Champs hang on to defeat A’s in game 5
NEW YORK (AP) – With no margin for error, Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees’ pinstriped dynasty persevered with one of the great comebacks in baseball history.
As Jeter solidified his place in Yankees’ lore, the three-time defending World Series champions became the first team ever to win a best-of-five series after losing the first two games at home.
New York fell behind early as Roger Clemens stumbled, then seized on Oakland’s youthful nerves to beat the Athletics 5-3 in the deciding Game 5 Monday night and advance to the AL championship series.
Alfonso Soriano started the comeback with a two-run single, New York created two runs from three errors and David Justice capped the comeback with a pinch-hit home run into the right-field seats – his first RBI in 62 at-bats since Sept. 5.
Then came Jeter, whose amazing backhand flip to the plate following an overthrow preserved the Yankees’ 1-0 win in Game 3 – and turned the series.
After getting two hits to break Pete Rose’s postseason record with 87, Jeter showed the heart and skill of a champion.
With a runner on first in the eighth, he dived headlong into the photographer’s box behind third base to catch Terrence Long’s foul pop. The runner advanced, but was stranded, and after the inning Jeter bandaged his elbow cut.
With the delirious Bronx crowd chanting at fever pitch, Mariano Rivera closed it out, capping 4 2-3 innings of shutout, two-hit relief started by winner Mike Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza.
New York, trying to become only the third team to win the World Series four straight times, opens the AL championship Wednesday at Seattle, with renewed confidence that nothing is outside its grasp.
”If you lose playing well, you tip your hat,” Oakland manager Art Howe said. ”Tonight we contributed quite a bit to our demise.”
Clemens fell behind 2-0 in the first two innings. The Giambi brothers hit RBI singles that put Oakland ahead, with Jason – who went 4-for-4 – connecting in the first after Johnny Damon’s leadoff double and Jeremy in the second following Long’s double.
But then the Yankees’ resolve, the refusal not to give in that has led them to four World Series titles in five years under manager Joe Torre, kicked in while the A’s buckled.
Soriano, one of the rookies added this year to an ever-changing roster, started it with a two-run single in the second off Mark Mulder, who had shut down the Yankees in the opener.
Soriano’s hit came after Scott Brosius, in a horrible slump, loaded the bases when he was hit by a pitch on the foot.
Then the A’s, the team seemingly on the verge of a breakthrough season, turned from brash to bumbling, an attitude that seemed so solid in winning twice at Yankee Stadium last week went from juiced to jittery.
An innocent strikeout by Bernie Williams started the collapse in the third. The ball skipped away from catcher Greg Myers, who got it in plenty of time to throw to first for the out, but his throw bounced under the glove of Jason Giambi at first and into right field as Williams reached.
Tino Martinez was hit on a hip by a pitch and Shane Spencer loaded the bases with a two-out walk. Brosius then hit a grounder to third and Eric Chavez, appearing distracted as Martinez crossed in front of him, let the ball pop out of his glove as Williams scored the go-ahead run.
Jason Giambi hurt the A’s again in the fourth after Chuck Knoblauch led off with a single. Mulder picked Knoblauch off first, with Giambi having plenty of time to make the play, but his throw to second was wide and low.
Randy Velarde bunted Knoblauch over and Jeter hit a sacrifice fly on the next pitch to make it 4-2.
Oakland had plenty of chances, going 3-for-8 with runners’ in scoring position, a change from its 1-for-35 in the first four games.
The best example of the struggles by the A’s, who also lost the first round to the Yankees 3-2 last year, came in the fifth.
Jason Giambi hit an RBI single off Mike Stanton, who had just replaced Clemens, but Miguel Tejada failed to go from first to third on the play. It became costly when Chavez flied to right, a ball Tejada could have scored on.
Giambi and Tejada had an animated discussion after the inning, with the MVP first baseman jabbing his finger at his teammate. About an inning later, they had a talk in the dugout and appeared to make up.
Mulder wasn’t as sharp as he was in the opener. Although he broke a pair of bats in the first inning, his pitches didn’t have the bite and he didn’t get ahead in the count as often.
Clemens, pitching with an injured hamstring, had troubles with most of his pitches but kept his team in the game. New York was the 11th team in a best-of-five series to lose the first two at home, but played as if pressure was nonexistent.
At first it, looked like the Yankees might still be in their offensive funk. With runners at the corners in the first and one out, Williams hit into a double play off Mulder, who led the AL with 26 ground double plays induced.
Williams hit himself in the chest twice in frustration, angry he swung at the first pitch.
Oakland, meanwhile, put a jersey in its dugout of Jermaine Dye, the cleanup hitter who broke his left leg on a foul ball Sunday.
But in New York, the icons are in Monument Park, honoring the pinstripes. Once again, the youthful A’s couldn’t overcome that.
Notes: After throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto mimicked the flip Jeter made to the plate preserving a 1-0 lead Saturday. … Oakland C Ramon Hernandez left in the third inning because of a sprained right wrist. … With Justice’s 14th postseason homer, he moved into fifth place on the career list.
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