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Yankee Offense Comes Out of Slump as They Take Care of A's, 7-5

October 09, 2000|PAUL GUTIERREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND — Will the real New York Yankees please stand up?

Are the two-time defending World Series champs the team that stumbled to the finish by dropping seven consecutive games to end the regular season? The team that seemingly lost its killer instinct by getting blown out at home Saturday when it had a chance to close out the division series against the Oakland Athletics?

Or are the real Yankees the squad that stunned the A's on Sunday night in Game 5 with a six-run first inning at Network Associates Coliseum, a scoring outburst that was enough for New York to hold on for a series-clinching 7-5 win before 41,170?

Perhaps Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter put it best.

"People have been writing us off," Jeter said, "saying that we're old, that we're finished. But until somebody beats us, we're still the champs."

That may be true, but the aging and weary Yankees, who have won three of the last four World Series, will face another strong test in the well-rested Seattle Mariners in the American League championship series, which begins Tuesday in New York.

Many Yankees went so far as to say that this was the toughest playoff series they have encountered.

"To beat a club like Oakland, I mean, [Oakland Manager] Art Howe should be proud," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "They had every reason to roll over and die yesterday and they didn't. They had every reason to today and they didn't.

"I'm glad we don't have to see them again until next year."

While both starters--Oakland's Gil Heredia and New York's Andy Pettitte--returned to the West Coast early in anticipation of a possible Game 5 so they would be rested, both looked as lethargic as their teammates Sunday night.

Heredia, impressive in beating the Yankees on Tuesday in Game 1, was absolutely awful in Game 5.

It began when Chuck Knoblauch laced Heredia's first offering of the night into right field for a single. It ended, for Heredia at least, when New York's No. 7 hitter, Jorge Posada, drilled a comebacker off Heredia's right thigh.

The Yankees' first at-bat lasted 23 minutes, and by the time the carnage was over, Heredia had been charged with six runs and six hits.

"We let them get a running start on us tonight," Howe said. "The difference in the ballgame was the first inning, [when New York] put up that six-spot.

"I'm proud of the way the guys played, not only tonight, but all season long. We learned we can play with everybody this season. We're looking for bigger and better things next year. Like I said, I'm very proud of my club."

Torre, meanwhile, was happy that his club survived.

Consider: Even with their six-run cushion to start the game, the Yankees still had to go deep into their bullpen, using Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson, Game 3 starter Orlando Hernandez and closer Mariano Rivera to ward off the pesky A's.

Pettitte, who shut down Oakland in Game 2 on Wednesday, a 4-0 Yankee win, lasted only 3 2/3 innings this time around. He gave up five runs and 10 hits while walking two and striking out four.

Stanton picked up the win while Rivera earned his third save of the series, his major league-record 16th in the postseason. He has not given up an earned run in 30 2/3 consecutive innings dating back to Game 5 of the 1997 division series against the Cleveland Indians.

Oakland, meanwhile, also used five pitchers, including Kevin Appier, who made his first relief appearance since May 18, 1991.

After the mess that was the first inning, Oakland relievers allowed only three baserunners from the fourth inning on. But one of the hits was a line-drive solo home run by David Justice in the fourth off a 3-and-1 Appier offering.

Oakland scored two runs off Pettitte in the second inning, when Randy Velarde's two-out, bases-loaded single scored Adam Piatt and Ramon Hernandez.

In the third, with Miguel Tejada on first with a one-out single, Eric Chavez doubled to the left-center field gap, driving in Tejada to close the gap to 6-3.

Justice homered in the top of the fourth before Oakland loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the inning.

The A's could muster only two runs, though, on sacrifice flies by Jason Giambi and Olmedo Saenz, cutting the Yankee lead to 7-5.

New York's bullpen settled down until the A's threatened in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Matt Stairs doubled down the first base line off of Hernandez with one out.

The Yankees called on Rivera and, except for a two-out single by Tejada in the ninth, he shut down Oakland.

"I'm very choked up about this," Torre said. "We're looking forward to the next round. It starts in a couple days but we really don't care right now."

ALCS

NEW YORK vs. SEATTLE

Tuesday

MARINERS

at YANKEES

5 p.m.

Wednesday

at New York,

1 p.m.

Friday

at Seattle,

5 p.m.

Saturday

at Seattle,

4:30 p.m.

If necessary

Sunday

at Seattle,

1 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 17

at New York,

5 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 18

at New York,

5 p.m.

* TV: Channel 4

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