Long, Mulder lead A's past Yankees in series opener
Updated: Thursday October 11, 2001 2:03 PM
The young, brash A's now need to do what they couldn't a year ago: finish off the aging World Series champions.
Mulder, showing no nerves in his first postseason appearance, held New York to one run, and Terrence Long homered twice to lead Oakland to a 5-3 win against the Yankees in the opener of their first-round AL series.
"I couldn't believe how focused I was," the 24-year-old Mulder said. "I was in a tunnel with my catcher. I didn't hear the crowd, my teammates or anybody. It wasn't like a regular season game. There was a lot more adrenaline and a lot more emotion."
Jason Giambi also homered for the A's, who beat Roger Clemens in Game 1 of a best-of-five series for the second consecutive year. But after losing last year in five games in a series that started in Oakland, the A's know their work is not done.
"I hope it turns out different," Oakland manager Art Howe said. "We learned a valuable lesson last year. Just because we win the first game doesn't mean the series is over."
"We had high hopes for this first game," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We're going to have to dig down and even it up tomorrow."
There was tight security and an increased police presence at Yankee Stadium in response to last month's terrorist attacks. But nothing could keep the 56,697 fans away as New York began its run for a fourth World Series title.
This year could be toughest, as Oakland offers the stiffest first-round competition for the AL East champion Yankees during their run.
After nearly ending New York's chances last season, the wild-card A's used two elements that were missing a year ago: a healthy Mulder and Johnny Damon's speed.
Damon, a disappointment in his first year in Oakland, showed why the A's acquired him in the offseason from Kansas City. He went 4-for-4 with a walk, two steals and a run scored.
But the biggest difference was Mulder, who missed last year's playoffs with a bad back before bouncing back with 21 wins this season.
Last year, the young A's were undone by fielding blunders in their first playoff game in New York. But Mulder wasn't fazed, getting Bernie Williams to hit into a double play and striking out Tino Martinez.
"Mark is a very special pitcher," Damon said. "He's grown up in front of our eyes this season. He showed up to pitch tonight in front of a worldwide TV audience."
Mulder allowed seven hits and struck out five in 6 2/3 innings. The 6-foot-6 left-hander overpowered New York's dangerous lefty bats. Martinez, Paul O'Neill, and David Justice went 0-for-9 against Mulder and didn't get a ball out of the infield.
"Mulder did a great job, period. He kept the ball down, kept it off the middle of the plate," Martinez said.
After an emotional pregame ceremony to honor the city's rescue workers, the A's backed up Howe's bravado with a run in the first. Howe caused a stir when he said the Yankees would have to play great "to have a shot to beat us."
Damon singled, stole second, went to third on Miguel Tejada's groundout and scored on Giambi's sacrifice fly.
"I feel like if I get on base, the big guys are going to drive me in," Damon said.
The run snapped a 17-inning scoreless streak for Clemens in the postseason, but helped maintain another one. Clemens, 38, lost his fourth consecutive playoff start against Oakland, dating to his second-inning ejection in Game 4 of the 1990 ALCS for Boston.
Long led off the fourth with a homer, and Clemens left with a tight right hamstring after walking Giambi to lead off the fifth. He will be re-evaluated Thursday. Clemens hurt himself fielding Damon's infield hit in the fourth inning.
The Rocket allowed two runs and four hits in four-plus innings. It could have been worse, but he held Oakland hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position and made two nifty defensive plays of his own to save at least three runs.
"For the most part I made every pitch I wanted to make tonight," Clemens said.
Giambi and Long hit solo homers in the seventh and eighth off Sterling Hitchcock and Tejada added had a sacrifice fly in the eighth to make it 5-1.
Even the close calls went against the Yankees, causing the usually reserved Torre to come out of the dugout for three arguments -- including an interference call in the fifth.
Justice hit a slow roller in front of the plate that catcher Ramon Hernandez fielded and threw underhand to first base. Justice was running inside the baseline and umpire Dana DeMuth ruled that Justice prevented Giambi from fielding the throw and called him out.
"He was inside the baseline," DeMuth said. "He interfered with the catch."
That was a call the Yankees didn't get three years ago in Game 2 of the ALCS against Cleveland. The Indians scored the winning run as Chuck Knoblauch argued an interference call at first base.
The Yankees did score in the fifth when Alfonso Soriano singled with two outs, stole second and scored on Knoblauch's single.
Notes: Oakland has eight players who are 26 or younger; New York has two. ... Long is the sixth A's player to homer twice in a postseason game. ... Jeter has reached base in 57 of 62 career postseason games.