Hudson, A's push Yankees to brink with 2-0 victory

Only twice have teams overcome 2-0 deficits to win Division Series

October 12, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Old No. 8 - Yogi, not Cal - would say it's not over 'til it's over. But precedent says when the Oakland A's can beat the New York Yankees, 2-0, on a Bronx night that begged for emotion but received only silence, it's over.

When Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte can make a single gaffe and be beaten by A's designated hitter Ron Gant's fourth-inning home run and starting pitcher Tim Hudson's eight shutout innings, when closer Jason Isringhausen can almost melt then rescue the ninth inning, when the A's can head home with a two-game lead in a best-of-five Division Series while still awaiting their initial hit with a runner past first base ... . Did someone say it's over?

The Yankees entered this series as three-time defending world champions but leave town feeling an unfamiliar chill of an abbreviated October after last night's second straight defeat. For the first time since the Orioles last won the American League East, the Yankees confront the likelihood of a World Series without them.

Only two teams - the 1999 Boston Red Sox and the 1995 Seattle Mariners - have recovered to win a Division Series after trailing 2-0. No team has won a Division Series or a best-of-five League Championship Series after losing the first two games at home.

"They threw great games. You've got to take it like a man. We've won a lot of championships, and we've won with pitching," said Pettitte, who watched Oakland's starting pitching allow one run and 13 hits in 14 2/3 innings while preventing the Yankees from ever taking a lead. In fact, the Yankees haven't led the A's in the teams' past five games.

The A's are 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position this series; however, it is the Yankees who cry for a big hit. Gant's home run and a ninth-inning error by Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius accounted for the scoring.

"It's usually when the Yankee magic comes out. They were behind their guys. I was loving it out there," said Hudson, who lasted eight innings before yielding to Isringhausen's second save in as many nights.

Before a Yankee Stadium crowd of 56,684 which opened the night by applauding President Bush's televised news conference, the Yankees placed seven runners in the last four innings after managing only one hit against Hudson in the first five. When given a chance for a breakthrough, the Yankees couldn't push a ball out of the infield. An attack that proved relentless the past three years remains muted.

"They are certainly making us eat some dust right now because of the way they're playing us," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, suddenly faced with questions about his team's age rather than its resilience.

"They are hitting home runs, and we haven't been able to stop them from doing that. I don't believe teams get old overnight. Last year we struggled down the stretch and played very efficiently in the postseason. I can't use any excuse here other than to credit their team."

Pettitte symbolized the Yankees' last stand. It was he who stopped the A's in Game 2 of last October's Division Series with 7 2/3 shutout innings. Pettitte also rescued the Yankees in the 1996 World Series when he won pivotal Game 5 with a shutout effort against Atlanta. This time he was undone by a pull-hitting nomad whose career began with the Braves before evolving into a series of one-year stands that have offered him more limited roles.

Gant, 36, may well be the most anonymous active player to have more than 300 home runs, 1,500 hits and 1,000 runs scored. Traded from Colorado on July 3, Gant is with his fifth team in four seasons but the A's may become the fourth in his 14-year career to include him on their LCS roster.

Before an off-road biking accident in 1994 stunted Gant's career, he was known for possessing some of the game's quickest hands, a voracious lift-and-pull hitter who rarely missed an inside fastball. Pettitte's 0-1 pitch rode inside before disappearing.

The series now shifts to Network Associates Coliseum, where all the A's have done is win 17 straight games and their past six against the Yankees.

The Yankees turn to departed Orioles ace Mike Mussina in tomorrow's Game 4. He has been the game's best pitcher in the past five weeks - a 1.29 ERA and a one-hitter in his past seven starts, five straight wins, plus an ERA that shriveled from 3.92 to 3.15 in his last 11 starts. But Mussina represents only one start, and even the thought of a five-game series means another start by sore-legged Roger Clemens.

"We just need to go out there and win and hopefully the momentum changes and we just build on that," said Torre. "We need to hit a little bit. We have not hit. I don't know if it's that we're as inefficient as they are efficient."

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