BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- The three-time defending world champion New York Yankees are on the brink of elimination. The upstart Oakland Athletics are on the verge of a breakthrough.
Tim Hudson tossed eight innings and playoff veteran Ron Gant hit a fourth-inning homer as Oakland posted a 2-0 triumph over New York and took a commanding two games to none lead in their best-of-five American League Division Series.
Winners of four of the past five World Series, the Yankees face the daunting task of taking three straight games from a team that lost just 17 of 75 contests after the All-Star break.
New York lost all six of its games in Oakland this season. Since the advent of Division Series play in 1995, only two teams have erased 2-0 deficits and each returned home for Game Three.
"It means a lot to go up 2-0, but we have to go back to Oakland and win," Gant said. "We have been a confident team the whole second half. We still have to play aggressive. ... They have done so many things over the past decade. They are the defending champs and are going to come out and be ready Saturday."
"We have to take it one game at a time," Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez said. "It is amplified going on the road. It makes it tougher. Our goal is to win on Saturday, win two and bring it home. It is not impossible."
Oakland, which posted the second-best record in the major leagues at 102-60, is one win away from advancing to the AL Championship Series for the first time since 1992. The A's were bounced in the Division Series in five games by the Yankees last year.
Hudson, who lost Game Three of last year's series, gained a measure of revenge Thursday, scattering six singles and a walk. The 26-year-old righthander, who won 18 games in the regular season, struck out three.
"Coming into Yankee Stadium and winning any game isn't an easy feat," Hudson said. "And to come in and take two from these guys, we totally didn't expect to. We were just trying to win and we would have been very happy with a split in this series here."
"They have quality starters," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "Hudson got ahead and threw strikes. Good pitching beats good hitting, and that is what they have done."
A's manager Art Howe opted for Jason Isringhausen in the ninth and the closer who blew nine saves in the regular season allowed a leadoff double to Bernie Williams before walking Martinez. But Jorge Posada took a called third strike and David Justice and Scott Brosius popped out.
"It was nice to have the heart of the lineup in that situation," Williams said. "We just weren't able to make anything happen."
"I was nervous, but in the same sense I had to make good pitches," Isringhausen said. "Going in with a two-run lead makes things a lot easier. I was happy with my performance."
Yankees starter Andy Pettitte (0-1) nearly matched Hudson, allowing one run and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out four, but New York lost for the first time in his last nine postseason starts.
"It was a tough game," Pettitte said. "They battled me. I had a hard time with my command. I'm happy with the way I threw. Tim just threw a great game. You just have to take your hat off to him. He was superb tonight."
"Andy taught me a long time ago to trust him in big-game situations, and he didn't let us down again," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He's got a great, big heart and he may get a little jumpy at times, but when the chips are on the table, he gives you every bit that he's got. He pitched his tail off tonight. But so did Hudson. I mean, Hudson did a heck of a job."
Pettitte's biggest mistake was an 0-1 pitch to Gant leading off the fourth that the 36-year-old slugger deposited in the left-field seats for a 1-0 lead. It was the eighth career postseason homer for Gant, who flied out as a pinch hitter in Game One.
Amazingly, Oakland has won both games despite going 0-for-19 with runners in scoring posistion.
"They are certainly making us eat some dust right now because of the way they are playing us," Torre said. "You know, they are hitting the home runs and we know they are able to do that and we have not been able to stop them from doing that. ... I can't use any excuse here, other than credit their team."
Gant, who entered the game 1-for-20 lifetime at Yankee Stadium, opened the second with a single, but Pettitte got the next three batters. The A's kept the pressure on in the third, putting two aboard before Pettitte retired Dye and Chavez.
Oakland finally broke through in the fourth on Gant's homer. Gant, who also has participated in the postseason with Atlanta, Cincinnati and St. Louis, has a .333 career batting average (9-for-27) with three homers and seven RBI in eight Division Series games.
"I faced him before, he has been tough on me," Gant said. "I felt like I was locked in the zone. I was seeing the ball well. Once I saw Knoblauch turn around, I knew it was gone."
Justice lined into a double play in the fifth and New York strung together a two-out rally in the sixth. Chuck Knoblauch beat out an infield hit and Jeter grounded a single to right to put runners at the corners. But Paul O'Neill, who is 0-for-8 in the series, flied harmlessly to right.
Pettitte surrendered a leadoff double to Damon in the seventh, but Ramiro Mendoza escaped the jam. New York threatened in the bottom of the inning as Martinez singled with one out and, after a popout by Posada, Justice singled to right. But Hudson retired Brosius on a slow roller up the middle.
New York failed to cash in on a one-out single by Knoblauch in the eighth and Oakland picked up the insurance run in the ninth when Damon tripled into the right-field corner and scored when Brosius allowed Tejada's grounder to roll under his glove.
After a sub-par first season with Oakland, Damon has had a huge first two games with six hits in nine at-bats.
Jeter was 2-for-4, extended his postseason hitting streak to 12 games. With 84 career playoff hits, he moved within two of Pete Rose's major league record.