NEW YORK (REUTERS) — With no margin for error, Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees’ pinstriped dynasty persevered with one of the great comebacks in baseball history.
As Jeter solidified his place in Yankee lore, the three-time defending World Series champions became the first team ever to win a best-of-five series after losing the first two games at home.
New York fell behind early as Roger Clemens stumbled, then seized on Oakland’s youthful nerves to beat the Athletics 5-3 in the deciding Game 5 Monday night and advance to the AL championship series.
Alfonso Soriano started the comeback with a two-run single, New York created two runs from three errors, and David Justice capped the comeback with a pinch-hit home run into the right-field seats, his first RBI in 62 at-bats since Sept. 5.
Then came Jeter, whose amazing backhand flip to the plate following an overthrow preserved the Yankees’ 1-0 win in Game 3 and turned the series.
With a runner on first in the eighth, Jeter dived headlong 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 his elbow cut.
With the delirious Bronx crowd chanting at fever pitch, Mariano Rivera closed it out, capping 4 2/3 innings of shutout, two-hit relief started by winner Mike Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza.
New York, trying to become only the third team to win the World Series four straight times, opens the AL championship Wednesday at Seattle, with renewed confidence that nothing is outside its grasp.
“If you lose playing well, you tip your hat,” Oakland manager Art Howe said.
“Tonight we contributed quite a bit to our demise.”