OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- The New York Yankees kept their dreams for a fourth straight World Series title alive behind a gritty outing by a new hero and a clutch effort from a couple of old ones.
In his first postseason appearance for the Yankees, Mike Mussina allowed four hits over seven superb innings and Jorge Posada accounted for the game's lone run with a solo homer in the fifth as the Yankees posted a 1-0 triumph over the Oakland Athletics.
The Athletics took the first two games of the series and came home looking to hand New York just its second postseason series loss in the last six years. But Mussina (1-0), acquired as a free agent in the offseason, was masterful in his biggest test as a Yankee.
The veteran righthander allowed three singles and a double, walked one and struck out four.
"I thought it was an exciting game and we found a way to win it, which this team has done every championship run they've had the last five years," Mussina said. "So it was an exciting game. It was fun to be involved and I'm glad we came out on top."
"He was Mike Mussina," said A's right fielder Jermaine Dye, who had two hits. "A guy that worked both sides of the plate and he came right at us. He hit his spots and he was on the top of his game."
Mussina also was the recipient of a clutch defensive play by shortstop Derek Jeter, one of the Yankees' championship mainstays.
Jeremy Giambi singled with two outs in the seventh and Terrence Long, who is having a big series, doubled into the right-field corner.
Shane Spencer dug the ball out and fired over the head of the cut-off man. Out of nowhere, Jeter appeared and shoveled the ball to Posada, who applied a quick tag to Giambi's calf as he touched the plate.
"That is my job, I did it," Jeter said. "I have made that play to second base before but I'm the cut-off man. When I saw the third base coach motioning him around, I thought the throw wouldn't make it and that's when I stepped in. If we had lost the game, you guys (media) probably could not have cared less about the play."
"I didn't know that he missed the cut-off man," Giambi said. "I was picking up (third base coach Ron) Washington and coming in and getting ready to make some contact with Posada and I didn't see that he had the ball yet. So I figured that I had a better chance to try to run through the bag and beat him through the back. I knew that he tagged me on the leg that tagged the plate. I don't know at what point it hit me. It was a tough play. He had swiped and I knew that it was the same leg. I did my best and I was trying to score and that was a decision that I made."
The play was the talk of both locker rooms.
"What in the heck is Jeter doing running over there?" Oakland center fielder Johnny Damon said. "That is pure instinct. That is why he is such a great player. There is no way that many shortstops would go to back up a play like that. He made perhaps their best play of the season today."
"Jeter was just there," Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez said. "I knew they were going to send Jeremy and Jeter just flipped it. That play won us our first game."
Mariano Rivera took over in the eighth and allowed a hit in each of the final two innings. With the tying run in scoring position in the ninth, he struck out Eric Chavez and retired Giambi on a grounder to second to record his 17th career postseason save and end Oakland's 17-game home winning streak.
"Everyone thought we were dead but no one in here thought that," Jeter said. "Our goal is to get even. They are still in the driver's seat because they have a 2-1 lead."
Oakland starter Barry Zito (0-1) nearly matched Mussina, giving up two hits over eight innings. One of those was a solo homer by Posada.
"It's pretty tough," Zito said. "You know going into a game like this that it's going to be very low-scoring, especially with Mussina throwing. ... Mussina pitched great, and hopefully we'll come out tomorrow and get some runs."
"Barry obviously made one mistake and pitched a great ballgame," A's manager Art Howe said. "He has nothing to be upset about because he did his job. We couldn't muster any offense."
Game Four is Sunday at 4:30 p.m. EDT. The Yankees send playoff ace Orlando Hernandez to the mound while Oakland counters with Corey Lidle. Hernandez is 8-1 in the postseason while Lidle, who won 13 games during the regular season, makes his first playoff appearance.
The Yankees tried to get on top early as Chuck Knoblauch opened the game by reaching on an error by shortstop Miguel Tejada. Torre called for a bunt but rookie Alfonso Soriano popped out to first. Zito retired Jeter on a popout and struck out Bernie Williams.
Zito hit Tino Martinez to open the second but Posada bounced into a double play. The 23-year-old lefthander retired the next eight batters in order.
Oakland threatened against Mussina in the fourth as Jason Giambi and Dye singled with one out. Chavez grounded into a forceout at second but with runners at the corners, Mussina retired Jeremy Giambi on a groundout.
"It didn't surprise me, but I wish we could have scored more than one run," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He's been pitching like that all year."
Zito got Martinez to open the fifth but grooved a 1-0 pitch that Posada crushed into the stands above the left-field wall. Spencer followed with the Yankees' only other hit, a double to left. But Randy Velarde and Scott Brosius flied to center.
"It was a fastball that should have went in and it didn't," Zito said of the pitch to Posada.
"I got a pitch, it was a fastball, middle in, and just put the ball in play," Posada said. "I was trying to stay back on him, and he did a great job to keep us off balance all day. And that was the only run.
Jeter was hit by a pitch with two outs in the sixth and Williams walked. But Zito stiffened and retired Martinez on a grounder to first.
Rivera took over for Mussina in the eighth and retired pinch hitter Olmedo Saenz. Greg Myers, another pinch hitter, singled up the middle, but Damon -- who was 6-for-9 in the first two games -- fouled out and Tejada lined to left-center field.
Rivera got Jason Giambi on a grounder to second but Dye crushed a long double into the right-center field gap. Dye might have had third but held at second. Rivera struck out Chavez on a pitch out of the strike zone before Jeremy Giambi grounded weakly to second.