Oakland gives Yankees cause for concern
NEW YORK, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The Oakland Athletics put an instant roadblock in the New York Yankees' bid for a fourth straight title Wednesday night while the Atlanta Braves took command of their series against Houston and St. Louis rebounded by beating one of the most feared pitchers in baseball.
Terrence Long hit two homers and Jason Giambi delivered a massive blast off the facade of the upper deck to back up Mark Mulder's outstanding playoff debut and boost the Athletics past the Yankees in the opener of their AL Division Series, 5-3.
The Athletics, who lost just 17 games after the All-Star break, spoiled an emotional evening for the New York fans who filled Yankee Stadium for the first major playoff contest in the city since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Mulder, who went 21-8 in the regular season and led the league in victories to help Oakland become the AL's wild-card representative, gave up one run on seven hits through 6 2/3 innings.
In Houston, Tom Glavine overwhelmed the Astros yet again and an error by shortstop Julio Lugo led to the game's only run, giving Atlanta a 1-0 victory and a two games to none lead in their NL Division Series.
Atlanta needs one more triumph to reach the NLCS for the ninth time in 11 years and the Braves will get their first opportunity to close out the Astros on Friday when the series moves to Turner Field. Houston has lost 13 of its last 15 post-season games.
Since 1990, the Braves have failed to play for the league title only in 1994 (when the playoffs were wiped out by a strike) and in 2000 (when they were eliminated in the division round).
At the start of his 15-year career, Glavine lost to Houston eight straight times. But since the start of the 1992 season, he has produced a 15-2 record against the Astros and has not lost to them in six years.
He threw eight innings Wednesday, allowing six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. The Astros moved just one runner as far as third base, when they missed a big scoring chance in the fifth, and Atlanta second baseman Marcus Giles bailed Glavine out with a big defensive play in the eighth.
The other NL division series was tied at 1-1 when the St. Louis Cardinals added to the playoff woes of Arizona superstar Randy Johnson.
Luis Pujols hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Johnson and the Cardinals produced a 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Johnson has lost his last seven playoff decision.
Only the American League teams will be in action today and tonight. Cleveland will try to take a 2-0 advantage against Seattle, after which the Yankees will attempt to fight off the streaking Athletics.
Jordan changes mind, will play in exhibitions
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Michael Jordan's return to basketball takes another step tonight when he plays in the Washington Wizards' opening exhibition game.
Jordan said Wednesday that he would skip Washington's first two exhibition contests, but soon announced that he had changed his mind.
With thousands of fans having bought tickets in the expectation they would see Jordan make his return to the court, the NBA's greatest player said he would play limited minutes tonight at Detroit and on Saturday against the Miami Heat.
"After making my first announcement earlier today, I realized that many fans purchased tickets for these games to see me in my return," he said. "I don't want the fans to be disappointed, therefore I will alter my original plans and play in Detroit and Miami."
The Wizards host the New Jersey Nets in their first preseason home game on Oct. 20.
In NBA exhibition games Wednesday night, it was Boston 80, Charlotte 72; Orlando 83, Miami 70; Utah 92, Portland 76; Phoenix 88, Houston 80; Seattle 96, Los Angeles Lakers 85.
Red Wings home unbeaten streak ends
DETROIT, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Jarome Iginla scored a power-play goal and added two assists Wednesday night as the Calgary Flames held on for a 4-2 victory that ended the Detroit Red Wings' 19-game regular-season home unbeaten streak.
Calgary scored just two power-play goals in its first three games, but struck three times with the extra man to spoil the Red Wings' home opener. Detroit had been 17
2 in the regular season at Joe Louis Arena since last Dec. 27.
Dean McAmmond got the Flames' first power-play goal midway through the second period to forge a 1-1 tie. During a two-man advantage, he flipped a rebound over a sprawled Dominik Hasek after the goaltender stopped Iginla's deflection and a shot by defenseman Derek Morris.
With 4:34 left in the period and Detroit's Brett Hull in the penalty box for tripping, Hasek made a chest stop on Rob Niedermayer's shot. But the puck glanced off the knee of 27-year-old rookie Scott Nichol and into the net to put Calgary ahead for good.
It was Nichol's first NHL goal.
A blocked shot squirted to Flames defenseman Igor Kravchuk, who beat an out-of-position Hasek 3:50 into the third period to extend the lead to 3-1.
Other NHL results: Ottawa 2, Florida 0; New York Islanders 6, Pittsburgh 3; Buffalo 2, Philadelphia 1; Minnesota 2, Boston 1; Washington 5, New York Rangers 2.
Couples, Lehman share lead
Earlier this year, Couples hinted that he might retire from the sport if his game did not show signs of improvement. He started on the back nine of the Southern Highlands course and made the turn in 4-under 32. He promptly birdied the first three holes on the front nine and wound up with birdies on all par-3 holes.
Couples has not won a PGA Tour event since the 1998 Memorial. He has failed to crack the top 10 in any of 17 tournaments this season, has missed the cut five times and is just 130th on the money list with $354,066.
Lehman, playing at the TPC-Summerlin course, birdied four straight beginning at the 13th to get to 9-under for the day.
Howell began the year playing on the European Tour in that circuit's stops in Australia. Without being an exempt player on the PGA Tour when the season began, Howell has played his way into the No. 10 position on the money list.
John Daly, meanwhile, opened with a 67. Daly has been one of the hottest golfers in the world over the past month. He won the BMW International, finished second at the German Masters and was fourth at the Canadian Open.
MIAMI, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- A goal by Preki in the second half Wednesday night gave Miami a 1-0 victory over San Jose in the opening game of their MLS semifinal series. It is the first semifinal appearance for both teams.
In the other semifinal opener, Chicago and Los Angeles played to a 1-1 tie.
The first teams to reach five points in the three-game series will advance to the championship game. Because the Fire and Galaxy tied in their contest in Chicago, that series is certain to go the distance.
NBA veteran Larry Johnson retires
NEW YORK, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- New York Knicks forward Larry Johnson, a two-time All-Star whose career never reached its full potential due to back problems, announced Wednesday he was retiring after 10 seasons.
Still plagued by a chronically sore back, Johnson was waived by the Knicks Wednesday and officially ended his playing career.
The New York Times reported that Johnson has accepted a buyout from the Knicks that will pay him the $29 million that remains on his contract. The Knicks may be in line for a medical exception worth as much as $4.5 million that could enable them to sign a free agent.
Johnson was acquired from the Charlotte Hornets on July 14, 1996, for Anthony Mason and Brad Lohaus and has been responsible for some of the memorable moments in recent Knicks playoff history.
In 1999, he helped the Knicks reach the NBA Finals by scoring 26 points in a Game 3 victory over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals.
Johnson hit a three-pointer while being fouled by Antonio Davis with 5.7 seconds remaining. His ensuing free throw gave the Knicks a 92-91 victory and completed the only four-point play of his career.
Lions change quarterbacks again
PONTIAC, Mich., Oct. 11 (UPI) -- First-year Detroit Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg has changed his starting quarterback again and will go with Charlie Batch in Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Batch struggled in the Lions' season-opening, 28-6 loss at Green Bay, prompting a switch to Ty Detmer.
But Detmer threw seven interceptions -- one shy of an NFL record -- in a 24-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 23. Last Monday night, the Lions were inept on offense in a 35-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams, prompting Mornhinweg to reverse field.
"Charlie will not look back or look over his shoulder," Mornhinweg said. "We are behind Charlie 100 percent."
Detroit had just three possessions inside the St. Louis 30 on Monday night and turned the ball over each time. Detmer played the first half and went 14 of 17 for 143 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown. In the second half, Batch went 11 of 16 for 113 yards with an interception.
Alesi steps down from Formula One
SILVERSTONE, England, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Veteran driver Jean Alesi confirmed Wednesday he will retire from Formula One racing after the season finale in Japan this weekend.
Alesi, 37, previously was dropped by Team Jordan for the 2002 season in favor of 2001 British Formula 3 champion Takuma Sato of Japan.
"I will retire," said Alesi, a Frenchman who has one victory in 200 grand prix starts since 1989. He won the Canadian Grand Prix in 1995 while with Ferrari. "I will not race next year, but for the moment it is not completely clear what I will do. I will not drive Formula One anymore."
Alesi has raced in Formula One for Ferrari, Benetton and Sauber Petronas, and left the Prost team earlier this season after a disagreement with team owner and long-time friend Alain Prost.