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Yankees can't snap slide

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2000

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Even the comfort of the postseason couldn't rescue the slumping New York Yankees, who were destroyed by the bottom of the Oakland Athletics' lineup.

Ramon Hernandez drove in two runs, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning off Roger Clemens, and the Athletics defeated the struggling Yankees 5-3 Tuesday night in the opener of their playoff series.

Hernandez, the No. 9 hitter in a powerful A's lineup, went 2-for-4 Tuesday after hitting .241 during the regular season. Both of his hits went to the opposite field.

''Ramon's our secret weapon at the bottom of the order,'' A's manager Art Howe said. ''You need hitting throughout the order to win. We feel good about him being down there, because there's not an easy touch anywhere in the lineup.''

The last three hitters in the Oakland lineup went 6-for-11 and scored four runs.

''The bottom of the order beat our brains out,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ''I thought they were very patient at the bottom of that lineup and Hernandez had a very good approach, going the other way.''

In a matchup of near-opposites, a small-market A's club making its first playoff appearance since 1992 was patient enough to outlast Clemens and a mega-rich Yankees club trying to defend its two straight World Series titles.

Overpowered for the first four innings, the A's scored four times in the fifth and sixth off a tiring Clemens -- he threw 111 pitches in his six innings -- and then held on to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five AL division series.

''The way Roger was throwing the ball early on, it looked like it might be a long evening for us. The velocity he had was vintage Clemens,'' Howe said. ''But we hung in there.''

Hernandez said he convinced himself to stay patient against Clemens and wait for the right pitch. He got that right pitch twice, and that led to two run-scoring hits.

''He was dealing, dealing, dealing throughout the whole game,'' Hernandez said. ''I got up and I think he messed up a couple of pitches.''

The Yankees stumbled into the playoffs this year, ending the regular season with a seven-game losing streak -- the worst skid ever for a team entering the postseason -- and 15 losses in their final 18 games.

They hoped the postseason would provide a panacea -- after all, they had won 18 of their previous 19 postseason games heading into this series, and also have a record-matching 12 straight World Series victories.

''It was very disappointing, we had the opportunity to get things going, we just couldn't,'' New York's Bernie Williams said. ''It started pretty good, we just couldn't keep scoring, getting more runs. I really didn't think we were OK, but I did think he had something going.''

The slump prompted Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to issue a statement earlier in the day about his team.

''Tired? Yeah, maybe. Struggling? Yeah, maybe. But scared? ... That word ain't even in our vocabulary,'' he said.

Mariners 7, White Sox 4

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Seattle Mariners are doing just fine without Junior.

Mike Cameron, one of the players acquired in the Ken Griffey Jr. trade, supplied the speed, unnerving his former team with a key stolen base.

And the Mariners' old reliable, Edgar Martinez, and John Olerud added the power in the 10th inning as Seattle beat the Chicago White Sox in the opener of their AL playoff series.

Martinez hit a two-run homer right after Cameron's steal -- which followed a rare on-the-field meeting with manager Lou Piniella at first base.

After Martinez's shot cleared the left field wall, Olerud followed with a solo homer.

What was Piniella doing coming to first to talk with his baserunner?

''He said, 'Relax,''' said Cameron. ''Whatever he told me, it worked. The only time you see that is Little League.

''I can't tell you exactly what he said. It's a secret we have to keep under the sheets. I guess it was a moment of truth. He wanted to shore things up and make sure I was comfortable.''

The consecutive homers came off Chicago relief ace Keith Foulke, who'd surrendered just nine home runs in 88 innings all season.

Martinez said Cameron's stolen base changed his approach.

''When Mike was at second, I tried to make contact and make my swing a little shorter,'' Martinez said. ''By him being at second, I was able to wait more for the pitch and make a better swing.''

Cameron, traded away by the White Sox two years ago to Cincinnati and acquired by the Mariners in the Griffey deal this February, singled in the tying run in the seventh.

He singled again to start the 10th. Alex Rodriguez popped out before Cameron, once projected as Chicago's next star, was nearly picked off first.

At that point, Piniella came out of the dugout and talked to Cameron. After a pitchout, Cameron stole second.

''I told him the Nasdaq was down 113 points and Cisco was a heck of a buy,'' Piniella said, refusing to divulge his on-field advice.

Cardinals 7, Braves 5

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Cardinals opened the playoffs with a wild win, beating the bumbling Atlanta Braves despite the most out-of-control pitching in the major leagues in more than a century.

Rick Ankiel, a surprise Game 1 starter for St. Louis, became the first pitcher in 110 years to throw five wild pitches in one inning, but St. Louis held on to a six-run, first-inning lead and beat the Braves.

''Hey, I guess at least I set a record,'' Ankiel joked.

With the help of two errors and a fly ball Gold Glove center fielder Andruw Jones apparently lost in the sun, St. Louis got its first five batters on in the first against Greg Maddux, who dropped to 10-11 in postseason play.

''A crazy inning where things kind of went haywire,'' Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone said. ''I guess that's the best way to describe it.''

Placido Polanco, who went 3-for-4, hit a two-run single as the Cardinals tied a postseason record for runs in the opening inning. Jim Edmonds added a home run in the fourth.

Atlanta made three errors in all, contributing to two unearned runs, just two days after Chipper Jones' ninth-inning error cost the defending NL champions home-field advantage in the first round.

''A couple of mistakes cost us,'' said outfielder Brian Jordan, who had three hits.

Mike James relieved Ankiel and got the final out of the third, then pitched two more innings for the win. Dave Veres worked the ninth for the save, allowing an RBI single to Jordan.

''I don't care about the save,'' Veres said. ''I wanted us to score four or five more runs in the eighth.''

After a day off Wednesday, the series resumes with Darryl Kile pitching for St. Louis against Tom Glavine in a matchup of the NL's only 20-game winners, then travels to Atlanta for the weekend.

Ankiel originally was to pitch in Game 2, but La Russa made the switch Monday.

Given the 6-0 lead, he stumbled in the third and became only the second pitcher in major league history to throw five wild pitches in an inning. On Sept. 15, 1890, Bert Cunningham did it for Buffalo of the Players League in the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader.

All but one of Ankiel's wild pitches were fastballs, most of them high over the head of catcher Carlos Hernandez. The fifth was a curve that bounced about five feet in front of the plate.

Hernandez also made a leaping grab to prevent what would have been another.

''He threw some outstanding pitches and he threw some funny pitches,'' said manager Tony La Russa, who repeated Ankiel is his scheduled starter if a fourth game is needed.

Ankiel threw 12 wild pitches in 175 regular-season innings. More than half (34) of his 66 pitches Tuesday were balls.

Maddux lasted four innings, giving up seven runs -- five earned -- and nine hits.

Atlanta was just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position, while St. Louis was 3-for-15.

Mark McGwire, limited to one plate appearance per game because of knee pain, pinch hit in the eighth and was intentionally walked by Kerry Ligtenberg.

St. Louis, which took a 3-1 lead against Atlanta in the 1996 NL championship series and then lost three straight, quickly got ahead.

Fernando Vina reached on an infield single leading off, J.D. Drew singled and Edmonds' fly ball dropped next to Andruw Jones as the game's first run scored.

Will Clark's single made it 2-0 and Ray Lankford reached when his grounder bounced off the glove of third baseman Chipper Jones, allowing another run to score.

After a sacrifice and an intentional walk, Placido Polanco hit a two-run single to center and advanced to second when Andruw Jones' throw home hit the mound.

Catcher Paul Bako allowed another run to score when he threw wildly to second, trying to catch Polanco going for the extra base.

The third was even wilder.

Ankiel opened the inning with a four-pitch walk to Maddux, then threw a fifth ball before getting a visit from pitching coach Dave Duncan.

La Russa didn't start warming up a reliever until Brian Jordan, the sixth batter of the inning, hit an RBI single.

Andruw Jones scored on the first wild pitch, Jordan hit an RBI single, and Walt Weiss had a two-run single.

Cardinals rookie Britt Reames, an unexpected member of the postseason staff, escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh when he got Reggie Sanders on a popout and pinch-hitter Bobby Bonilla on a groundout.

Notes: The Cardinals have never lost a game in a best-of-five series, sweeping the Braves in 1982 and the Padres in 1996. ... St. Louis had the best day record in the NL at 38-30, including 22-9 at home. ... The Braves, in need of offense, pinch hit Javy Lopez for Bako in the second inning. But Lopez lined into an inning-ending double play on a diving grab by shortstop Edgar Renteria and ended up 0-for-4. ... The Braves were 11th in the NL with 129 errors. ... Braves pitchers didn't have a 1-2-3 inning until Terry Mulholland retired the side in order in the seventh.



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