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A's cut Yanks down to size

Mulder keeps New York in check for Game 1 win

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2001

NEW YORK -- With Mark Mulder's presence on the mound, the Oakland Athletics showed the poise they lacked in their first playoff game at Yankee Stadium last year.

The young, brash A's now need to do what they couldn't a year ago: finish off the aging World Series champions.

Mulder, showing no nerves in his first postseason appearance, held New York to one run, and Terrence Long homered twice to lead Oakland to a 5-3 win over the Yankees in the opener of their first-round AL series.

''I couldn't believe how focused I was,'' the 24-year-old Mulder said. ''I was in a tunnel with my catcher. I didn't hear the crowd, my teammates or anybody. It wasn't like a regular season game. There was a lot more adrenaline and a lot more emotion.''

Jason Giambi also homered for the A's, who beat Roger Clemens in Game 1 of a best-of-five series for the second straight year. But after losing last year in five games in a series that started in Oakland, the A's know their work is not done.

''I hope it turns out different,'' Oakland manager Art Howe said. ''We learned a valuable lesson last year. Just because we win the first game doesn't mean the series is over.''

Game 2 is Thursday with Andy Pettitte (15-10) pitching for New York against Tim Hudson (18-9).

''We had high hopes for this first game,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. 'We're going to have to dig down and even it up tomorrow.''

There was tight security and an increased police presence at Yankee Stadium in response to last month's terrorist attacks. But nothing could keep the 56,697 fans away as New York began its run for a fourth World Series title.

This year could be toughest, as Oakland offers the stiffest first-round competition for the AL East champion Yankees during their run.

After nearly ending New York's chances last season, the wild card A's used two elements that were missing a year ago: a healthy Mulder and Johnny Damon's speed.

Damon, a disappointment in his first year in Oakland, showed why the A's acquired him in the offseason from Kansas City. He went 4-for-4 with a walk, two steals and a run scored.

But the biggest difference was Mulder, who missed last year's playoffs with a bad back before bouncing back with 21 wins this season.

Mulder showed composure beyond his years, taking control early. The first two runners of the game reached for the Yankees -- on an error by second baseman Frank Menechino and a single by Derek Jeter.

Last year, the young A's were undone by fielding blunders in their first playoff game in New York. But Mulder wasn't fazed, getting Bernie Williams to hit into a double play and striking out Tino Martinez.

''Mark is a very special pitcher,'' Damon said. ''He's grown up in front of our eyes this season. He showed up to pitch tonight in front of a worldwide TV audience.''

Mulder allowed seven hits and struck out five in 6 2-3 innings. The 6-foot-6 left-hander overpowered New York's dangerous lefty bats. Martinez, Paul O'Neill, and David Justice went 0-for-9 against Mulder and didn't get a ball out of the infield.

''Mulder did a great job, period. He kept the ball down, kept it off the middle of the plate,'' Martinez said.

After an emotional pregame ceremony to honor the city's rescue workers, the A's backed up Howe's bravado with a run in the first. Howe caused a stir when he said the Yankees would have to play great ''to have a shot to beat us.''

Damon singled, stole second, went to third on Miguel Tejada's groundout and scored on Giambi's sacrifice fly.

''I feel like if I get on base, the big guys are going to drive me in,'' Damon said.

The run snapped a 17-inning scoreless streak for Clemens in the postseason, but helped maintain another one. Clemens, 38, lost his fourth straight playoff start against Oakland, dating to his second-inning ejection in Game 4 of the 1990 ALCS for Boston.

Long led off the fourth with a homer, and Clemens left with a tight right hamstring after walking Giambi to lead off the fifth. He will be re-evaluated Thursday. Clemens hurt himself fielding Damon's infield hit in the fourth inning.

The Rocket allowed two runs and four hits in four-plus innings. It could have been worse, but he held Oakland hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position and made two nifty defensive plays of his own to save at least three runs.

''For the most part I made every pitch I wanted to make tonight,'' Clemens said.

Giambi and Long hit solo homers in the seventh and eighth off Sterling Hitchcock and Tejada added had a sacrifice fly in the eighth to make it 5-1.

Martinez hit a two-run homer off Jim Mecir in the eighth to cut it to 5-3. Jason Isringhausen pitched a perfect ninth for the save.

Braves 1, Astros 0

HOUSTON -- Tom Glavine stuck to his decade-long routine, winning in Houston. Astros shortstop Julio Lugo maintained a recent trend of his own, giving away runs.

Glavine kept the playoff focus on pitching with eight sharp innings and Atlanta capitalized on another misplay by Lugo for a victory, giving the Braves a 2-0 lead in their NL first round series.

By improving to 10-0 in Houston since June 1991 -- with another save from John Smoltz -- Glavine sent the Braves home needing only one more win to return to the NLCS after a one-year absence.

John Burkett will start Game 3 on Friday afternoon against Houston's Shane Reynolds.

Cardinals 4, Diamondbacks 1

PHOENIX -- Randy Johnson goes from fearsome to failure in the postseason. He just can't seem to win.

Johnson extended his major league record for consecutive playoff losses to seven as Woody Williams and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, tying their NL series at one game each.

Rookie Albert Pujols hit his first postseason homer, a two-run opposite-field shot in the first inning.

The Cardinals' victory came less than 24 hours after Curt Schilling's three-hit, 1-0 masterpiece. Game 3 in the best-of-five series is Friday night in St. Louis.

The 35-year-old Williams' allowed one run on four hits in seven-plus innings in his postseason debut.



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