A's blow two-game lead, head back to Yankee Stadium
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Pumped up just two days ago on their own confidence, the brash, young Oakland Athletics got knocked down by age and experience.
The A's were brimming with optimism and a 2-0 advantage over the defending World Series champion New York Yankees when they came home Friday.
But Oakland's upstarts couldn't score behind a two-hitter by starter Barry Zito on Saturday night in New York's 1-0 victory, and the Yankees simply outplayed them Sunday to win 9-2.
The defeat put the series at 2-2 and sent everyone packing for a deciding Game 5 in New York on Monday night.
"It's very disheartening right now, because we hoped we could have won last night," outfielder Johnny Damon said. "But they're not world champions for nothing. They come to play, and you can never take them lightly."
Heading back East was exactly what the A's believed -- back on Friday -- that they could avoid.
"We don't want to give them any breathing room or any momentum, and that means we don't want to go back to New York," second baseman Frank Menechino said at the time.
As early as Sunday morning, A's manager Art Howe said he felt last season's surprising success -- the A's took the Yankees to a Game 5 in their divisional series -- gave his team self-assurance.
"I think that's when this team grew up as a team and realized we can be very competitive, and we've got a chance to go places," Howe said.
And all indications were that the A's could pull it off. They had won 17 straight games at home going into the postseason. They had compiled an eight-game overall winning streak. They had not lost consecutive games since snapping a four-game losing streak Aug. 25.
But the A's played without spark in what could potentially be Jason Giambi's final game at the Coliseum as Oakland's first baseman.
Giambi, the AL MVP and unquestionable soul of the A's clubhouse, is a free agent after this season. He and the team had reportedly agreed to a six-year $91 million contract during spring training, but couldn't come to terms on the no-trade clause that Giambi wanted.
Giambi was a disappointing 0-for-3 with a walk in Sunday's loss.
"It's been frustrating, but the Yankees have done an incredible job," Giambi said. "They've gotten the big outs with guys in scoring position. They know how to win big games."
Part of the problem, at least at the start of the game, appeared to be some lineup tinkering Howe's part.
F.P. Santangelo, starting at second instead of Menechino, flubbed Paul O'Neill's grounder in the second and allowed the first run to score. After that, it was all Yankees.
The A's also were hit in the third inning. Outfielder Jermaine Dye broke his left leg when he fouled a ball off his leg and will be out for the rest of the postseason.
Dye, who earned a Gold Glove last year, was acquired by Oakland from Kansas City in a three-team trade on July 25, and the A's then went on a 48-14 tear. Dye had 59 RBIs in 61 games and provided needed protection batting cleanup for Giambi.
He was 3-for-12 in the division series.
After the game, Howe said his team was not shaken by the loss -- even though the A's weren't blaring their usual clubhouse music after the game.
"I expected this to go to five games, and we thought we were pretty fortunate to come in there two up. I wish I wasn't a soothsayer, but I thought it would go to five," Howe said.
"Hopefully we can turn the table on them the way they did it against us last year."