Baseball-Almanac.com's Divisional Series section
2001 American League Divisional Series:
New York Yankees (3),
Oakland Athletics (2)
Baseball in 2001 will always be remembered not for the exciting games that took place during the post season, but for the patriotism and heroic tributes that took place in the wake of the 9/11 terrorists attacks. It somehow seemed fitting that the city of New York, led by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, would show immeasurable strength in hosting the playoffs (and eventually, the World Series) after suffering such devastating loss a few months earlier. As usual, the Yankees remained on top of the American League and were paired up against the Oakland Athletics for a classic rematch from the year before. The perennial champions from the "Big Apple" had continued to dominate the late nineties, but the Athletics had stayed right on their heels and had gone the distance in the previous Divisional Series before falling out of the race 3-games-to-2. The Mariners and Indians, both ALDS veterans, also looked to be a tough call as Seattle boasted 116 regular-season wins and the Indians were celebrating their 100th anniversary season by reclaiming the AL Central.
The '01 playoffs did not disappoint, as all teams involved would once again sprint neck-and-neck down to the wire. Despite starting 8-18, the A's went 58-17 after the All-Star break for the second best post-break record ever and completed the season with the ninth, 100+ win total in franchise history. Looking to become just third team to win four straight titles (1949-53 and 1936-39 Yankees) New York's skipper Joe Torre and GM Brian Cashman were both in the spotlight and in the final year of their contracts. Many felt that despite their previous success, both could be fired by their demanding owner George Steinbrenner, if they were unable to deliver another championship. Oakland pitcher Mark Mulder's first postseason game was a memorable one as the lefty led the Athletics to a 5-3 victory against the defending World Series champions. Mulder, a 21-game winner, gave up only 1 run in 6 2/3 innings and struck out five with no walks. The Yankees' starting pitcher, Roger Clemens, left the game in the fourth inning with hamstring tightness. Oakland's Tim Hudson followed suit in Game 2 topping Andy Pettitte who struggled early on and had only one 1-2-3 inning before departing in the seventh. Johnny Damon, 6-for-9 in the series, supported Hudson's efforts in the ninth when he tripled down the right-field line off Mariano Rivera and beat Scott Brosius, who earlier made a spectacular backhand play to throw out Jermaine Dye after he missed a Jason Giambi grounder to third with the infield in. The 2-0 victory was the eighth straight win over New York dating back to the regular season in which the Yankees hadn't led in their last 76 innings against the A's. Now down 2-games-to-none, New York was forced into the position of needing three consecutive wins to move on. Mike Mussina, a free-agent pitcher signed in the winter, literally saved the Yankees season with a clutch, 1-0 triumph in Game 3 that was backed by teammates Jorge Posada, who homered in the fifth, and shortstop Derek Jeter who snagged a screaming grounder and made a backhand throw to Posada, who caught Giambi's leg with a sweeping tag a split second before the tying run touched home plate. Things continued to tip in the Yankees favor in both Games 4 and 5 with a dominant 9-2 rally that was followed by a series capping 5-3 comeback win that sent the Athletics packing for home.
Game 1 in the other series featured Cleveland Indian Bartolo Colon's 98 mile-an-hour fastball, which clearly stunned the heavily favored Mariners with eight shutout innings and a 5-0 win. The Indians batters also collected 11 hits, using eight to score four of their five runs with the bottom of the order coming up the biggest. Designated hitter Ellis Burks led the way with a homer, double and single, and Travis Fryman, Marty Cordova and Einar Diaz combined for six singles and three RBIs. Jamie Moyer, a 38-year-old, 20-game winner for Seattle had his revenge in Game 2 emerging with a 3-0 decision and a 0.90 earned run average against the "Tribe" for the year. While Moyer took control on the mound, sluggers Mike Cameron and Edgar Martinez both set the tone at the plate combining for two, first-inning homers. David Bell added a solo shot in the fifth sealing the 5-1 win that evened up the series. Cleveland clobbered Seattle in Game 3, 17-2, after Juan Gonzalez, Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome all homered. The Indians, who led 8-1 after three innings never stopped pouring it on and ended the day with 19 hits. Cleveland rookie C.C. Sabathia (21) became the second youngest pitcher to win a Division Series game behind Los Angeles' Fernando Valenzuela (20) who had set his mark in 1981. Down, but far from out, the resilient Mariners came back in Game 4 with a 6-2 win that forced a Game 5. After shuffling the line-up, DH Edgar Martinez went 2-for-4 with a 458-foot, two-run homer while batting third; Mike Cameron chipped in an RBI double from the seventh spot; and previously hitless Mark McLemore added a seventh-inning RBI single in Cameron's No. 2 spot. Game 5 spotlighted Japanese import and Seattle leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki who continued his amazing debut season and postseason with three infield singles. In the end, Suzuki hit .600 for the five games, set an AL Division Series record, and tied the AL Division Series record of 12 hits, (which teammate Edgar Martinez had set in 1995).
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