So close ...
Missed opportunities haunt Yankees' hitters in Game 2
NEW YORK (AP) -- Paul O'Neill ambled to the plate with two runners on and the fans on their feet.
A scenario that usually worked so well for Joe Torre and the New York Yankees in the past five postseasons ended in a soft flyball this year.
That squandered chance to score against Tim Hudson in the sixth inning is part of the reason why the Yankees are on the brink of elimination with a 2-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night.
"I've obviously already played that at-bat over in my mind 1,000 times," O'Neill said. "It's a terrible loss. It's tough to take."
New York trails the best-of-five series 2-0 and needs to win two straight games in Oakland -- where the A's have won 17 consecutive games -- or the Yankees' bid for a fourth straight World Series championship will be over.
"We obviously have a tough task ahead of us," O'Neill said. "We have to get on board and then hopefully things can change."
O'Neill has been described by Torre as the "heart and soul" of the Yankees and called a "warrior" by owner George Steinbrenner.
But at 38 years old and slowed by an injured left foot in what is likely his final season in the majors, O'Neill couldn't come through when the Yankees needed him most.
The sellout crowd of 56,684 reached its loudest point of the night as O'Neill prepared to face Hudson.
Hudson quickly fell behind 2-0 and the crowd anticipated a typical Yankees' rally late in a postseason game. But Hudson battled back with two strikes, and then with the count full, got O'Neill to hit a routine fly to center field.
"We've let some opportunities slip away," Jeter said. "In the postseason, you have to take advantage of every opportunity to score. We haven't done so. That's why we're down 2-0."
O'Neill known for throwing his bat and helmet after making outs had little reaction after this one in what might be his final game at Yankee Stadium.
"Who cares where my last game is -- whether it's on the road or at home," O'Neill said. "If it was, it sure wasn't one to write home about."
The Yankees did muster another rally off Hudson in the seventh inning, putting runners on first and third with two outs.
Scott Brosius, also playing perhaps his final home game as a Yankee, hit a weak grounder to second base to end the threat.
"You continue to have confidence in these guys," Torre said. "They've done it for us so many times."
O'Neill had one more chance, but popped out with a runner on first to end the eighth.
"This pitching is as good as I've ever seen," O'Neill said. "I don't have all the answers. We've just been beat in both games. We've been outpitched and outhit."
"It's very frustrating because we had a couple of situations where a big hit could have broken things open," Bernie Williams said.
During their run of four World Series titles in five years under Torre, late-inning rallies have been the norm for the Yankees. They came into this series with a remarkable 13-12 postseason record the past five years when trailing after six innings.
But those Yankees teams of the past were famous for their patience at the plate and making pitchers work deep into counts so they would tire in the late innings.
But New York has only two walks in the series and Hudson was fresh late in the game having thrown only 56 pitches in the first five innings.
The aging Yankees, however, only looked tired.