M’s need their offense to come alive against Yankees today in pivotal Game 3
By KIRBY ARNOLD
SEATTLE — They endured the denizens of Yankee Stadium and were hit only with insults, not batteries or bottles.
They even feel good about a split of the first two games in New York, the goal of every road team in a seven-game series.
Now the Seattle Mariners know they must hold serve this weekend at their home ballpark if they’re to make a serious run toward the first World Series berth in franchise history.
The Mariners host Game 3 of the American League Championship Series today at Safeco Field with vital consequences at stake.
A Mariners loss would swing the momentum firmly in the Yankees’ direction. An M’s victory would give the Mariners a chance to clinch at home, where the fourth and fifth games will be played Saturday and Sunday.
"I feel good about our situation," manager Lou Piniella said. "We got in a position (at New York) to win two ballgames and it didn’t happen. But now we go back to our home ballpark with a good matchup."
The Mariners will start right-hander Aaron Sele (17-10 in the regular season), who won all four of his decisions in September.
Left-hander Andy Pettitte (19-9 with a victory over Oakland in the Division Series) will start for New York.
"Friday’s game is pivotal for us," Alex Rodriguez said. "It’s 1-1 now and we have to get the advantage."
To do that, the Mariners must avoid the problems that turned their 1-0 lead in the eighth inning into a 7-1 loss in Game 2 at New York. Their season-long offensive problems have resurfaced against the Yankees, and the bullpen uncharacteristically fell apart in the Game 2 loss.
Relief pitchers Arthur Rhodes and Jose Mesa, part of a bullpen that hadn’t allowed a run in 15 innings of work in the postseason, were tagged for all seven runs.
Piniella doubts there will be a carryover from Wednesday’s bullpen meltdown.
"I hope not," he said. "Listen, there’s a new ballgame on Friday and we’ve got a different pitcher on the mound."
The biggest problem is that two runs would have been enough for the Yankees, given the Mariners’ offensive struggles.
The M’s have scored only three runs in the first two games, and they have just five runs in their past three postseason games going back to the 2-1 victory that clinched the Division Series against Chicago.
"We need our leadoff people to get on base and create some opportunities for us, and at the same time we need a sprinkling of hitting at the bottom of the lineup," Piniella said.
The numbers aren’t pretty.
Mike Cameron, who led off in Game 2, is hitting .158 in the postseason. Stan Javier is hitting .200 and Mark McLemore .188.
"The key for us is to get some hits early and get the home crowd behind us," Rodriguez said.
Oh yeah. The crowd.
The Mariners learned in the first two games how much the home crowd means at a time like this.
They kept 54,000 at Yankee Stadium relatively quiet in Game 1, a 2-0 Mariners victory. And for seven innings in Game 2 as the Yankees , the fans even turned nasty toward the home team.
It all changed in the eighth. The Yankees scored those seven runs and love for the boys in pinstripes was in the air again — in a boisterous, rowdy sort of way.
"Well, they’re coming to our house now," Cameron said. "They get a chance to experience a little of our noise."
All it will take is a little noise from the Mariners’ hitters.
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