OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- The New York Yankees are even -- and then some.
The three-time defending world champions, behind clutch efforts from postseason veterans Orlando Hernandez and Bernie Williams, posted a 9-2 triumph over the Oakland Athletics and forced a decisive Game Five in their American League Division Series.
Showing its championship pedigree, New York rebounded from a pair of losses at Yankee Stadium by winning both games in Oakland. With the momentum shift comes a return to the Bronx, a seemingly improbable thought 72 hours ago.
Since the advent of Division Series play in 1995, no team has come back to win a series after dropping the first two games at home. Only two teams ever have rebounded from an 0-2 deficit to advance to the League Championship Series and even Yankees manager Joe Torre admitted the A's were making New York "eat some dust" through two games.
But now the upstart A's have a cross-country trip to think about failed opportunities at home and being part of dubious history. Adding to their thought process is the fact the Yankees beat the Athletics in the fifth game of last year's Division Series -- and that was in Oakland.
"We are going to be better tomorrow," said A's shortstop Miguel Tejada. "Everyone is a little down, but starting (Monday) everything will be different. Because we cannot lose. If we don't win, we go home. If we go home, we will go home playing the best that we can (Monday)."
After Mike Mussina got New York in the win column Saturday, two of the Yankees' better clutch players came through Sunday.
Hernandez, who endured an injury-plagued regular season, improved to 9-1 lifetime in the postseason. The Cuban righthander allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings and improved to 3-0 in four career Division Series starts.
"I like to pitch whenever I'm able to pitch, but this is a time when the team really comes together," said Hernandez through an interpreter. "To me every game is the same. I try to focus on the first game of the season the same as the last game, and the last game of the World Series."
"I really, truly believe experience is an advantage," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "And (Hernandez) had every chance to roll over and go away. But he kept battling it. He pitched to who he wanted to pitch to, pitched around who he wanted to. He was able to fight his way through."
Williams, the all-time RBI leader in the seven-year history of the Division Series, was just 1-for-11 in the first three games of the series. But he responded with a two-run double in the third, a two-run single in the fourth and an RBI double in the eighth.
"I think we were pretty tied up in the first couple of games," Williams said. "We were out there thinking we're just going to go all out, and whatever happens happens, and not worry too much about the results and it seemed to work."
"What a turnaround, last night to today and now we're tied and we have our guy going tomorrow," Yankees right fielder Paul O'Neill said. "Today was great. This gives us an opportunity."
New York will give the ball to probable Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens on Monday. The 39-year-old righthander took the loss in Game One but was forced to leave in the fifth inning with a strained right hamstring.
"If he is on, we have a shot at this," Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. "He tested his legs today in the bullpen before the game and they're much much better than yesterday. He can now push off the mound."
Oakland counters with 21-game winner Mark Mulder, who was brilliant over 6 2/3 innings in Game One.
"It all comes down to one game," A's designated hitter Jeremy Giambi said. "There is something special going on here. We have to go out and play well and hopefully we will come out on top."
After three fantastic starts, the A's got little from Cory Lidle (0-1), who was hammered for six runs -- four earned -- and five hits in 3 1/3 innings. Oakland manager Art Howe was forced to empty his bullpen, using five relievers over the final 5 2/3 innings.
"I was putting too much emphasis on making the perfect pitch," Lidle said. "Which is something that I got away from doing early in the season. I just fell back into a rut and fell behind guys. They hit the pitches that I left over the plate and I was hanging my curveball."
As if things were not bad enough for the A's, cleanup hitter Jermaine Dye fouled a ball off his left shin in the third inning and had to leave. He later was diagnosed with a fractured left tibia and likely is out for the rest of the postseason.
"Well, Jermaine has done a tremendous job ever since he's joined us, and we're going to miss him," Howe said. "But the other guys have to step up. We won a few games this year when he wasn't here, so -- we're going to have to find a way to get it done tomorrow, the other guys are going to have to pick up for him."
"We are definitely a better ballclub with him," A's center fielder Johnny Damon said. "Now we are going to have to do without him. It is going to be a tough task, but we are very confident of what we can do. Guys are just going to have to step up (Monday) and for the rest of the playoffs."
The Yankees wasted a first-inning single, but Oakland left the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning as Hernandez got Jeremy Giambi to foul out.
"El Duque (Hernandez) gave us a shot," O'Neill added. "Pitching can pick us up. It picked up our offense today. When he shut them down in that (first) inning, it made a lot of us think that something could happen here today."
"Just getting out of that jam in the first was important to us," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "I don't know whether you could call this a big game, but we've all played in them before. It's no different than any other."
New York pushed across a pair of runs in the second. Williams opened the inning with a walk and took second on a groundout. Jorge Posada walked and O'Neill followed with a sharp grounder to second that F.P. Santangelo misplayed, allowing Williams to score and Posada to take third base. Scott Brosius cued a ball to second that plated Posada for a 2-0 lead.
"I just messed it up," Santangelo said. "No excuses. I didn't lose it in the sun, I didn't slip on a rock, I just botched the play. I take full blame for that."
A double play by Greg Myers erased a leadoff single in the bottom of the second and New York tacked on two runs in the third when Jeter singled, David Justice walked and Williams doubled over the head of Damon.
Oakland got within 4-2 in the third. Miguel Tejada got the second of his four hits, opening the inning with a double and Jason Giambi walked. Dye was injured during his at-bat and pinch hitter Ron Gant struck out. Red-hot Terrence Long plated a run with a single and, after a wild pitch by Hernandez, Jeremy Giambi grounded to first to get the A's within two.
But Lidle could not keep the Yankees in check in the fourth. O'Neill led off with a double and Brosius sacrificed. Rookie Alfonso Soriano made it 5-2 with a single to left and Howe turned to Erik Hiljus.
Hiljus got Knoblauch on a popout to first but Soriano stole second and Jeter walked. After Justice walked to load the bases, Williams came through again with a two-run single up the middle.
The Yankees ran themselves out of a potentially big inning in the fifth and Oakland wasted a leadoff hit by Tejada in the bottom half. In the sixth, Jeremy Giambi led off with a single and Santangelo doubled over Williams' head in center field. Torre removed Hernandez and turned to Mike Stanton, who retired Damon on a comebacker.
Tejada opened the seventh with another base hit, but Stanton got the next three batters.
New York picked up a pair of runs in the ninth against Jeff Tam as Justice tripled, Williams doubles and Posada singled to right with two outs.
Stanton tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings before Ramiro Mendoza finished up.
"There's no doubt about this, this is a comeback," Jeter said. "I knew we could play better than what we showed in the first two games. Bernie came up huge, especailly when he got those hits with men in scoring postion. This is the time of the year we need someone to be big for us every game. It doesn't matter who it is, it just has to be someone."