OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics, lacking the payroll and prestige of the New York Yankees, more than matched the two-time defending World Series champions in poise and patience in their playoff opener.
Ramon Hernandez drove in two runs, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning off Roger Clemens, and the A's defeated the struggling Yankees 5-3 Tuesday night to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five AL series.
The Yankees hoped the comfort of the postseason would provide an antidote for their recent struggles. But the bottom of the Oakland lineup simply sent New York deeper into its funk.
The last three hitters in the Oakland lineup went 6-for-11 and scored four runs.
"The bottom of the order beat our brains out," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "I thought they were very patient at the bottom of that lineup and Hernandez had a very good approach, going the other way."
Hernandez, the No. 9 hitter, went 2-for-4 after hitting .241 during the regular season. Both of his hits came off Clemens and went to the opposite field.
"Ramon's our secret weapon at the bottom of the order," A's manager Art Howe said. "You need hitting throughout the order to win. We feel good about him being down there, because there's not an easy touch anywhere in the lineup."
Game 2 is set for Wednesday night at Oakland. Andy Pettitte is scheduled to pitch for the Yankees against Kevin Appier.
In a matchup of near-opposites, a small-market A's club making its first playoff appearance since 1992 was patient enough to outlast Clemens and a mega-rich Yankees club trying to defend its two straight World Series titles.
The Yankees entered the playoffs with a record payroll of $113.4 million, while the A's ranked 25th in the major leagues with a payroll of $32.7 million.
But while the A's entered the playoffs having won eight of their last 10 regular-season games to clinch the AL West title, the Yankees stumbled into the postseason with a seven-game losing streak and 15 losses in their final 18 games.
They hoped the postseason would provide a cure -- after all, they had won 18 of their previous 19 postseason games heading into this series, and also have a record-matching 12 straight World Series victories.
The slump prompted Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to issue a statement earlier in the day about his team.
"Tired? Yeah, maybe. Struggling? Yeah, maybe. But scared? ... That word ain't even in our vocabulary," he said.
After scoring two runs in the second inning to take their first lead in a week, the Yankees could not hold on against the young A's.
"It was very disappointing, we had the opportunity to get things going, we just couldn't," New York's Bernie Williams said. "It started pretty good, we just couldn't keep scoring, getting more runs. I really didn't think we were OK, but I did think he had something going."
Overpowered for the first four innings, the A's scored four times in the fifth and sixth off a tiring Clemens -- he threw 111 pitches in his six innings. Meanwhile, the A's were holding the Yankees to three hits the last seven innings.
"The way Roger was throwing the ball early on, it looked like it might be a long evening for us. The velocity he had was vintage Clemens," Howe said. "But we hung in there."
Gil Heredia, making the first postseason start of his nine-year major league career, allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings for the win.
Jeff Tam and Jim Mecir combined for two scoreless innings of relief, and Jason Isringhausen got three outs for his first postseason save.
Notes: Scott Brosius' run-scoring double in the second inning for New York was his first RBI since Sept. 10. ... Howe won in his first postseason game as a manager. ... The Yankees were 6-3 against the A's during the regular season. ... The Yankees and Oakland were meeting in the postseason for the first time since the strike-shortened 1981 season. New York swept the A's in three games in the 1981 AL championship series.
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