Seattle sweeps into the American League Championship Series
By KIRBY ARNOLD
SEATTLE — Before their champagne celebration in the clubhouse and their curtain call to a record crowd, the Seattle Mariners broke out a little Baseball 101 at Safeco Field.
On one of the most basic plays in the game — a bunt — the Mariners scored one of their most dramatic victories.
Carlos Guillen’s squeeze bunt with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning drove in the winning run in a 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Friday, giving the Mariners a three-game sweep of their American League Division Series.
Guillen, who had sat the bench for the first 27 1/2 innings of the three-game series, drove home Rickey Henderson from third base when he dragged a bunt past White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas.
"A perfect, perfect bunt," Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. "It was a great ballgame."
The three-game sweep of the White Sox propelled the Mariners into the American League Championship Series next week against either the Oakland A’s or New York Yankees.
The first game of the ALCS will begin at 5 p.m. (PDT) Tuesday at New York or Oakland. The Mariners will host Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Saturday in the best-of-seven series, and a fifth game on Sunday if the series is still going.
The Mariners have won dramatically before. Their Game 5 victory in the 1995 Division Series over New York remains the franchise standard in heroics, when Edgar Martinez’s double scored Ken Griffey Jr. with the winning run in the Kingdome.
That was an era of M’s baseball when they depended on home runs to carry the most clout.
Friday’s victory, before a Safeco Field record crowd of 48,010, was delivered with the same textbook execution that the 2000 Mariners have displayed all season.
With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth, John Olerud hit a line drive back to the mound that struck pitcher Kelly Wunsch in the midsection. Wunsch picked up the ball but threw wildly to first, allowing Olerud to reach second with nobody out. Pinella then sent in Henderson to pinch run for Olerud.
The White Sox brought in reliever Keith Foulke, who started his pro career with the Everett Giants. Stan Javier dropped a sacrifice bunt that moved Henderson to third with one out and the White Sox walked David Bell. Guillen, pinch-hitting for catcher Joe Oliver, stepped into the batter’s box knowing a long fly ball or a hard-hit grounder between the infielders would get the winning run home.
Instead, on instructions from Piniella, Guillen dragged a bunt beyond the reach of Thomas. Henderson easily scored and a long celebration began.
It started in shallow right field, where Guillen’s teammates caught up with him, and moved into the clubhouse, where players’ lockers were covered with sheets of plastic to shield their belongings from champagne.
The Mariners raced back onto the field for a salute to their fans, with center fielder Mike Cameron leading the party. At one point he put a foam "M" on his head, and later he climbed the outfield fence to salute the crowd.
Later, he basked in the warmth of a close-knit group of players who beat the American League’s most successful team in the regular season.
"Look around here," Cameron said as players sprayed champagne on each other. "This is what we all fight for. In spring training, we were all new to each other, looking around at each other. But we took hold of each other.
"To come this far is like a dream come true for me. I just hope I can continue it."
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