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Advancing age and a general feeling of complacency were the biggest obstacles the Yankees encountered en route to capturing their third consecutive A.L. East title in 2000.  With a starting rotation that included 37-year-old veterans Roger Clemens and David Cone, and 34-year-old Orlando Hernandez, New York finished just sixth in the American League with a team ERA of 4.76.  Clemens continued to pitch well, compiling a record of 13-8 and an ERA of 3.70.  But Hernandez finished just 12-13 with a 4.51 ERA, while Cone won only four of his 18 decisions, while posting an inordinately high 6.91 ERA.  Fortunately for New York, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera came through with solid seasons.  Pettitte led the staff with 19 victories, while Rivera won seven games, saved 36 others, and compiled a 2.85 ERA.

The Yankees also performed somewhat erratically on offense, placing just sixth in the junior circuit with 871 runs scored, 205 home runs, and a .277 team batting average.  Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, and Scott Brosius all suffered through subpar seasons.  Only the outstanding campaigns turned in by Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Derek Jeter prevented the team’s offense from slipping even further.  Posada hit 28 home runs, knocked in 86 runs, scored 92 others, batted .287, and compiled a .417 on-base percentage.  Williams led the club with 30 home runs and 121 runs batted in, and he also placed second on the team with 108 runs scored and a .307 batting average.  Jeter finished among the league leaders with 119 runs scored, 201 hits, and a .339 batting average, en route to earning a 10th place finish in the A.L. MVP voting.

Also working against New York was a feeling of complacency that appeared to settle in on the team for the first time over the course of the season.  Having won each of the previous two world championships rather easily, the Yankees seemed to adopt a feeling of self-entitlement during the 2000 campaign.  After remaining in contention for the American League’s best record for most of the year, the Yankees won only 13 of their final 31 games, to finish the year with a record of just 87-74.  However, even though their poor finish caused the Yankees to finish with just the American League’s fifth best record, it did not prevent them from capturing their third straight A.L. East title.  New York finished first in the division, 2 ½ games ahead of the second-place Boston Red Sox.

While the Yankees appeared to lack the same passion they carried with them into the postseason in each of the previous two years, the Oakland Athletics team that awaited them in the first round of the playoffs possessed a great deal of enthusiasm and determination.  Oakland earned the right to face New York in the ALDS by barely edging out the Seattle Mariners for the A.L. West title, with a record of 91-70.  The Mariners finished the season with a mark of 91-71, just ½ game back, advancing to the postseason tournament as the junior circuit’s wild-card entry.

A young and aggressive ball club, Oakland possessed a considerable amount of talent both in the field and on the mound.  Although the Athletics finished just 10th in the American League with a team batting average of .270, they placed second in the junior circuit with 239 home runs, and they finished third with 947 runs scored and a .360 team on-base percentage.  Centerfielder Terrence Long batted .288, hit 18 homers, drove in 80 runs, and scored 104 others.  Left fielder Ben Grieve hit 27 home runs, knocked in 104 runs, and scored 92 others.  In Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada, Oakland had arguably the best left side of the infield in all of baseball.  Third baseman Chavez hit 26 homers, drove in 86 runs, and crossed the plate 89 times himself.  Shortstop Tejada finished second on the club with 30 home runs, 115 runs batted in, and 105 runs scored.  Meanwhile, first baseman Jason Giambi scored 108 runs, placed among the league leaders with 43 home runs, 137 runs batted in, a .333 batting average, and a .647 slugging percentage, and topped the circuit with 137 walks and a .476 on-base percentage, en route to capturing A.L. MVP honors.

Oakland also had a solid pitching staff that finished third in the league with a 4.58 team ERA.  Tim Hudson placed second in the Cy Young balloting by leading the league with a record of 20-6 and a .769 winning percentage.  Gil Heredia and Kevin Appier provided Hudson with a great deal of support, both winning 15 games.  Jason Isringhausen won six games and saved 33 others coming out of the bullpen.       

With the Yankees having struggled as much as they did over the season’s final month, a tremendous amount of uncertainty surrounded them as they entered their first round playoff matchup against the Athletics.  No longer considered the overwhelming favorite to advance to the World Series, New York was given no better than a 50/50 chance of defeating Oakland and moving on to the next round.
The Yankees took an early 2-0 lead in Game One, played in Oakland, scoring twice in the top of the second inning against Gil Heredia on RBI doubles by Luis Sojo and Scott Brosius.  However, Roger Clemens found himself unable to hold the lead, surrendering four runs to the Athletics in his six innings of work.  Oakland scored three runs against Clemens in the bottom of the fifth, with two runs scoring on RBI singles and a third coming home on a Clemens wild pitch.  The Yankees pushed across another run in the top of the sixth, but the Athletic scored once against New York’s bullpen, while Oakland relievers worked two perfect innings.  The 5-3 victory gave Oakland a 1-0 lead in the Series.

The Yankees evened the Series at one game apiece with a 4-0 victory in Game Two.  Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera combined to shut out the Athletics on only six hits.  A three-run sixth inning gave Pettitte all the runs he needed, with the big hits being an RBI single by Glenallen Hill and a two-run RBI double by Luis Sojo.  

The Yankees took a 2-1 Series lead after the two teams traveled to New York for Games Three and Four.  Orlando Hernandez worked seven strong innings, limiting the Athletics to just two runs on four hits, before turning the ball over to Mariano Rivera, who pitched two perfect innings in relief.  Meanwhile, the Yankees scored four times against Tim Hudson, with Derek Jeter driving home two of the runs with a single and a groundout.  The 4-2 victory provided the Yankees with an opportunity to close out the Series at home with a win in Game Four.

The Athletics, though, had other ideas, battering Roger Clemens and three Yankee relievers for 11 runs on 11 hits en route to evening the Series at two games apiece with an 11-1 victory.  DH Olmedo Saenz was Oakland’s big gun, setting the tone for the contest by reaching Clemens for a three-run homer in the first inning.  Eric Chavez and Ben Grieve also had two hits and drove in two runs.
The Yankees gave Andy Pettitte an early lead by scoring six times in the top of the first inning when the Series returned to Oakland for the decisive fifth contest.  Tino Martinez delivered the big blow of the inning, driving in three runs with a bases-clearing double against Gil Heredia.  Oakland attempted to mount a comeback against Andy Pettitte, forcing the Yankee starter to leave the mound in just the fourth inning after reaching him for 10 hits and five runs.  However, New York’s bullpen kept the Athletics off the scoreboard the rest of the way, holding them to only three hits over the final 5 1/3 innings.  David Justice added an insurance run for the Yankees with a solo home run, and New York advanced to the ALCS for the third straight year with a 7-5 victory.   
 

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
2000 ALDS1, Andy Pettitte, Ben Grieve, Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Chuck Knoblauch, David Cone, David Justice, Derek Jeter, Eric Chavez, Gil Heredia, Glenallen Hill, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, Kevin Appier, Luis Sojo, Mariano Rivera, Miguel Tejada, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Olmedo Saenz, Orlando Hernandez, Roger Clemens, Scott Brosius, Terrence Long, Tim Hudson, Tino Martinez

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