Yankees take series back to the Bronx

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2001

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Roger Clemens got off a plane just in time to find out he'll have a job to do Monday night.

The New York Yankees turned the improbable into the inevitable, wrapping up a two-game weekend sweep in Oakland on Sunday to force a decisive Game 5 in their AL division series.

It had seemed extremely unlikely Clemens would get another chance to pitch in 2001. He left Game 1 with a tight hamstring, and the Yankees lost the first two games at home to face elimination and the end of their three-year reign as World Series champions.

But New York won both games in Oakland, where the Athletics had won 17 straight entering the playoffs, to ensure a trip home for Game 5 on Monday night. And Clemens has healed sufficiently -- though far from 100 percent -- to pitch again.

So Clemens worked out Sunday morning, then got on a commercial jet bound for New York before Game 4 began. The Yankees' 9-2 win Sunday meant Clemens' changed itinerary was not in vain.

''He felt good today off the mound. So I feel good that he'll physically be able to do it tomorrow,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said before Sunday's game. ''Sure, he's probably not as good as if it never happened. ... I'd say probably in the area of 70, 80 percent, that may be a good guess.''

Torre said Clemens practiced pickoffs and fielding bunts Sunday, and that one of his biggest concerns is that the right-hander not get too psyched up before the start.

''We'll see what he looks like. If I'm not comfortable watching what we see, then we'll make a switch,'' Torre said after Sunday's game. ''He is self motivated, there's no question. He's higher than a kite every time he goes out there, because he's done this his whole career.

''I think the only danger with him, the physical part aside, is not to get too high and too pumped up, because he has a tendency to get a little wild.''

The A's expected starter for Game 5, Mark Mulder, stayed behind in Oakland for what he hoped would be a team celebration. Instead, he watched from the edge of the dugout as the Yankees evened up the series.

Mulder wasn't talking after Sunday's game, but his teammates said they're confident he'll hold his own in the matchup with Clemens.

''It's Rocket versus Mulder, two hot pitchers,'' A's designated hitter Jeremy Giambi said. ''They're both going to be tough.''

The A's will go to New York without one of their key offensive players. Right fielder Jermaine Dye broke his left shin when he fouled a ball into his leg in the third inning Sunday. Dye joined the A's in a July trade from Kansas City.

''We won a few games this year when he wasn't here, so we're going to have to find a way to get it done,'' A's manager Art Howe said.

Even though the Yankees now have momentum on their side, and a future Hall of Famer scheduled to start for them Monday night, the A's still have a bit of history going for them -- in 11 previous postseason series that they've held a 2-1 lead, they've gone on to win all 11 times.

Last year, it was the Yankees who lost Game for at home before flying across the country to beat Oakland in Game 5 on the road.

''It's nice to be on a high going home, winning two in a row,'' Torre said. ''But we certainly know that this thing isn't over.''

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