three games in the ALDS, New York needed only five games to dispose of the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.  An extremely well-balanced team, the Yankees had solid hitting, good team defense, and outstanding pitching.  Their lineup featured All-Stars Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, and Paul O’Neill, while their pitching staff included top starters Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and David Cone.  And, of course, New York also had the incomparable Mariano Rivera in the bullpen.

The Atlanta Braves were also a well-balanced squad and, like New York, they were no strangers to postseason play.  The Braves had advanced to the playoffs each year since 1991 (with the exception of the 1994 campaign, when a players’ strike brought the season to a premature end), and their appearance in the 1999 World Series marked the fifth time in nine years they represented the National League in the Fall Classic.  As a result, many people felt that the winner of the New York-Atlanta matchup should ultimately be considered the “Team of the Decade.”

The Braves actually had an even more impressive regular season than the Yankees.  Atlanta finished 6 ½ games ahead of the second-place New York Mets in the N.L. East, with a major-league best 103-59 record.  The Braves then defeated the Houston Astros in four games in the NLDS, before passing their most serious test in the National League Championship Series by getting past the Mets in six games.
The Braves did not possess a particularly overwhelming offense.  They finished just seventh in the National League with 840 runs scored, placed fourth in the senior circuit with 197 home runs, and finished ninth with a team batting average of .266.  By contrast, the Yankees finished third in the American League with 900 runs scored, finished eighth with 193 home runs, and posted a team batting average of .282, which placed them third in the league rankings.  

The trio of Brian Jordan, Andruw Jones, and Chipper Jones led Atlanta’s offensive attack.  Jordan hit 23 homers, drove in 115 runs, scored 100 others, and batted .283.  Andruw Jones went deep 26 times and scored 97 runs.  Meanwhile, Chipper Jones earned N.L. MVP honors by finishing third in the league with 45 home runs, driving in 110 runs, scoring 116 others, and batting .319.  

It was on the mound, though, that the Braves truly excelled.  While New York finished second in the A.L. with a team ERA of 4.13, Atlanta led the National League with a mark of 3.63.  In fact, the Braves were one of the few teams that compared favorably to the Yankees in terms of pitching.  Greg Maddux led Atlanta’s staff with 19 victories.  Kevin Millwood finished the year with a record of 18-7, and he placed among the league leaders with a 2.68 ERA and 205 strikeouts.  Tom Glavine chipped in with 14 victories, and John Smoltz added another 11.  John Rocker led the bullpen with 38 saves.  Heading into their World Series confrontation with the Yankees, it appeared that the Braves had a slight edge in
pitching, while the Yankees had a similar edge on offense.

Game One in Atlanta found the Braves clinging to a 1-0 lead heading into the top of the eighth inning.  Chipper Jones delivered the game’s only run with a fourth-inning homer against Yankee starter Orlando Hernandez.  Jones’ drive turned out to be the only hit El Duque surrendered in his seven innings of work.  Meanwhile, Greg Maddux kept New York off the scoreboard to that point by scattering just four hits.  However, the Yankees mounted a rally in the top of the eighth.  After Scott Brosius singled off Maddux for the third time in the game, pinch hitter Darryl Strawberry walked and Chuck Knoblauch reached base when first baseman Brian Hunter mishandled his sacrifice bunt attempt.  Derek Jeter then tied the score with a single to left field.  Atlanta manager Bobby Cox subsequently elected to replace Maddux with John Rocker, who promptly gave up a two-run single to Paul O’Neill that put the Yankees in the lead by a score of 3-1.  New York scored once more in the inning, Mariano Rivera got the final four outs, and the Yankees came away with a 4-1 victory, surrendering just two hits to the Braves the entire contest.  

Game Two provided no such suspense.  The Yankees pounded Kevin Millwood for eight hits and four runs in the first two innings, en route to jumping out to a 7-0 lead.  David Cone and the Yankee bullpen coasted from that point on, with Cone allowing the Braves only one hit over the first seven innings.  Atlanta scored two meaningless runs against Ramiro Mendoza in the bottom of the ninth, making the final score 7-2.

Down in the Series two-games-to-none, the Braves jumped all over Andy Pettitte after the two teams traveled to New York for Game Three.  A pair of RBI-doubles by Bret Boone helped Atlanta build an early 5-1 lead against the Yankee lefthander.  However, solo home runs by Tino Martinez and Chad Curtis off Tom Glavine enabled New York to trim the lead to 5-3 after seven innings.  A game-tying two-run homer by Chuck Knoblauch in the bottom of the eighth forced Glavine to exit the contest and sent the game into extra innings.  Chad Curtis ended the affair in the bottom of the 10th inning by reaching Mike Remlinger for his second home run of the game, a walk-off blast that gave the Yankees a 6-5 victory and a commanding 3-0 lead in the Series.

Playing with a heavy heart after losing his father just a few hours before Game Four, Paul O’Neill failed to get a hit in his three official trips to the plate.  But the Yankees scored all the runs they needed against John Smoltz without O’Neill making a significant contribution on offense.  Third inning RBI-singles by Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada gave New York a 3-0 lead that Roger Clemens nursed through 7 2/3 innings.  Clemens allowed the Braves just one run on four hits, before turning the ball over to the Yankee bullpen.  Jim Leyritz added an insurance run in the eighth inning with a home run, and Mariano Rivera retired the final four batters, to give the Yankees a 4-1 victory and a 4-0 Series sweep.      

Rivera earned Series MVP honors by winning one game, saving two others, and working 4 2/3 scoreless innings while surrendering only three hits to the Braves.  Meanwhile, by sweeping Atlanta in four games, the Yankees became the first team to author consecutive World Series sweeps since the 1938-1939 Yankees.

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
1999 World Series, Andruw Jones, Andy Pettitte, Atlanta Braves, Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Bobby Cox, Brian Jordan, Chad Curtis, Chipper Jones, Chuck Knoblauch, Darryl Strawberry, David Cone, Derek Jeter, Greg Maddux, John Rocker, John Smoltz, Jorge Posada, Kevin Millwood, New York Yankees, Orlando Hernandez, Roger Clemens, Tino Martinez, Tom Glavine

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