BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- Dynasty preserved. History made.
The New York Yankees became the first team in postseason history to lose the first two games at home and still win a best-of-five series, patching together a 5-3 triumph over the Oakland Athletics in their American League Division Series.
Once again, the three-time defending world champions accomplished the unthinkable. New York dropped the opening two games at Yankee Stadium but won twice in Oakland to force a Game Five.
The Yankees even fell behind, 2-0, on Monday but got a clutch two-run single from rookie Alfonso Soriano, took advantage of some sloppy defense by the Athletics and recieved a key insurance homer from David Justice in the sixth inning.
"Trying is wonderful. Trying is a poor third to doing. These guys are doers. No other team had done it," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said.
With the win, New York advances to the AL Championship Series for the fifth time in six years. The Yankees will face the Seattle Mariners in the best-of-seven series beginning Wednesday afternoon at Safeco Field.
"We've really haven't thought about Seattle," Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius said. "I think we'll really start thinking about them tommorow."
The victory was as improbable as it was historic.
The Yankees looked old and, in their own manager's words, "were eating dust" through two games. They were down 2-0 to a team with the second-best record in baseball and had to win twice in Oakland, where the A's had won 17 straight and New York was winless in six trips in 2001.
"The only thing I was telling my club on the off day in Oakland was the fact that one game turns the whole momentum around, because I know how I felt when I was up three games to one or two games to zero or three games to zero," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "There's a lot of pressure because you have momentum on your side and you don't want to lose it. That's what I preached to them, think small. They thought small and played big."
"I want to go on record again, I said that we had a lot of baseball left after we won those first two," A's manager Art Howe said. "I wish I was wrong, but I knew it would difficult, that it was not going to be that easy."
New York capitalized on some terrible defense to scratch out four runs against Game One winner Mark Mulder (1-1). And after starter Roger Clemens surrendered three runs in 4 1/3 innings, Mike Stanton (1-0), Ramiro Mendoza and Rivera combined on 4 2/3 scoreless frames.
Rivera went the final two to record his second save of the series.
The A's wasted little time getting to Clemens as Johnny Damon opened the game with a double and scored one out later on a single by Jason Giambi. But Eric Chavez, batting cleanup in place of injured right fielder Jermaine Dye, bounced into a double play.
Chavez was 3-for-21 in the series.
New York put two aboard in the bottom of the first but Bernie Williams bounced into a double play. The A's seemed to build on the momentum, plating another run in the second as Terrence Long doubled and scored on Jeremy Giambi's single.
Oakland stranded Giambi at second as Frank Menechino struck out to end the inning. Things began falling apart shortly thereafter for the A's.
Jorge Posada and Shane Spencer singled with one out and Brosius was hit by a pitch. Soriano then flared a single into left field to tie the game. Mulder regrouped and retired Chuck Knoblauch and Randy Velarde to keep the game even.
"I feel very happy that I was able to come through with a hit to tie the game," Soriano said through interpreter Leo Astacio. "We came out a little more focused this game knowing there was no tommorow. But I think if (Mulder's) defense supported him better it would have helped him."
Oakland starting catcher Ramon Hernandez left the game prior to the bottom of the third inning with a sprained right wrist and his absence immediately proved costly.
Mulder struck out Williams with one out in the third but the ball rolled away from new catcher Greg Myers, who uncorked a wild throw, allowing Williams to reach. Tino Martinez was hit by a pitch and a flyout by Posada moved Williams to third.
Spencer walked on a 3-2 pitch but Mulder appeared to be out of the inning when Brosius grounded weakly to third. Chavez charged the ball but failed to field it cleanly, allowing Williams to score the go-ahead run.
"I thought he was going, maybe trying to catch and tag me," Martinez said of Chavez's miscue. "I wanted to make sure so he wouldn't have an easy play."
Howe seemed to think Hernandez's failure to disclose the injury prior to the game was a factor."
"It had been bothering him the whole series," Howe said of Hernandez. "We gave him an injection yesterday and he was feeling better. As far as I knew it, he was fine, as far as this game was concerned. He let me know after the second inning that he was concerned with his throwing, that he might cost us the game, and I wish I had known it before the game started."
After Oakland left a runner in the fourth, the Yankees took advantage of another error in the bottom of the inning. Knoblauch opened the inning with a single and promptly was picked off. But Jason Giambi fired errantly from first to second and Knoblauch was safe.
Randy Velarde dropped down a bunt and Jeter followed with a long fly ball to left that extended New York's lead to 4-2.
Clemens struggled in the fifth, walking Menechino, the No. 9 hitter. After Johnny Damon flied out, Clemens uncorked a wild pitch and hit Miguel Tejada with an errant fastball. Torre opted for lefthanded setup man Mike Stanton, but Jason Giambi spoiled the strategy with an RBI single to right.
Tejada stopped at second on the play, clearly agitating Jason Giambi, and the baserunning decision proved costly when Chavez flied to right -- a ball that easily would have scored Tejada from third. Stanton then got Long on a flyout that ended the inning.
"I had to look at the coach (Ron Washington)," Tejada explained. J"son hit the ball hard. We were down and I didn't want to get thrown out. I didn't want to be too aggressive."
"When you come this far, you want to play a good, solid game," Howe said. "You know, if you lose playing well, you tip your hat. Tonight, we contributed quite a bit to our demise. That's too bad. ... We just didn't play well defensively tonight. It happens. We just picked a bad time to do it."
After Mulder allowed a one-out single in the fifth, Howe turned to Game Two starter Tim Hudson, who got the next two batters and easily retired the first two in the sixth.
Torre sent Justice up to pinch-hit for Velarde and the veteran outfielder justified the move with a line drive over the right-field wall for his 14th career postseason homer.
Mendoza took over for Stanton in the seventh and retired the side in order.
Rivera entered in the eighth and allowed a leadoff single to Jason Giambi. Chavez bounced into a forceout and Long hit a foul pop along the third-base stands. Jeter, who made a game-saving play in Game Three, made a lunging catch near the rail and tumbled into the stands.
Chavez was awarded second on the play, but with the crowd energized a fired up Rivera retired Gant on a grounder to third.
"Mariano has a fastball," Torre said. "He makes it do a number of things, and it looked like he was throwing it 200 miles an hour in the ninth inning today. He just wasn't going to be denied."
"We still feel like we are the better team," Damon said. "They have a great team. They thrive on emotion and hustle. Jeter makes the play the other day and today. Bernie hustles down the line on the strikeout. That is why it is tough to hate them. They play the game right and that is why they beat us."