Yankees snap out of playoff doldrums


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Mike Stanton strolled through the New
York Yankees' clubhouse, dripping with champagne and waving a
bottle of bubbly in his left hand.

"Who said we're too old? We're just old enough!" he yelled as
the Yankees celebrated a 7-5 win Sunday night that clinched their
AL Division Series against the Oakland Athletics.

The Yankees, tired of being eulogized as over-the-hill
champions, broke out of their offensive malaise for a half-inning
and then barely held on to defeat the sleepy Oakland Athletics in a
decisive Game 5.

Chuck Knoblauch's return to the lineup sparked a six-run first
inning, leading the Yankees to victory and completing a Big Apple
playoff sweep of the Bay Area.

The Yankees, trying to become the first team to win three
straight World Series titles since the 1972-74 A's, wrapped up the
Division Series less than five hours after the New York Mets
completed their ouster of the San Francisco Giants.

"A lot of people were trying to say that our run was over, but
you're not going to beat us that easily," Derek Jeter said.

After Mariano Rivera got Eric Chavez to loop a foul pop to first
baseman Tino Martinez for the final out, the emotionally drained
Yankees congratulated each other on the field and then headed
quickly into their clubhouse for champagne showers.

There was a huge sense of relief for New York, especially after
two weeks of being written off as too old or too weak offensively
to defend their titles.

"That's just playing in New York," Martinez said. "Obituaries
are written every day if you have a bad day, so you just learn to
not pay attention to it."

The Yankees, forced to fly across the country early Sunday
morning to finish the series with the A's, headed back to New York
late Sunday night to prepare for Tuesday night's AL Championship
Series opener against the Seattle Mariners.

The wild-card Mariners were 6-4 against the Yankees this year.

Yankees starter Andy Pettitte was pulled after 3 2/3 innings,
but the New York bullpen picked him up. Playing for keeps, manager
Joe Torre even brought in Orlando Hernandez for his first pro
relief appearance.

Rivera got the final five outs for his 16th postseason save,
breaking the record he had shared with Dennis Eckersley since
Friday night.

"We let them get a running start on us tonight, that's the
difference in the ballgame," A's manager Art Howe said. "We
battled back, got within two."

After ending the regular season with seven straight defeats, the
Yankees were written off as fallen champions when they started this
series with a loss at Oakland. An embarrassing 11-1 loss at home in
Game 4 led to more condolences.

It took a half-inning, lasting 26 minutes, to lift the gloom.

Knoblauch, back in his accustomed leadoff spot after being
benched for three games, lined the night's first pitch to right for
a single. Jeter walked and Paul O'Neill's high-chop single loaded
the bases.

Bernie Williams drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, David
walked and Martinez doubled in three runs with a drive off
the center-field wall that Terrence Long broke in on. Jorge
's infield single chased losing pitcher Gil Heredia.

Luis Sojo greeted reliever Jeff Tam with a sacrifice fly on
which Long again broke the wrong way, and singles by Scott Brosius
and Knoblauch made it 6-0. A routine toss from catcher Ramon
forced Tam to dive for the ball for the flustered A's.

"The sun was bad, but I dropped the ball," Long said of
Martinez's bases-clearing drive. "I tried to get a bead on the
ball and it carried. I pulled up at the end, I couldn't get to it.
I just ran out of room."

Both teams had gotten to bed about 4 a.m. -- 13 hours before
gametime -- but the aging Yankees were buoyant and the youthful A's
were wiping sleep from their eyes.

Oakland finally woke up an inning later, getting Randy Velarde's
two-run single. An RBI double by Chavez in the third pulled the A's
within three runs.

Justice homered in the fourth to give New York a 7-3 lead, but
Oakland got two more in the fourth on sacrifice flies by Jason
and Olmedo Saenz -- knocking out Pettitte, the winner in New
York's 4-0 victory in Game 2 but ineffective Sunday on three days'

The A's had the tying runs on base in the fourth and the tying
run at the plate in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings, but failed
to score off a New York bullpen that struggled the second half of
the season.

After Pettitte allowed five runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings,
Stanton shut down the A's on one hit in two scoreless innings and
struck out three. He was credited with the win.

Jeff Nelson got the next four outs and Hernandez -- who threw 130
pitches while winning Friday's Game 3 -- got one out in the eighth.
After pinch-hitter Matt Stairs doubled, Rivera was summoned.

Rivera now has thrown 30 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings over
21 postseason appearances, the longest such streak since the
Yankees' Whitey Ford set the major league record with 33 straight
scoreless innings from 1960-62. The last run off Rivera came on
Sandy Alomar's solo homer for Cleveland in Game 5 of the 1997 AL
Division Series.

Game notes
The six-run first was the Yankees' biggest inning since a
seven-run ninth Sept. 7 at Kansas City. ... Justice's homer was
the Yankees' first in eight games and 66 innings -- since Glenallen
homered at Tampa Bay in the ninth inning Sept. 28. ... The
six runs in the first inning were half as many as the Yankees
scored in the first four games of the series. ... It was not the
shortest outing of Heredia's career. That occurred July 7, 1995,
when he failed to retire any of the seven batters he faced in a
start for the Montreal Expos at Colorado. ... Kevin Appier, the
third A's pitcher, made his first relief appearance since May 18,
1991. ... Saenz went 1-for-3 on his 30th birthday. ... Oakland's
Ben Grieve
struck out in all four of his at-bats, tying an AL
Division Series record.