Work in Sports
Pettitte ends Yankees' slide
Pettitte allowed five hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings and the Yankees defeated the Oakland Athletics 4-0 Wednesday night to tie their best-of-five AL division series at 1-1.
The Yankees, who were being derided by critics as over-the-hill champions, snapped an eight-game losing streak and a 10-game road losing streak.
"We've been down. We've been on a terrible skid," Pettitte said. "I hope this will get us going. This is a big game for us, obviously. We've really been struggling."
The playoff series moves to New York for Game 3 on Friday night, with Oakland's Tim Hudson (20-6) -- who this year became the first pitcher since 1991 to win 20 games in his first full major league season -- facing Orlando Hernandez (12-13).
Glenallen Hill, in the lineup as part of New York manager Joe Torre's effort to shake up a moribund offense, broke up a scoreless game with an RBI single and Luis Sojo followed with a two-run double as the Yankees scored three in the sixth.
The hits by Hill and Sojo came with two outs and immediately after an intentional walk to struggling Paul O'Neill, who has not had an extra-base hit since Sept. 6. After the left-handed O'Neill walked, righties Hill and Sojo connected off right-hander Kevin Appier.
"O'Neill's been there so many times in the past and come up with big hits for them," A's manager Art Howe said. "We knew he'd been struggling, but we didn't want to let him beat us. Glenallen did."
Torre demoted O'Neill from the No. 3 spot in the batting order to No. 6 for the first time all year. He also dropped usual leadoff man Chuck Knoblauch from the starting lineup, moved Derek Jeter up a spot to leadoff and moved Jorge Posada up from No. 7 to No. 2. Hill took Knoblauch's spot at designated hitter.
Pettitte, whom Yankees owner George Steinbrenner wanted to trade to Philadelphia in July 1999 before being talked out of it by Torre, has had some of his best performances in the postseason the last few years.
He beat Atlanta's John Smoltz 1-0 in the pivotal Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, and also pitched shutout ball in the 1998 Series clincher against San Diego.
Pettitte was helped by a pair of double plays, in the first and seventh innings. In the seventh, the A's had men on first and second with one out when Ben Grieve grounded into a double play.
And he survived a strange eighth-inning play that almost allowed the A's back in the game. With two outs, a runner on second and the A's down 3-0, Terrence Long hit a routine grounder to New York second baseman Sojo -- who fielded the ball and then stepped on his own foot as he started to throw, and fell without releasing the ball.
"This can't be happening," Pettitte said he thought to himself.
That left runners on first and third, and Mariano Rivera replaced Pettitte. Rivera got Randy Velarde to hit a tricky-hop grounder that third baseman Scott Brosius was able to barehand in time to throw out Velarde.
Clay Bellinger hit an RBI double in the ninth, and Rivera finished for his 14th postseason save. Grieve, the 1998 AL rookie of the year, set a major league record this season for left-handed batters by grounding into 32 double plays. In Tuesday's opener, he grounded into a double play and lined into another.
Appier, making his first postseason appearance in 12 major league seasons, allowed three runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings and took the loss. He struck out seven.
Both starters survived jams in the first inning before settling down.
The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the first off Appier, but O'Neill flied to right to end the threat. Appier then allowed just one hit in the next four innings, striking out the side in the fifth.
The A's had men on first and third with one out in their half of the first, but Pettitte got Olmedo Saenz to ground into an inning-ending double play. He went on to retire the next 12 batters.
Notes: Pettitte improved his postseason record to 5-4 in 14 starts. ... The A's as a franchise -- in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Oakland -- have 68 postseason wins. The Yankees, with 162 postseason victories, are the only franchise with more. ... A banner hung by spectators in right field referred to the visitors as the "Yuckees." ... Pettitte lasted just 1 1/3 innings in his final regular-season outing, allowing a season-high nine runs in a 13-2 loss last Friday at Baltimore. ... Pettitte has not allowed a homer in his last nine starts.