Work in Sports
Oakland loses in one bad half-inning
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics took the field for the first inning of Game 5 Sunday with the advantages of momentum, youth and home-field comfort.
They left 26 minutes later with a six-run deficit.
The Athletics never recovered from the Yankees' shellacking of starter Gil Heredia in New York's 7-5 series-deciding victory. Any momentum from Oakland's 11-1 victory Saturday in Game 4 vanished as waves of Yankees circled the bases.
After New York put six runs on the board, Oakland began to outplay the Yankees again -- but New York's bullpen made the A's pay for their sleepy half-inning. Even a poor outing by Yankees starter Andy Pettitte wasn't poor enough to get the Athletics back in the game.
"It takes a lot out of you being six runs down," said Eric Chavez, who popped out to end it. "Still, we made this game competitive."
For much of the season, it was the Athletics who made their living with big innings and big hits, then relied on pitching to carry them through.
In their final game, the A's got beat at their own game.
"We let them get a running start on us tonight, that's the difference in the ballgame," A's manager Art Howe said. "We battled back, got within two."
Oakland's roster is one of the majors' youngest, and conventional wisdom held that the A's youngsters would better adapt to the arduous playing schedule forced upon the teams by network television. Sunday's game began less than 14 hours after the teams arrived in the Bay Area from an energy-draining transcontinental flight.
But the first inning proved the Yankees know a thing or two about big games that the A's -- in the playoffs for the first time since 1992 -- still haven't learned.
Heredia's performance was only part of Oakland's problems. Center fielder Terrence Long misjudged two fly balls, including Tino Martinez's three-run double that did most of the damage in the first inning.
The ball was easily catchable for the Athletics' star rookie, but he got a late jump and turned the wrong way as he ran to the wall, where the ball bounded away from him. Afterward, Long admitted he "dropped" the ball.
"A lot of people didn't expect us to be back here," Long said. "I feel a couple of breaks here or there, it would be different."
Oakland chipped back with five runs over the second, third and fourth innings, but New York relievers Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson, Orlando Hernandez and Mariano Rivera allowed just two baserunners until the ninth inning.
"That's a great ball team on the other side," Yankees reliever Mike Stanton said. "They never, ever let us take a breath. As soon as you let up, they're all over you. We were lucky to get out of here."
After Chavez fouled out to first to end the game, the Athletics stood in disbelief on the dugout steps as the Yankees celebrated. The Oakland crowd was briefly silent before giving a warm ovation to the Athletics as they filed silently to the clubhouse.
"This is the start of something here," general manager Billy Beane said.