Work in Sports
El Duque, Rivera combine on 4-hitter
Hernandez, pitching without his best stuff, won his sixth straight postseason decision, and the Yankees capitalized on Oakland's shoddy defense to win 4-2 Friday night and take a 2-1 lead in their AL division series.
"This is what we strive for," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We've been here before and had success and we like the taste of winning."
Written off by many after losing the opener in the best-of-five series at Oakland -- their eighth straight loss dating to the regular season -- the two-time defending World Series champions will send Roger Clemens (13-8) to the mound in Game 4 Saturday night against rookie Barry Zito (7-4).
"We've been a lot crisper ballclub since the postseason started," Torre said. "Hopefully we are on our way to doing something special this year."
Hernandez battled through seven tough innings -- with help from his defense -- before turning the game over to closer Mariano Rivera, who saved New York's 10th straight postseason win at Yankee Stadium.
Rivera tied Dennis Eckersley's record of 15 postseason saves.
El Duque allowed two runs, four hits and five walks, needing 130 pitches to do it. The Cuban defector had a sub-.500 regular season, but improved to 6-0 with a 1.24 ERA in seven postseason starts.
Hernandez's half-brother, Livan, beat the New York Mets on Wednesday for San Francisco to go to 5-0 in the postseason.
"For the first five innings my control was terrible and my team was encouraging me," Hernandez said through a translator. "After the fifth inning Mr. Torre pulled me aside and said stop battling yourself and pitch your game."
The Yankees couldn't mount much offensively against Tim Hudson, but took advantage of two errors, a couple of defensive lapses and two infield choppers to score their runs.
"We just didn't execute tonight. It was as simple as that," Oakland manager Art Howe said. "We didn't make the plays we can make."
The A's, who have eight players who are 25 years old or younger, insisted that they wouldn't be spooked by playing at Yankee Stadium. But their play in the field indicated otherwise.
"We knew we were coming home to our crowd, and our crowd could be very overwhelming to the opposing team," New York's David Justice said. "I don't think they're afraid. I think they just made a couple of misplays that we took advantage of."
Glenallen Hill then hit a chopper that Hudson was able to field. But the 25-year-old right-hander threw home with no chance to catch the speedy Williams. Giving up the easy out at first ended up costing Hudson when Derek Jeter hit a two-out infield single that shortstop Miguel Tejada couldn't backhand cleanly to give New York a 2-1 lead.
"When they had their chances, we gave them opportunities," Hudson said.
New York added another run in the fourth with help from a bad decision in the field by Oakland. With Luis Sojo on first and no outs, Scott Brosius bunted in front of the plate. Catcher Ramon Hernandez, 24, went for the tough play at second, but his high throw hit off Tejada's glove, sending Sojo to third on the error. Jeter gave New York a 3-1 lead with an RBI forceout.
"The biggest part is the mental mistakes," Hernandez said. "That's how you learn. This is our first playoff. Maybe we tried to do too much."
Sojo added a run-scoring single with two outs in the eighth, his fourth RBI of the series. A's center fielder Terrence Long slipped after fielding the ball, and was helped off the field.
Hernandez did the rest for the Yankees, proving once again that he is New York's October ace.
He spent much of the game fidgeting on the mound, tugging at his hat and jersey, as he struggled to get the ball down in the strike zone. He induced only two infield groundouts before getting double plays to end the fifth and seventh innings.
"I thought he straightened himself out in the sixth inning," Torre said. "He felt so badly about how he pitched in the first five. I sensed he was very frustrated. I think the sixth perked him up a little bit."
Jeremy Giambi gave Oakland a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the top of the second. The Athletics' other run came on Long's solo homer in the fifth -- the first home run by either team in the series.
He was helped by sterling defensive plays by Justice in left field and Sojo at second base.
With a runner on first and one out in the fourth, Jeremy Giambi hit a drive to the wall in left-center. Justice tracked it down, crashing into the wall as he made the running catch. Hernandez pointed out to Justice to acknowledge the play.
Sojo is starting at second because he is steadier defensively than Chuck Knoblauch. But Sojo made two defensive miscues in the first two games -- including tripping over his own shoelaces in embarrassing fashion in Game 2.
He was solid this game, making a nice turn on Eric Chavez's double-play grounder in the fifth, and lunged to smother Long's grounder and start a double play in the seventh. Sojo pumped his fist and the normally stoic Yankees ran joyfully off the field.
"(Torre) gives me the confidence to play defense and I don't want to let him down," Sojo said.
Hudson allowed four runs -- three earned -- and six hits in eight innings. He walked two and struck out five.
Notes: Oakland's No. 2-7 hitters went 0-for-19. ... The Yankees have gone six games and 53 innings without a home run, since Hill homered at Tampa Bay on Sept. 28. ... Long twisted his knee but expects to play Saturday.