The Yankees own the A’s in postseason play. The teams have met three times since 1981 and the Yankees won each series. Wednesday will be their first matchup in a Wild Card game.
“It always seems the Yankees’ presence comes to life in the postseason,’’ Jeremy Giambi said. “Their postseason experience comes into play.’’
Giambi experienced that up close and personal in 2001 as he was thrown out at the plate on Derek Jeter’s iconic flip play in Game 3 of the American League Division Series in Oakland. That play preserved a 1-0 victory, and the Yankees went on to rally from an 0-2 deficit and win the best-of-five series.
“I've never been one to sit down and sing my own praises,’’ Jeter told mlb.com in 2014. “I’m happy it was a big moment for us.’’
And a bottoming out for the A’s and manager Art Howe, whose team also lost to the Yankees in the 2000 ALDS.
The Jeter play, Howe said from Houston, “transpired before my eyes.’’
Here’s what happened: In the seventh inning, Yankees starter Mike Mussina retired the first two batters before Giambi singled. Terrence Long then ripped a drive down the rightfield line. It was picked up by Shane Spencer, but he overthrew cutoff men Alfonso Soriano and Tino Martinez.
Jeter, racing in from his shortstop position, grabbed the ball as he went into foul territory along the first-base line, turned to his right and made a backhanded flip to catcher Jorge Posada.
“I didn't have time to turn around, set up and throw,” Jeter was quoted after the game. “Basically, I just got rid of it. If I tried to spin around, he would have been safe.”
Giambi came in standing up and Posada tagged his right calf for the third out a split second before Giambi hit the plate -- or at least that's how plate umpire Kerwin Danley saw it.
Howe said, “I wish we had replay 'cause in my heart, I don't know if he was out or safe. But he didn't slide. That made it look like he made a huge mistake. Poor Jeremy. I know the next year he scored from second and he slid and our fans kind of gave him a mock cheer 'cause he slid.
Giambi, 44, speaking from Claremont, California, said of his decision not to slide, “I can't go back and change that. They say technically running to a bag, you're faster. As the play developed -- I've never said this to anybody -- I actually thought I was going to try to take out Posada. I really thought I was going to round third and Posada was going to have the ball waiting for me. I said, 'OK, I'm taking him out.' As I kept running, I was like, ‘the ball’s nowhere,' so that's why I continued to run as fast as I could and run through the plate.
"Posada did a great job of not tipping his hand, either,’’ Giambi said. "He was real nonchalant, like he didn't have the ball, and then he swept his glove as the ball came at the back of my calf."
Posada was not available for comment.
Howe was asked if Jeter’s play turned the series. “Let's put it this way: In a short series, it shouldn't,’’ he said. “In the postseason, each game is its own individual entity. But it obviously gave them some momentum because if they lose that, it's over. They go home.’’
But Howe said it was no fluke play. “I would say it was Jeter’s greatness, anticipation, something,’’ he said. “He read that throw. It was just a great instinctive play on his part. The flip to the plate was right on the money. What are you going to do?’’
Giambi agreed. "I think you got to tip your cap to Derek being in that spot,'' he said. "Great players make great plays."