M’s on brink of elimination as Clemens strikes out 15, allows one hit as Yankees take 3-1 lead in ALCS
By KIRBY ARNOLD
SEATTLE — They handed out white rags to the crowd of nearly 49,000 at Safeco Field Saturday night, an attempt to create some visual spirit for the Seattle Mariners
It might as well have been a sign of surrender against Roger Clemens.
Clemens rendered the Mariners helpless at the plate, pitching a one-hit wonder in a 5-0 victory by the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
He struck out 15 hitters, an ALCS record for a nine-inning game, and recorded the second one-hitter in League Championship Series history.
And still, the Mariners have hope.
One loss from elimination in the best-of-seven series, they are adamant that dreams of Seattle’s first World Series haven’t vanished.
"This team will not quit," shortstop Alex Rodriguez said. "We’ll try our best to get back to New York. If we can get back to a Game 6, anything can happen."
The series will carry on with one comforting thought for the Mariners: They won’t have to face Clemens anymore.
The Mariners, whose team batting average in the series has fallen to .183, never made solid contact until Al Martin stroked a double down the right-field line on Clemens’ second pitch of the seventh inning. Even then, Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez got a glove on the ball before it sailed into the corner.
"I thought he had it for a second," Martin said.
Unfazed, Clemens struck out Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez and, after a walk to John Olerud, Mike Cameron to end the inning. Clemens struck out four of his final six hitters, and fanned every Mariner except Olerud and David Bell at least once.
Stan Javier, who led off as manager Lou Piniella juggled his lineup in an attempt to inject more offense, struck out three times. Catcher Dan Wilson fanned both times he faced Clemens, and Rodriguez, Martin, Cameron and Carlos Guillen each struck out twice.
"He was throwing hard, he was throwing his slider for strikes and throwing the split (finger)," Edgar Martinez said. "You try to be patient with him, but if you do that when he is throwing strikes all you do is get in a hole 0-2."
Rodriguez thought the Mariners should have swung at more of Clemens’ first pitches.
"The problem tonight was that strike one was a pretty good pitch to hit," Rodriguez said.
Lost in Clemens’ masterpiece was another solid night by Seattle pitching.
Paul Abbott held the Yankees to three hits in five innings before his right shoulder stiffened and he had to leave. Relievers Rob Ramsay and Jose Mesa each allowed just one hit the rest of the way.
Two big swings produced all of the Yankees’ runs.
Derek Jeter gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the fifth with a home run to center field that mystified the Mariners. Both Abbott and Cameron thought it was a routine fly ball to medium center field that would have ended the inning.
"I was surprised the ball went that far," Cameron said. "Man, I haven’t figured out the wind in this ballpark yet."
"When he hit it, I thought he popped it up," Abbott said. "It kept going and going. I’ve never seen that in this ballpark."
David Justice added a two-run insurance homer off Mesa in the eighth and, with Clemens finishing his feast, the Mariners were left to ponder a very difficult possibility.
The Yankees are 8-0 when leading 3-1 in a seven-game postseason series.
"We feel we have to fight for our lives and take this thing back to New York," Edgar Martinez said.
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