Yankees 5, Athletics 3

Tuesday, October 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Derek Jeter, the heart of these New York Yankees, is always there to save them.

``I guess that's the reason he's wearing so many rings. This kid is as good as they come,'' Oakland manager Art Howe said. ``Whenever they need a big play, he's there to make it. Whenever they need a big hit, he gets it.''

Jeter solidified his place in Yankees' lore as the three-time defending World Series champions became the first team to win a best-of-five series after losing the first two games at home, beating the Athletics 5-3 Monday night.

And as Yankees manager Joe Torre and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani walked off the field arm in arm, fans stood and cheered a team whose grit and determination mirrors that of the shaken city, attempting to recover from last month's attacks on the World Trade Center.

``There was no question we knew there was a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders,'' Torre said.

After falling behind early, the Yankees seized on Oakland's youthful nerves to beat the A's in five games for the second straight year and advanced to a repeat matchup against the Mariners starting Wednesday in Seattle.

``We're not going home until somebody beats us,'' Jeter said.

Alfonso Soriano started New York with a two-run single, the Yankees created two runs from three errors and David Justice capped the comeback with a pinch-homer - his first RBI in 62 at-bats since Sept. 5.

Then came Jeter, whose amazing backhand flip to the plate following an overthrow preserved Mike Mussina's 1-0 win in Game 3 - and turned the series.

After getting two hits to break Pete Rose's postseason record with 87, Jeter showed the heart and skill of a champion.

With a runner on first in the eighth, he dived into the photographer's box behind third base to catch Terrence Long's foul pop. The runner advanced, but was stranded, and after the inning Jeter bandaged the cut on his elbow.

``You make your own breaks,'' Jeter said.

The delirious Bronx crowd chanted at fever pitch as Mariano Rivera closed it out, capping 4 2-3 innings of shutout, two-hit relief begun by winner Mike Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza.

``Everything that this city has gone through and the fans have gone through, just the opportunity to give them something to cheer about was a joy,'' Roger Clemens said.

Clemens, his pant legs hiked up in tribute to teammate Orlando Hernandez's victory in Game 4, fell behind 2-0. The Giambi brothers hit RBI singles that put Oakland ahead, with Jason - who went 4-for-4 - connecting in the first after Johnny Damon's leadoff double and Jeremy in the second following Long's double.

But then the Yankees' resolve, the refusal not to give in that has led them to four World Series titles in five years under Torre, kicked in while the A's buckled.

Soriano started it with a two-run single in the second off Mark Mulder, who had shut down the Yankees in the opener.

An innocent strikeout by Bernie Williams in the third turned into trouble. The ball skipped away from catcher Greg Myers, who got it in plenty of time to throw to first, but his throw bounced under the glove of Jason Giambi and into right field.

``I just threw it away,'' Myers said.

Tino Martinez was hit on a hip by a pitch and Shane Spencer loaded the bases with a two-out walk. Brosius then hit a grounder to third and Eric Chavez, appearing distracted as Martinez crossed in front of him, let the ball pop out of his glove as Williams scored the go-ahead run.

``You can't give a team like that extra outs,'' Mulder said.

Jason Giambi hurt the A's again in the fourth after Chuck Knoblauch led off with a single. Mulder picked Knoblauch off first, with Giambi having plenty of time to make the play. But his throw to second was wide and low.

Randy Velarde bunted Knoblauch over and Jeter's sacrifice fly made it 4-2.

The best example of the A's struggles came in the fifth.

Jason Giambi hit an RBI single off Stanton, who had just replaced Clemens, but Miguel Tejada failed to go from first to third on the play. It became costly when Chavez flied to right, a ball Tejada could have scored on.

Giambi and Tejada had an animated discussion after the inning, with the MVP first baseman jabbing his finger at his teammate.

``I didn't want to rush and get thrown out,'' Tejada said. ``He said I had to go. I told him I was watching the coach.''

But, as usual, the Yankees pounced.

``The fact that nobody's ever done this doesn't mean it can't be done,'' Torre said.