A's dent Yanks' crown

Mulder, 3 home runs pace 5-3 win as hosts open bid for 4 in row

Strained leg ousts Clemens

Long connectx twice

Mulder handles N.Y. pressure for 6 2/3

October 11, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Oakland Athletics left fielder Terrence Long enjoyed two home runs and a snowcone catch. New York Yankees starting pitcher and resident intimidator Roger Clemens took home a sore right hamstring and a refresher course in postseason history against the A's.

Mark Mulder showed why he led the American League in wins and Jason Giambi showed why he may lead it in balloting for the Most Valu able Player.

The Yankees showed a home crowd of 56,697 why their aura of invincibility now flickers.

Surviving a late-inning scare, the A's captured Game 1 of the American League Division Series, 5-3, against the three-time defending world champions, who entered the series al ready bruised and left it won dering when things may turn.

The A's received four hits from leadoff hitter Johnny Da mon, who reached base in all five plate appearances, and two home runs from Long, a player once drafted by the New York Mets with a compensatory pick gained from the Orioles. Giambi drove in two runs with a home run and sacrifice fly. They scored five runs without a hit in run-scor ing situations.

A series of borderline calls, Clemens' shortest start of the season, a maddening inability to exploit two early scoring chances and Mulder's poise frustrated the Yankees.

Surrounded by hundreds of uniformed police, Yankee Stadium became a rallying point for a city. Unfortunately, chants of U-S-A, cheers for Mayor Rudy Guiliani and a moving pre-game ceremony for the city's rescue workers failed to translate into an inspired performance for a championship team considered underdogs against a wild- card entry.the series.

The loss extended Clemens" postseason miseries against the A's to 0-4 in games dating to 1986.

Giambi provided the A's a first-inning lead on a sacrifice fly then restored a two-run lead when he turned on reliever Sterling Hitch cock for a leadoff home run against the facade of the right-field upper deck in the seventh. The first of Long's two bases-empty homers gave the A's a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning off Clemens.

Infuriated by an overruled call that gave the A's a double in the second inning, the Yankees lost an important out when right fielder David Justice was called out by plate umpire Dana DeMuth for running inside the baseline in the fifth, the only time they managed multiple hits in an inning against Mulder.

Clemens wasn't right. His 0-2 record from the previous three starts began to look more telling than misleading as he needed 44 pitches to labor through the first two innings.

The A's consistently pulled Clemens" fastball and sifted through his sluggish breaking as sortment.

On Monday Clemens talked about knocking hitters off the plate if they dared try to take the outside half from him. But last night, hindered by a sore leg, he rarely exercised the necessary command to take it for himself.

Clemens never looked comfort able as he failed to retire any of five leadoff hitters and struck out just one of 21 hitters faced. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre made a sec ond-inning mound visit, a rarity for a pitcher who cleared six innings in 29 of 33 starts and never failed to pitch through the fifth.

The A's took a 1-0 first-inning lead when Damon sliced a two- strike single, stole second base and advanced to third on Miguel Tejada's right-side grounder. Giambi drove in the run with a sacrifice fly to left field.

Clemens' most amazing feat was avoiding more damage. The A's were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against him. Twice Clemens saved himself by spearing one-hop grounders, once on a one-out shot with Giambi at third. He appeared more goalie than five-time Cy Young Award winner.

Working counts and exhaust ing opposing starting pitchers is the Yankees" ploy. They have de veloped it into an art form, com plete with four-hour playoff games and late-inning rallies. But it was the A's who this time sensed vul nerability. They accepted three walks and a hit batter, constantly forcing Clemens to work from the stretch.

Long, his only strikeout victim, repaid the favor by leading off the fourth inning by driving a sluggish split-fingered pitch over the right- field fence. Long entered last night a career 0-for-8 against Clemens.

When Clemens strained his hamstring was unclear; but when Torre went to the mound after Giambi walked to begin the fifth, he brought along DeMuth to check for injury.

Hitchcock relieved and imme diately surrendered a double to right fielder Jermaine Dye that put runners at second and third with none out. A hit away from perhaps blowing open the game, the A's got nothing from a strikeout, foul pop and fly ball, leaving them 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position through five innings.

The A's scored two important runs in the top of the eighth against Hitchcock on Long's sec ond home run and against Jay Witasick on Tejada's sacrifice fly. The 5-1 lead survived Tino Marti nez's two-run homer in the bottom of the inning against reliever Jim Mecir.

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