By KIRBY ARNOLD
NEW YORK — Pitching and timely hitting, two of the elements so vital in the Seattle Mariners’ drive to the postseason, have given them an important leg up on the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
The Mariners beat the Yankees 2-0 in Game 1 of the series Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium behind Freddy Garcia’s 6 2/3 shutout innings, another string of zeroes by the bullpen, and clutch hitting by Rickey Henderson and Alex Rodriguez.
The victory assured the Mariners of nothing worse than a split in the first two games at New York in the best-of-seven series. Historically, that’s a huge advantage. Winners of the first game of the ALCS have gone on to win the series 20 times in the past 30 years. The winner of this series goes on to the World Series against St. Louis or the New York Mets.
As nice as the one-game lead feels, it’s no huge comfort to Rodriguez.
"It means just that, we’re up one," he said. "We’ve seen the Yankees many times under a little adversity. They are going to come out fighting."
Game 2 is today at Yankee Stadium, with John Halama pitching for the Mariners against Orlando Hernandez of the Yankees. Halama, a Brooklyn native, is 2-0 against the Yankees this season, including a victory on Aug. 7 at Yankee Stadium.
Garcia, who hadn’t faced the Yankees this season, kept them before manager Lou Piniella let the bullpen continue its impressive run through the playoffs. Jose Paniagua, Arthur Rhodes and Kazuhiro Sasaki stopped the Yankees in the final 2 1/3 innings.
Seattle relievers haven’t allowed a run in the postseason, a span of 14 innings in four games.
"They have been there for us all year," Piniella said.
Three swings of the bat were all the Mariners needed.
Mark McLemore hit a double with two outs in the fifth inning and Henderson, a former Yankee, drove him home with a single that broke a scoreless tie.
In the sixth, Alex Rodriguez led off with a towering home run that struck the screen attached to the foul pole down the left field line. The ball was headed toward the stadium’s third deck before it hit the screen.
Those two runs, and nine innings of pitching that held the Yankees to six hits, were all the Mariners needed to start the series on a winning note.