Clemens and Mulder take center stage in Game 1
Updated: Wednesday October 10, 2001 8:48 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics are quick to admit they weren't aware of what it took to win playoff baseball last year.
Even so, the young, brash A's gave the New York Yankees their most difficult test during their run of three consecutive World Series titles.
Oakland hopes a year of experience will help end that run.
"I don't think guys quite knew what to expect and tried to do too much," said Game 1 starter Mark Mulder, who missed last year's series with a bad back. "I don't think we are going to do that this year. We are going to have fun with this and go from there."
From the five errors the A's committed in the first three games to Eric Chavez's ill-timed comments that the Yankees were past their prime shown on the scoreboard in Oakland before Game 5, the A's showed signs of youth before losing in five games.
"We came very close to knocking the Yankees off last year -- probably the closest of any team they played in the postseason," manager Art Howe said. "We were very close to doing it and we feel we are a better team this year than we were a year ago. Hopefully, the experience factor will be the difference this year."
Oakland has added more than experience between losing Game 5 last year and taking the field for the opener Wednesday night against Roger Clemens.
One of the reasons the Yankees struggled last year was the ineffectiveness of Clemens.
The Rocket lost the opener to the A's, then was knocked out early in Game 4, forcing a cross-country flight for a decisive fifth game that the Yankees held on to win.
Those losses raised more questions about Clemens' postseason history -- he had only three wins in 14 starts at that point -- that weren't answered until his dominating performances against Seattle in the ALCS and the New York Mets in the World Series.
Clemens (20-3) is on a 17-inning scoreless streak in the postseason, allowing just two hits and striking out 24 in his last two starts.
"Those questions haven't been in here," catcher Jorge Posada said. "This team relies a lot on Roger. We need him to do the things he's been doing."
No team is playing better than the A's right now. Oakland led the majors with a 58-17 mark after the All-Star break (.773) -- second-best in major league history behind the 1954 Cleveland Indians (.775).
The A's are 48-14 since acquiring Dye, who has 59 RBIs in 61 games and provided needed protection for Giambi. The Yankees avoided Giambi last season, walking him seven of the 22 times he came to bat.
Because of Oakland's late-season success and New York's signs of aging the past month, some are wondering if this is the end of the Yankees' dynasty.
Those same questions were asked last October when New York entered the playoffs having lost 15 of 18 games.
"Nobody gave us a fighting chance last year because of the way we struggled in September," third baseman Scott Brosius said. "I felt good about our team last year and I feel good right now."
The world events of the past month will create a different environment at Yankee Stadium this week. Already tight security will be increased, with no bags or brief cases allowed. Traffic will be backed up even more than normal, leading players to wonder how early they'll have to leave home.
And the minds of fans will be on more than homers and errors as New York is still dealing with the tragedy of Sept. 11, and the country is at war.
"We want to win and do our job," New York starter Andy Pettitte said. "But you can't help but think about what's going on in Manhattan and in the country and all the people who have died. It brings everybody down."
Notes: Torre chose to start lefties David Justice and Paul O'Neill against Mulder, instead of the right-handed Shane Spencer. ... Pettitte (15-10) will start against Tim Hudson (18-9) in Game 2 on Thursday at Yankee Stadium before the series shifts to Oakland for Game 3 on Saturday.