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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / AMERICAN LEAGUE

Decidedly Bad Night for the A's

Game 3: Hudson, Hernandez make poor judgments in trying to throw out runners and Yankees take advantage for 4-2 victory.

October 07, 2000|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Oakland Athletics' pitcher Tim Hudson made 124 deliveries to the plate in a very distinguished performance Friday night. Seventy-three of those offerings were strikes, 50 were balls, and one was what the young right-hander called a "brain cramp."

The A's and Hudson may soon have the entire off-season to work that last one out.

Hudson's poor decision to throw to the plate instead of first on Glenallen Hill's second-inning chopper was one of two critical mental mistakes that led to two New York Yankee runs, and that was the difference in the Yankees' 4-2 victory over the A's in Game 3 of the American League division series.

A Yankee Stadium crowd of 56,606 saw October ace Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez labor through 130 pitches in seven innings, giving up only two runs on four hits, to improve his career postseason record to 6-0 and help give New York a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five series.

Closer Mariano Rivera blanked the A's for two innings, extending his postseason scoreless innings streak to 29, dating to Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar's solo home run in Game 5 of the 1997 division series.

Substitute second baseman Luis Sojo, who is rendering Chuck Knoblauch obsolete, made a diving stop of Terrence Long's seventh-inning shot to the hole to start an inning-ending double play and had an RBI single in the eighth to nudge New York closer to championship series berth against Seattle.

The two-time defending World Series-champion Yankees can close out the A's tonight in Game 4, which will pit five-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens against 22-year-old rookie Barry Zito.

"We don't want to go back to Oakland," Rivera said of a possible Game 5. "We want to win it [tonight]."

Much has been made of Yankee Stadium's mystique, and some questioned whether the youthful A's, most of whom are cutting their playoff teeth this week, could handle the pressure in a place where, as Yankee Manager Joe Torre said, the volume "goes up a decibel or two" in October.

The A's scoffed at such a notion. Asked if Yankee Stadium "spooked" some people, A's Manager Art Howe said, "Not anybody in green."

Something seemed to unnerve the A's, though. With runners on first and third and one out in the bottom of the second, Hill chopped a grounder that bounced high off the plate and to the mound.

Hudson, who gave up three earned runs on six hits in eight innings, caught the ball and threw home, even though there was no play. Williams was safe by a wide margin, and Hill reached on the fielder's choice.

Sojo flied to center, which would have been the third out had Hudson gone to first on Hill's grounder. Scott Brosius walked to load the bases, and shortstop Miguel Tejada couldn't glove Derek Jeter's grounder to the shortstop hole, a ball that was ruled an RBI single and gave New York a 2-1 lead.

"That was a bad choice on my part," Hudson said. "I had no chance at the guy at home. I should have gone to first. There's no way to explain it."

A's catcher Ramon Hernandez didn't learn from Hudson's mistake. After Sojo led off the fourth with a walk, Brosius dropped a bunt a few feet in front of the plate.

Hernandez pounced on the ball and fired to second, but his throw glanced off Tejada's glove and into shallow center, allowing Sojo to take third. Replays showed that Sojo might have beaten Hernandez's throw even if Tejada had caught the ball. Jeter's RBI fielder's choice gave New York a 3-1 lead.

"Sojo isn't that fast, and I thought I had a shot," Hernandez said. "You've got to take a chance sometimes."

Hudson would not attribute the mistakes to nerves or anxiety.

"We're aggressive--that's how we play the game," Hudson said. "We're not going to change our style because it's the playoffs or we're in Yankee Stadium. We're young. We have to learn from these mistakes."

The lesson: When you take chances like the A's did Friday night and give a team like the Yankees extra outs, there is usually a heavy price to pay.

"We took advantage of opportunities they gave us," Torre said. "We didn't allow them to strike us out with men in scoring position. We didn't hit it very hard or very far, but we certainly benefited from what opportunities we had."

Hudson caught no such breaks. After Bernie Williams' leadoff double in the second, the Yankees scored twice without hitting the ball out of the infield.

"That's what the Yankees can do," Hudson lamented. "They can take a pitcher who has good stuff and is on his game, do something with a couple of pitches, and the next thing you know you're down a couple of runs."

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