A's, Cards, Mariners Take 1-0 Leads

A happy snowman wears a Colts cap in celebration in a front yard in Noblesville, Ind., the morning after the Indianapolis Colts beat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championships Game Monday, Jan. 22, 2007. The Colts will face the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI in Miami on Feb. 4. AP Photo/Amy Sancetta

Even the comfort of the postseason couldn't break the New York Yankees out of their deep funk.

Ramon Hernandez drove in two runs, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning off Roger Clemens, and the Oakland Athletics defeated the struggling Yankees 5-3 Tuesday night in the opener of their playoff series.

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.

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 and then held on to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five AL division series.

Tony La Russa won his Game 1 gamble, although not the way he had planned.

The St. Louis Cardinals scored six runs off Greg Maddux and Atlanta's shoddy defense in the first inning and then survived rookie Rick Ankiel's epic wildness for a 7-5 victory over the Braves in their NL playoff opener Tuesday.

Ankiel, 21, was a surprise starter. He was only 11-7 in the regular season, but his 3.50 ERA led the staff and he had a 7-2 record at Busch Stadium.

La Russa even shielded Ankiel from the media on Monday, sending 20-game winner Darryl Kile to the interview room so the rookie could escape before the manager announced his rotation.

Then the script fell apart. Ankiel looked like a kid three years removed from high school, which he is, becoming the first pitcher in 110 years to throw five wild pitches in one inning as the Braves scored four runs in the third.

"He threw some outstanding pitches and he threw some funny ones that weren't so outstanding," La Russa said. "I mean, there's no doubt about it, he struggled."

But he didn't hesitate to say Ankiel will start again in Game 4 on Sunday.

The Seattle Mariners are doing just fine without Junior.

Mike Cameron, one of the players acquired in the Ken Griffey Jr. trade, supplied the speed, unnerving his former team with a key stolen base.

And the Mariners' old reliable, Edgar Martinez, and John Olerud added the power in the 10th inning as Seattle beat the Chicago White Sox 7-4 in the opener of their AL playoff series Tuesday night.

Martinez hit a two-run homer right after Cameron's steal which followed a rare on-the-field meeting with manager Lou Piniella at first base.

After Martinez's shot cleared the left field wall, Olerud followed with a solo homer.

What was Piniella doing coming to first to talk with his baserunner?

"He said, `Relax,"' said Cameron. "Whatever he told me, it worked. The only time you see that is Little League.

"I can't tell you exactly what he said. It's a secret we have to keep under the sheets. I guess it was a moment of truth. He wanted to shore things up and make sure I was comfortable."

The consecutive homers came off Chicago relief ace Keith Foulke, who'd surrendered just nine home runs in 88 innings all season.


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