Experience Helps El Duque

The New York Yankees used Orlando Hernandez’s playoff experience and Oakland’s lack of it to move within one win of the AL championship series.

Hernandez, pitching without his best stuff, won his sixth straight postseason decision, and the Yankees capitalized on the Athletics’ shoddy defense to win 4-2 Friday night and take a 2-1 series lead.

Written off by many after losing the opener to Oakland—their eighth straight loss dating to the regular season—the two-time defending World Series champions will send Roger Clemens (13-8) to the mound in Game 4 Saturday night against rookie Barry Zito (7-4).

Hernandez battled through seven tough innings—with help from his defense—before turning the game over to closer Mariano Rivera, who wrapped up New York’s 10th straight postseason win at Yankee Stadium.

El Duque allowed two runs, four hits and five walks, needing 130 pitches to do it. The Cuban defector had a sub-.500 regular season, but improved to 6-0 with a 1.24 ERA in seven postseason starts.

Capitalized on A’s Two Errors

The Yankees couldn’t mount much offensively against Tim Hudson, but took advantage of two errors, a couple of defensive lapses and two infield choppers to score their runs.

The A’s, who have eight players who are 25-years old or younger, insisted that they wouldn’t be spooked by playing at Yankee Stadium. But their play in the field indicated otherwise.

Bernie Williams led off the second inning with a double for New York and Paul O’Neill chopped a one-out infield single over Hudson’s head for his first hit of the series.

Glenallen Hill then hit a chopper that Hudson was able to field. But the 25-year-old right-hander threw home with no chance to catch the speedy Williams. Giving up the easy out at first ended up costing Hudson when Derek Jeter hit a two-out infield single to give New York a 2-1 lead.

New York added another run in the fourth with help from a bad decision in the field by Oakland. With Luis Sojo on first and no outs, Scott Brosius bunted in front of the plate. Catcher Ramon Hernandez, 24, went for the tough play at second, but his high throw hit off shortstop Miguel Tejada’s glove, sending Sojo to third on the error. Jeter gave New York a 3-1 lead with an RBI forceout.

Sojo added a run-scoring single with two outs in the eighth, his fourth RBI of the series. A’s center fielder Terrence Long slipped after fielding the ball, and was helped off the field.

Hernandez did the rest for the Yankees, proving once again that he is New York’s October ace.

Mariners Squeeze a Sweep—

Shutting down the highest-scoring team in the majors for the third straight game, the wild card Mariners beat the Chicago White Sox 2-1 on pinch-hitter Carlos Guillen’s bunt single in the bottom of the ninth inning today to win their AL playoff series.

The Mariners, who didn’t clinch their playoff spot until the final day of the regular season, won with one out when pinch-runner Rickey Henderson scored on Guillen’s safety-squeeze bunt.

John Olerud led off the inning with a hard liner off the stomach of Kelly Wunsch. The reliever scrambled to pick up the ball, but threw it wildly past first baseman Frank Thomas.

Olerud reached second on a play scored as a single and an error. Henderson, baseball’s career stolen base king and second on the all-time runs list, replaced Olerud, and Keith Foulke relieved Wunsch.

Henderson moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Stan Javier and David Bell drew a four-pitch walk.

Guillen, making his first appearance of the series, batted for Joe Oliver.

Bullpen Shines Again Seattle’s bullpen again was the star of the game.

Jose Paniagua got the victory by striking out Magglio Ordonez for the final out in the ninth. Arthur Rhodes pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings before Paniagua entered.

Wunsch, who was doubled over in pain in the dugout, took the loss.

The White Sox, who scored 978 runs this season — more than six per game — managed only seven runs and 17 hits in the series.

Chicago finished with a batting average of .185 (17-for-92) in the series. The White Sox batted .286 in the regular season.

“The Chicago team has a lot of explosive bats. They can put a lot of runs on the board. Our bullpen and starting pitching — that’s been our story all year long,” Olerud said.

In the first playoff game ever at Safeco Field, the AL’s best road team managed only three hits off Aaron Sele, Rhodes and Paniagua. The White Sox also hit into three double plays.

Thomas, Chicago’s best hitter, was 0-for-9 with four walks in the series. He was 0-for-2 with two walks today.

The White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the second when Harold Baines led off with a double and eventually scored on Herbert Perry’s sacrifice fly. Baines barely slid under Oliver at the plate.

The Mariners tied it in the fourth on Javier’s RBI single. Raul Ibanez opened with a single, Alex Rodriguez sacrificed and Javier singled with two outs off second baseman Ray Durham’s glove.

Sele, a 17-game winner who was 4-0 in September, continued his strong pitching. He allowed three hits and three walks.

“The guys played great behind me. They turned some tough double plays. We tried to keep it close and let the offense come around,” Sele said.

Chicago’s James Baldwin, who pitched despite a case of painful tendinitis in his right shoulder, struck out Javier to end the sixth after walking Edgar Martinez and Olerud with two out in the inning.

Baldwin gave the White Sox a strong six innings, leaving after giving three hits and three walks. He threw 92 pitches in his longest appearance since Aug. 12, when he went seven innings against Tampa Bay.