BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Oakland Athletics paid the New York Yankees quite a compliment.
Using the three-time defending world champions' formula of great starting pitching, timely hitting and a dominant performance by their closer, the Athletics posted a 5-3 victory over the Yankees in Game One of their American League Division Series.
Oakland players said they did not fear New York and went right out and showed it, getting to Yankees' ace Roger Clemens (0-1) for a run in the opening inning. A's lefthander Mark Mulder (1-0) never surrendered the lead, allowing a run and seven hits over 6 2/3 innings.
"I think there were some nerves, but there was also a lot more focus," Mulder said. "I could not believe how focused I was and how you are in your own little tunnel with your catcher. I didn't hear the crowd, my teammates, I didn't hear anybody. It was not quite like the regular season. There was a lot more adrenaline going and a lot more emotions."
"He had a heck of a game against us in Oakland earlier this year," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He has good stuff, good presence on the mound and he has a variety of ways he can go. We know coming in that their pitching is going to be tough, and that's why we need to match them. Tonight, we were not able to do that."
In his first career postseason appearance, Mulder walked none and struck out five. After Jim Mecir was tagged for a two-run homer by Tino Martinez in the eighth, closer Jason Isringhausen was in complete control in the ninth, striking out two, including rookie Alfonso Soriano to end it.
Oakland got key offensive contributions from leadoff hitter Johnny Damon, who went 4-for-4, and Terrence Long, who hit a pair of solo homers. Jason Giambi added two RBI, helping the A's steal home-field advantage.
In last season's ALDS, the Yankees bounced Oakland in five games, winning the decisive contest on the road. If this year's squad is to become the first team since the 1949-53 Yankees to win four straight titles, it again will have to take a game in Oakland.
"When you are at home, you want to get at least one," Martinez said. "You don't want to get swept. (Mulder) did an outstanding job. We had some opportunities, we just couldn't get it done."
"We have got to go out and put it behind us and go tomorrow," New York center fielder Bernie Williams added. "We have got to dig deep and see what we have got."
Clemens allowed two runs and four hits in four-plus innings before leaving with tightness in his right hamstring. He will be re-evaluated Thursday and could be sidelined the rest of the series.
"I'm going to have to wait until (Thursday) to evaluate it," Clemens said. "But if I don't have a tear or something extremely bad in it and they are going to let me go out there, I'm going to go out there and pitch and try to beat somebody. I don't really worry about injuries, if there is soreness or swelling at this time of year. Just do what you can."
"We'll see how he is tomorrow. He has some tightness in his hamstring," Yankees team physician Dr. Stuart Herhon said. "It is not a re-occurrence of his previous injuries."
Damon, who endured a sub-par first season with the A's, opened the game with a single to left and stole second. A ground ball to second by Miguel Tejada moved him to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Giambi.
"It took about six months for it to show up," joked Damon, who became the first Oakland hitter to record four hits in a postseason game since Jerry Browne in Game Five of the 1992 AL Championship Series. "Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. I hit the ball in the right spot."
New York threatened in the bottom of the inning as the first two runners reached, but Mulder got Williams to bounce into a double play and struck out Martinez.
Clemens avoided further trouble in the second when he speared a comebacker by Tejada with the bases loaded. The Yankees had another runner in scoring position in the bottom of the inning, but Mulder struck out David Justice and Scott Brosius to end that threat.
After Oakland stranded Giambi at third base in the top of the third, New York caught a bad break when Soriano was caught stealing third on a very close play. Derek Jeter followed with a single to right that would have tied it.
Long opened the fourth with a line drive just over the right-field wall and Clemens left after walking Giambi to start the fifth. Sterling Hitchcock came on and surrendered a double down the left-field line to Jermaine Dye but kept it a two-run game by retiring the next three batters.
The game's most controversial moment came in the bottom of the fifth, when Justice hit a squib in front of the plate and was called out for interference. Plate umpire Dana DeMuth ruled that Justice was inside the base line, but replays showed he already had touched first base when the ball hit him.
"(DeMuth) said I was running outside the base path, but that's irrelevant because I hit the base when the ball hit me," Justice said. "I wasn't trying to run (out) of the base path, I was just trying to get to the base. I think he was just trying to make the call and that's the way he saw it."
"He was inside the base line and he interfered with the catch," DeMuth said. "It is in the rulebook. If he wasn't, who knows what would have happened?" One out later, Soriano singled, stole second and scored on a base hit by Chuck Knoblauch. With the deficit halved, Hitchcock cruised through the sixth and New York left another runner in scoring position in its half of the inning.
But Giambi opened the seventh with a massive homer off the facade of the upper deck in right for a 3-1 lead. It was his first career postseason homer.
Mulder easily retired the first two batters in the seventh and A's manager Art Howe called on Mecir, who retired Soriano to end the inning. But Hitchcock could not keep Oakland in check as Long led off the eighth his third career postseason homer, a blast to right-center field.
Long became the first Oakland hitter to record a multi-homer postseason game since Dave Henderson in Game Three of the 1989 World Series.
"It was a changeup up," Long said. "He left it over the plate. It felt real good, but I knew I couldn't relax and enjoy it until the game was over."
Jay Witasick followed Hitchcock and allowed a walk, single and sacrifice fly to put the Yankees in a 5-1 hole. The two insurance runs proved key when Martinez hit his seventh career postseason homer, a two-run shot that scored Williams in the bottom of the eighth.
Jeter extended his postseason hitting streak to 11 games and his 82 hits in the playoffs are four shy of Pete Rose's major league record.