Winners of 3 straight World Series are on the brink of elimination.
© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 12, 2001
NEW YORK -- Another night of stellar pitching, this time by Tim Hudson, moved Oakland within a win of ending the Yankees' latest dynasty.
Hudson finessed the Yankees for eight innings, Ron Gant homered and the brash, young Athletics held off New York 2-0 Thursday night to head home with a 2-0 lead in their first-round AL playoff series.
After becoming the fourth team to win three consecutive World Series titles, the Yankees must win three consecutive games to reach the AL Championship Series.
"We didn't expect to come in here to Yankee Stadium and win two games against that club," Hudson said. "We battled, we stayed poised and we found a way to squeeze a couple of runs across."
Oakland, beaten 3-2 by the Yankees in last year's division series, has won eight in a row against New York dating to the regular season -- and the Yankees haven't led in the past 76 innings against the A's.
New York's veterans might be just a little bit past their prime.
"I don't know about old. But they're certainly making us eat some dust right now," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "What we have to do is what we've done before, not necessarily in postseason: We have to go on a three-game winning streak."
After surviving a ninth-inning scare, the A's head to a ballpark where they won their last 17 home games of the regular season. Barry Zito (17-8), another of the left-handers who have given the Yankees difficulty this year, starts for the A's on Saturday against Mike Mussina (17-11).
Memories of last year's Game 5 loss remain in the minds of the A's players.
"I think it's more of a maturity thing," Oakland manager Art Howe said. "Being there last year, getting a taste of it, coming so close."
Hudson, backed by Gant's fourth-inning homer and a ninth-inning run on an error by Scott Brosius, held the Yankees to one hit in the first five innings, then escaped jams in the sixth and seventh.
Pitching inside to back up batters and keep them from extending over the plate, he retired 12 in a row after Derek Jeter's first-inning single and allowed six hits in all before Jason Isringhausen took over to start the ninth.
Bernie Williams doubled off the glove of third baseman Eric Chavez leading off the final inning and Tino Martinez walked, creating more drama.
But Isringhausen recovered, throwing a called third strike past Jorge Posada and retiring David Justice and Brosius on popups for his second save of the series.
"In this kind of atmosphere, it's a little nerve-racking," Isringhausen said. "It's total adrenaline."
New York earned its titles by winning October games like this, but age showed against the A's, unafraid of the Yankees' success, mystique and rabid fans.
"This is our type of game tonight. We just came up short," Torre said.
After two-out singles by Chuck Knoblauch and Jeter put two on in the sixth, Hudson worked the count full on Paul O'Neill, the emotional backbone of the Yankees through their championship years. But, with the crowd of 56,684 on its feet, O'Neill didn't come through in the clutch, instead lofting a harmless fly out to shallow center.
"The crowd was really into it, going crazy," Hudson said. "It's usually when the Yankee magic comes out."
Singles by Martinez and Justice gave New York runners at the corners with two outs in the seventh. After a mound visit by Oakland manager Art Howe, Hudson got Brosius to hit an easy grounder to second for a forceout.
"I lied a little bit," Howe recalled. "I said, "This is your last hitter, so give it everything you've got.' "
The A's, whose 102-60 record was second-best in baseball behind Seattle, got just enough offense to beat Andy Pettitte.
Pettitte, like Roger Clemens during Oakland's 5-3 win in Wednesday's opener, struggled without his best stuff and had only one 1-2-3 inning before departing in the seventh. But the A's were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, leaving them at 0-for-19 in the series.
Hudson and Game 1 winner Mark Mulder have neutralized the Yankees' central run producers. O'Neill and Brosius are hitless in the series while Williams and Justice have one hit each.
Johnny Damon, 6-for-9 in the series, gave the A's some breathing room in the ninth when he tripled down the rightfield line off Mariano Rivera and came around when Brosius, who earlier made a spectacular backhand play to throw out Jermaine Dye, missed Jason Giambi's grounder to third with the infield in.