Advantage, Mariners

  • KIRBY ARNOLD / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, October 4, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Seattle pitchers shut down Chisox bats as M’s take 2-0 series lead

By KIRBY ARNOLD

Herald Writer

CHICAGO — Besides Jose Mesa’s 96 mph fastball and Kazuhiro Sasaki’s stupefying splitter, there’s no particular weapon that has pushed the Seattle Mariners to the brink of sweeping the Chicago White Sox.

Unless, that is, you consider the work of a man named Ken Madeja.

Madeja is a scout for the Mariners who spent the last days of the regular season watching the White Sox, particularly their lineup of hitting stars. He’s the guy who wrote up the strengths, weaknesses, tendencies and vulnerable areas of the Sox, shipped his report off to the M’s and let them fashion a pitching strategy.

He’s a guy to whom the Mariners might want to consider giving a share of their postseason winnings.

The Mariners beat the White Sox 5-2 on Wednesday in Game 2 of the American League Division Series with a pitching effort that silenced the "MVP!" chants for Frank Thomas and left most of the other White Sox muttering back to the dugout.

Starter Paul Abbott allowed five hits in 5 2/3innings to get the victory in his first career postseason appearance, and relievers Arthur Rhodes, Jose Mesa and Kazuhiro Sasaki continued their mastery of the White Sox with hitless ball the rest of the game.

As a result, the Mariners lead the best-of-five series 2-0, with Game 3 at Safeco Field on Friday.

"We have a specific game plan," manager Lou Piniella said. "They’re excellent hitters, I can tell you that. You’re not going to find better hitters. We’ve been fortunate to shut them down."

By the end Wednesday, the White Sox seemed to have been pounded into submission.

Mesa and Sasaki combined to strike out the final five Chicago hitters, finishing a stretch of 10 consecutive scoreless innings by Seattle relievers in the two games.

The symbol of White Sox futility is Thomas, the slugger who has gone 0-for-7 in the two games and managed to advance his first runner of the series with a fly out to center field off Mesa in the seventh that allowed Ray Durham to tag and move from second to third.

"I don’t know what Frank’s doing," said White Sox manager Jerry Manuel. "We are just hitting too many easy, lazy fly balls right now."

The middle three in Chicago’s batting order — Thomas, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee — have gone a combined 2-for-22 in the series with no home runs. This is a trio that combined for 99 home runs and a .315 batting average in the regular season.

"Those guys in the middle of the lineup can really sting the ball," Mariners catcher Dan Wilson said. "If you get (Ray) Durham and (Jose) Valentin on base ahead of them and let those guys try to drive them in, you’re in trouble. They’re very good hitters."

But the Mariners haven proven that they’re no slouches on the mound.

"Our guys have done a great job of pitching to them," Wilson said. "We’ve got to keep that going when we go home."

Abbott bailed himself out of a huge jam in the first inning by allowing only one run after getting slapped with back-to-back doubles by Durham and Valentin. Abbott then got Thomas to pop out to shallow left field, he walked Ordonez, coaxed Lee into a popup to first base, then ended the inning when Paul Konerko bounced back to the mound.

Abbott didn’t exactly settle into cruise control, allowing runners in every inning except the fifth, but he dominated the White Sox when he needed to. He got Thomas three times on popups or fly balls.

"He’s missing some pretty good pitches," Abbott said. "There were a lot of fly balls that he just got under."

The most important flyout came against Mesa in the seventh inning with the Mariners clutching a 4-2 lead.

Rhodes had walked Durham and Valentin with one out, and Piniella brought Mesa from the bullpen to face Thomas with the game on the line for the second straight day. He hit a fly to deep center field, ending an 0-for-4 day.

"He’s come close a couple of times to hitting the ball nine miles," Wilson said. "We’ve mixed it up with him and these guys are making quality pitches."

"We’ve used both sides of the plate on Thomas," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "It used to be that people pitched him in a lot and if you make a mistake, he hits it a long way. But if you try to stay away from him and you get the ball up and over the plate, he’ll pound it to right-center."

The only one doing any pounding was Jay Buhner, whose solo home run in the fourth inning put the Mariners ahead for good. He hit a hanging curve from Mike Sirotka into the left-field seats for a 3-2 Seattle lead.

The Mariners, who scored twice in the second on David Bell’s RBI single and Wilson’s sacrifice fly, added single runs in the fifth and ninth. Rickey Henderson walked and scored in the fifth, and Mike Cameron drove in Mark McLemore in the ninth.

Sasaki then saved his second straight game with three strikeouts in the ninth and the Mariners flew home needing only one victory in three chances to clinch the series.

"We’ve gotten ourselves in a very good position," Piniella said. "Now our job is to finish it off."

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