By JIM COUR
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners used a bunt to sweep.
Shutting down the highest-scoring team in the majors for the third straight game, the wild card Mariners beat the Chicago White Sox 2-1 on pinch-hitter Carlos Guillen’s bunt single in the bottom of the ninth inning today to win their AL playoff series.
The Mariners, who didn’t clinch their playoff spot until the final day of the regular season, won with one out when pinch-runner Rickey Henderson scored on Guillen’s safety-squeeze bunt.
John Olerud led off the inning with a hard liner off the stomach of Kelly Wunsch. The reliever scrambled to pick up the ball, but threw it wildly past first baseman Frank Thomas.
Olerud reached second on a play scored as a single and an error. Henderson, baseball’s career stolen base king and second on the all-time runs list, replaced Olerud, and Keith Foulke relieved Wunsch.
Henderson moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Stan Javier and David Bell drew a four-pitch walk.
Guillen, making his first appearance of the series, batted for Joe Oliver.
With Chicago’s infield and outfield playing in, Guillen dragged a sharp bunt between the mound and first base. When the ball rolled past a lunging Thomas, Henderson easily scored.
"That was me," Guillen said. "I just wanted to try to hit the ball hard."
Guillen was one of the players the Mariners received from the Houston Astros in the trade for ace Randy Johnson on July 31, 1998.
The 3-0 sweep in the opening round — achieved in the year the Mariners traded Ken Griffey Jr. to Cincinnati — sent the Mariners into the AL championship series for the first time since 1995. They will play the winner of the Oakland-Yankees series.
Seattle’s bullpen again was the star of the game.
Jose Paniagua got the victory by striking out Magglio Ordonez for the final out in the ninth. Arthur Rhodes pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings before Paniagua entered.
Wunsch, who was doubled over in pain in the dugout, took the loss.
The White Sox, who scored 978 runs this season — more than six per game — managed only seven runs and 17 hits in the series.
Chicago finished with a batting average of .185 (17-for-92) in the series. The White Sox batted .286 in the regular season.
"The Chicago team has a lot of explosive bats. They can put a lot of runs on the board. Our bullpen and starting pitching — that’s been our story all year long," Olerud said.
In the first playoff game ever at Safeco Field, the AL’s best road team managed only three hits off Aaron Sele, Rhodes and Paniagua. The White Sox also hit into three double plays.
Thomas, Chicago’s best hitter, was 0-for-9 with four walks in the series. He was 0-for-2 with two walks today.
The White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the second when Harold Baines led off with a double and eventually scored on Herbert Perry’s sacrifice fly. Baines barely slid under Oliver at the plate.
The Mariners tied it in the fourth on Javier’s RBI single. Raul Ibanez opened with a single, Alex Rodriguez sacrificed and Javier singled with two outs off second baseman Ray Durham’s glove.
Sele, a 17-game winner who was 4-0 in September, continued his strong pitching. He allowed three hits and three walks.
"The guys played great behind me. They turned some tough double plays. We tried to keep it close and let the offense come around," Sele said.
Chicago’s James Baldwin, who pitched despite a case of painful tendinitis in his right shoulder, struck out Javier to end the sixth after walking Edgar Martinez and Olerud with two out in the inning.
Baldwin gave the White Sox a strong six innings, leaving after giving three hits and three walks. He threw 92 pitches in his longest appearance since Aug. 12, when he went seven innings against Tampa Bay.
The Mariners got flawless fielding, getting the defensive plays of the game from first baseman Olerud in the fifth and third baseman Bell in the sixth.
Seattle turned in double plays in the first, fourth and eighth. Second baseman Mark McLemore ended the eighth with a nice play, making a swipe tag of pinch-runner Tony Graffanino and then throwing out pinch-hitter Paul Konerko at first.
Notes: White Sox manager Jerry Manuel used Baines at DH for the first time in the series and moved Frank Thomas to first base in an effort to get more offense into his lineup. To take the pressure off Carlos Lee, Manuel moved him from No. 5 to No. 8 in the batting order. … Mariners manager Lou Piniella sat down Henderson in left field and Jay Buhner in right field. In their place, Piniella started Ibanez in RF and Javier in LF. … The largest crowd in the 1 1/2seasons of Safeco Field, 48,010, attended the first playoff game in the stadium’s history. Temporary bleachers were added for the game. When the Mariners played playoff games in the Kingdome in 1995 and 1997, their largest crowd was 59,579 on Oct. 1, 1997, for Game 1 of an AL division series against Baltimore.
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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