Dose of reality

  • KIRBY ARNOLD / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, October 11, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

7-1 loss makes M’s realize road to World Series won’t be smooth


Herald Writer

NEW YORK — The bullpen was bound to have a game like this, just as everyone knew the New York Yankees wouldn’t continue to string zeroes across the scoreboard.

Change is the only thing you can count on in the streaky sport of baseball, and the Yankees’ 7-1 victory in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday left only one question still unanswered.

When will the Seattle Mariners’ struggling offense turn around?

Anyone with a clue should call manager Lou Piniella, who said before the series began that the M’s must hit or they have no chance.

Or Edgar Martinez, who is batting .143 in the two games.

Or Dan Wilson, whose 0-for-3 game rendered him hitless in his last 36 at-bats.

The Mariners are hitting .188 as a team in the first two games, and that’s a reason for concern in a best-of-seven series that’s tied at one victory apiece.

New York certainly broke out of its slump.

The Yankees, who hadn’t scored a run in their previous 21 innings, pummeled Mariners relievers Arthur Rhodes and Jose Mesa for seven runs on eight hits in the eighth inning. It ended the Mariners’ run of 15 scoreless innings by the bullpen in four postseason games.

Mariners center fielder Mike Cameron, asked if the big inning surprised him, tried to turn his answer into a positive.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle’s offense ignited," he said. "They got a couple of squibbers that got through, and then some big hits. That’s how it starts."

It started, actually, with a line drive high off the left-center-field fence by David Justice for a leadoff double. Bernie Williams slapped an RBI single to center that tied the score 1-1.

Then came the bloops and bleeders.

Tino Martinez sliced a sinking line drive that was trouble for left fielder Al Martin from the moment it was hit. Martin made a dive, but the ball glanced off his glove, then his chest, for a hit that put runners on first and second with nobody out instead of first with one out.

"I saw it off the bat and I broke on it, then I lost it in the lights," Martin said. "Once it gets in the lights for just that one second, it throws everything off."

Asked if he considered inserting Raul Ibanez, a more sure-handed outfielder who he has used as a late-inning sub, Piniella admitted he did.

"It was a 1-0 ballgame," Piniella said. "Yeah, I thought about it, I’ll be honest with you."

Jorge Posada then pushed a grounder into the hole to the left of second baseman Mark McLemore, who knocked it down, then gave chase as it trickled into right field. Williams scored easily from second, Martinez made it to third, and he scored the third run when O’Neill hit a sacrifice fly to left.

Jose Mesa followed Rhodes and promptly allowed a single by Luis Sojo. The Mariners caught a break when Posada ventured too far off third and was thrown out by Wilson on a bunt attempt by Jose Vizcaino, but Vizcaino followed with a double that made it 4-1. Chuck Knoblauch singled to score Vizcaino — 5-1 — and Jeter drove a Mesa pitch into the right-field bleachers for a two-run homer and a 7-1 lead.

All around the diamond, Mariners looked on with envy.

"It was a great inning for them," said Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who went 1-for-4. "We haven’t been rewarded for our efforts yet. For the most part, both teams have stunk swinging the bats. As hitters, we feel we should be doing better."

Pitching, of course, will make even the best hitters look feeble.

Seattle starter John Halama escaped a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the first inning, then mastered the Yankees through the next five. He allowed five hits before Piniella sent reliever Jose Paniagua to the mound with the Mariners leading 1-0 in the seventh.

Paniagua gave up a single but got out of the inning, and Piniella then made his fateful call for Rhodes to start the eighth.

Yankees starter Orlando Hernandez scattered six hits and allowed only Stan Javier’s RBI single in the third inning. Closer Mariano Rivera extended his postseason scoreless streak to 31 2/3innings and is just 1 1/3innings from tying former Yankee Whitey Ford’s major league postseason record.

By the time Rivera took the mound, the Mariners already had progressed to their it’s-a-new-day theory for Friday’s Game 3 at Safeco Field.

"Now they’re coming into our house," Cameron said. "The momentum in this series is at a standstill. Now, we’ll go back to our house and win Friday and take the momentum back."

"Friday’s game," Rodriguez said more bluntly, "is pivotal for us."

The Mariners, pleased nevertheless to leave New York with a split of the first two games, are confident with their hottest pitcher, Aaron Sele, scheduled to throw Friday.

Now all they’ve got to do is provide him with some run support.

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