On Oct. 30, 2001, the New York Yankees hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third game of a World Series played just seven weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Left-hander Brian Anderson was on the mound for the D-Backs. Derek Jeter batted second in the Yankees lineup.
Eleven years later, Anderson, who finished his career with 82 wins, does color commentary and play-by-play. Jeter remains a marquee player, although he suffered a broken ankle on Saturday, shortly after recording his 200th post-season hit.
Not surprisingly, Jeter was a primary focus for Anderson when he took the mound. The Yankees shortstop went 1-for-3 against his slants, and his team won the game 2-1. Arizona went on to win the Series in seven games.
Anderson talked about his game plan against Jeter — and what happened in each at bat — earlier this season.
Anderson on the game plan: “I had faced Jeter a number of times and everybody knows he has the good inside-out swing. He’s a guy that if you stay away, stay away, stay away — even if you’re changing speeds — he’ll shoot you. He’s happy to take his hits to right field. Everybody knows that. Then, if you’re going to come in on him, you really have to get it in there.
“A lot of times, you try to get him leaning, looking to go the other way, and then try to jam him. Sometimes that’s difficult, especially if you don’t execute the pitch properly. He had such a good inside-out swing that if the ball stayed middle-in, he could kind of fight it off and push it. He’d get those little bloop hits out into right field.
“Every now and then you would see him pick an at bat where, if you came in on him, he would try to turn on the pitch and hit for power. He’d do that every now and then, just to keep pitchers honest. That was the way he approached things.
“In that game, he was hitting second. Of course, they had the thumpers behind him, like Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez — guys who had some power, especially right-field power in that ballpark. The key was to try to keep [Chuck] Knoblauch off base and attack Jeter with nobody on.
“If Knoblauch gets on in front of Jeter, you have the perfect hit-and-run guy. I didn’t think they were going to try to run on me. A lot of teams didn’t, but what they would do was hit-and-run. I was a contact guy, so they would put a lot of hit-and-runs on, put a lot of guys in motion. Jeter is one of those guys, in the two-hole, with an ability to hit the ball to the right side, which was perfect for that scenario against me. We needed to keep Knoblauch off base.
“Against Jeter, I had to make sure I made quality pitches. I couldn’t shy away from pitching away, but I had to make him aware on the ball in, so he wasn’t so eager to jump out there and hit to right. That was kind of the game plan.”
On pitch selection; “My breaking ball — if you could even call it that — was my third pitch. I didn’t use it a lot to put guys away. I was basically a fastball-changeup guy. I had enough confidence in my fastball location that I could have thrown it to him three or four times in a row and not even thought about it. If he wanted to swing at it, my thought was that if I put it in a good enough spot, I’d get him out.
“A lot of times with Jeter, I would mix in a couple of fastballs and then the changeup. He could swing at either one, depending on how the sequence was going. I felt that if I made a good quality pitch, I would get a ground ball from him. There wasn’t one particular pitch that I was looking to get him out on. I think that kind of evolves as the sequence goes on.
“I may go in thinking that I want to go fastball away, fastball in, and get him roll over a changeup. That’s great, but depending on the count and the way the sequence is going — and his approach — I have to be able to react to that. My plan, as to what pitch I want to try to get him out on, might change quickly.”
On the game: “It was such a historic World Series, given what was going on in the country. It was happening after 9-11. There were obviously a lot of emotions going through the country, as well as through the players.
“We had played the first two games in Phoenix. When we came east, to New York, we visited Ground Zero. It was still smoldering. That’s something I will never forget. We understood the gravity of the situation — how big the Series was — from the country’s standpoint. At the same time, we had to try to separate ourselves from that once the game started. We were playing a baseball game.
“We were up 2-0 and I was getting the start in Game 3. The President of the United States was throwing out the first pitch. The team I was facing was very talented, and especially being down 2-0, they were going to be giving it their best shot. They had to win that game and, oh, by the way, on top of that we were facing Roger Clemens in the first World Series game in New York, post 9-11. Hands down, it wouldn’t have mattered how much longer I played, I was never going to have a bigger start than that one.
“Once I got out there, Knoblauch led off and it was about trying to get into the flow of the game. I got him to pop up for the first out, and it was finally like — deep breath — OK, now we’re playing baseball. Let’s start trying to execute pitches. One guy up, one guy down, and now lets execute against Jeter.”
On Jeter’s first at bat: “There was nobody on base, so I wasn’t worried about the hit-and-run — I wasn’t worried about them getting tricky — so I just went with the game plan. It was starting him with a fastball away, trying to get him leaning. That’s what ended up happening. At the end of that at bat, I felt like the inside of the plate had opened up to me. He was leaning out there, which is what he does, and I’m thinking, ’There are two strikes and he’s looking to protect; he‘s looking to cover the whole plate.’
“I thought he was probably looking changeup, because I had thrown him a lot of them in the past. My idea was to come in, and that’s exactly what I did. I came with a four-seam and it just happened to be the perfect pitch. It was right on the black, on the inside corner, thigh high. He threw the arms up, hoping to get the call, because it was a borderline pitch right on the corner, and sometimes he gets that. I had him fooled, so it was arms up, and I got the call from Dale Scott.
“That‘s the thing about Jeter. When guys do that — throw their arms up — they’re giving the early impression that the ball is inside. They’re like, ’Look, I’m a good hitter, so it’s in,’ even though it’s not that far in. Sometimes it will buy you a call. But, as a pitcher, you know. I felt good about it as soon as it left my hand, better when I saw he was locked up, and better still when Dale Scott rung him up.”
On Jeter’s second at bat: “He got a base hit, and while I’m not exactly sure of the pitch, I want to say it was a fastball away. What was disconcerting is that it was to lead off an inning, and that’s the last thing you want. Paul O’Neill was hitting behind him, and like I said earlier, so were other guys who could handle the bat and hit for some power. Bernie Williams was lurking after O’Neill, and then Tino Martinez.
“Going into that inning, I’m thinking that I have to keep him off base. Instead, what he does is lead off with a base hit, although I ended up getting bailed out on the very next hitter. O’Neill rolled over a ball and hit into a double play.
“I think Jeter’s hit was up the middle. That’s what he would do to me. His whole approach against me was up-the-middle, and away. I’ve seen him turn on other guys, but I was a guy who threw away quite a bit. I took my shots inside, but not often enough that he would have a game plan of, ’I know I’m going to see a fastball in, so let’s get ready to turn.’ He does that with a lot of pitchers, so when he does hit it up the middle, or the other away, you hope he hits it at somebody. He did what he wanted to do.”
On Jeter’s third at bat: “At that point, we’re getting later into the game. What’s funny is that I hadn’t started a game in a long time. I had been pitching out of the bullpen for most of September. I think my longest outing in the playoffs was three innings. I found out after the fact that they had planned on pitch-counting me at 85. They were going to tap me out at 85 pitches and I ended up going close to 110.
“When I was out there, every pitch was max-effort. I was like, ‘I can be tired in the winter.’ I figured I may not see the field again, so everything had to be max-effort. As we were getting later in the game, that’s exactly what it was, because I knew I was coming to the end. I was letting everything go.
“From having pitched against Jeter, I knew that if I got him to ground out to shortstop — which I did — I had made the right pitch. I knew that he wanted to go the other way, so if I made a pitch and he rolled over it, and hit it to short, my execution and plan were good. You have to execute against him, because if you don’t, he’s going to shoot that hole between first and second, or hit something hard up the middle. That‘s what he‘s always done.”