Yanks come all way back

Scoring straight A's, champs win, 5-3, cap climb from 0-2 hole

Bid for 4 in row goes to ALCS

Oakland loses ugly

rebound from home deficit is first ever

October 16, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Other teams have equaled or even bettered their three consecutive World Series and another American League club beat their league record 114 wins this season. But no team has ever accomplished what the New York Yankees pulled off last night inside Yankee Stadium by eliminating the Oakland Athletics, 5-3, in the decisive fifth game of an American League Division Series flipped upside down.

The three-time world champions became the first team ever to advance after losing the first two segments of a five-game postseason series at home. Seldom has any game revealed so much.

Shortstop Derek Jeter again showed himself a mesmerizing October presence with two hits, a sacrifice fly and a eighth-inning catch while cartwheeling backward into the stands.

Pinch hitter David Justice confirmed his status as a money player by providing the final margin with a pinch home run.

At 39, Yankees starting pitcher Roger Clemens only added to his mystique, if not his postseason win total, by providing 4 1/3 innings of motivation before handing the game over to a flawless bullpen.

And when Mariano Rivera struck out Frank Menechino to complete the comeback, the A's were left as a dominant second-half team exposed as too young, too nervous and even too superficial to play up to their talent in such a rarefied atmosphere.

The Yankees, who scored four runs in the series' first three games, advance to the American League Championship Series against the Seattle Mariners with a chance to extend their dominance to a fourth consecutive world championship. Underdogs to the wild-card A's when the Division Series began, they have underscored the foolishness of discarding experience and tenacity under pressure.

Clemens is fond of using gadgets to rev himself for big moments, whether it be the facial war paint that preceded his ejection from Game 4 of the 1990 American League Championship Series in Oakland or last night when he emerged from the bullpen with his pants pulled up above his calves, something more typical of the Dead Ball era or teammate Orlando Hernandez but not the pitcher who has long worn his pinstripes pajama length.

No one, not even his manager, could predict how long Clemens would survive on a sore right hamstring. Joe Torre said before the game that he might have Game 2 starter Andy Pettitte warm up before the first pitch as a precaution if Clemens' delivery seemed defective.

"Watching him for the past couple years, you pretty much know what looks good and what looks smooth and what doesn't," Torre said.

The thought of Pettitte starting in place of Clemens remained with Torre less than two hours before the game. "We may have to raise our hands and ask for an additional amount of time," said Torre in a startling admission before the decisive game of a postseason series. "I don't anticipate that happening because Roger has thrown a couple of times on Saturday and Sunday and he felt fine about all that stuff."

Clemens looked neither good nor smooth early as the A's jumped him for a run in each of the first two innings, both times after leadoff doubles.

Jason Giambi scored Johnny Damon with a one-out single in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. Giambi's brother, Jeremy, scored Terrence Long with a one-out single in the second. The brothers Giambi had entered the game in a collective 5-for-24 funk with only two RBIs.

Clemens, a career 5-6 playoff pitcher, entered 0-5 in the postseason against Oakland. He remains winless in seven playoff tries against them after last night, but offered enough to stay with Mark Mulder while striking out five compared to one in his four-inning start in Game 1.

Mulder had been dominant in the A's 5-3 win in Game 1. But last night offered a fresh set of circumstances as Mulder tried to prevent his team from becoming the first to fumble a 2-0 lead earned on the road during a five-game playoff series.

A double play allowed Mulder to escape first-inning trouble before his lead vanished in the second against the bottom of the Yankees' order. Catcher Jorge Posada's and right fielder Shane Spencer's one-out singles preceded Mulder hitting Scott Brosius with a pitch to load the bases. Rookie second baseman Alfonso Soriano then tied the game with a sharp single to left field as the stadium shook.

Mulder's first two runs allowed were earned. Once the Yankees drew even, the A's offered the look of a team cowed by its surroundings and very aware of its precarious perch.

Weirdness that plagued the Yankees earlier in the series made sport of the A's. It started with catcher Ramon Hernandez's removal because of a sprained right wrist. His replacement, former Orioles backup Greg Myers, became the starter for a grotesque third inning in which the Yankees took the lead on two errors, a walk and a hit batter. The player who scored the go-ahead run actually struck out.

Bernie Williams reached with one out after swinging at a ball that bounced to Myers.

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