Five-run inning helps keep M’s alive in ALCS
By KIRBY ARNOLD
SEATTLE — Their pulse registered faintly in the first inning when they scored a run without getting a hit.
In the fifth there was a strong heartbeat for the first time in a week.
And by the time the Seattle Mariners boarded their flight back to New York after a 6-2 victory over the Yankees in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, it was obvious the life is back in the team.
"This team can do it," designated hitter Edgar Martinez said. "This team has been in this kind of situation throughout the year, where we’ve been against the wall. All we have to do is fight."
When they gather again Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, both the Mariners and Yankees know how crucial Game 6 will be. The last seven times the ALCS has gone six games, the winner of Game 6 has gone on to the World Series.
"You lose and it’s over with," said Mariners left fielder Rickey Henderson. "So you just go out there and play your heart out."
The Mariners, who had scored only five runs in the previous four games of the series, played with that attitude on Sunday. They were rewarded with a five-run rally in the fifth inning that brought their first victory since Game 1 in New York.
Small ball turned into a big relief.
Mark McLemore led off with a bunt single, Henderson walked and Mike Cameron pushed them to second and third with a sacrifice bunt off Yankees starting pitcher Denny Neagle.
With Alex Rodriguez and Martinez coming up, Yankees manager Joe Torre had a no-win decision to make. Walk Rodriguez to load the bases and hope Martinez hits into a double play? Or have faith in relief pitcher Jeff Nelson, whose slider can be nasty to right-handers?
Torre put the game in Nelson’s hands.
"It depends on how you want to burn your hand," Torre said. "Do you want to use dry ice or do you want to use fire? It’s never an easy or a right decision, and both of these guys, you know going in, knock in a ton of runs."
Make that a ton plus four.
Rodriguez hit Nelson’s first pitch into left field for a two-run single that gave the Mariners a 3-2 lead. Three pitches later, Martinez crushed a two-run home run over the center field fence, and on the second pitch after that John Olerud drove one into the second row beyond the fence in right-center.
With three huge swings, the three most important pieces of the Mariners’ batting order had made their biggest impact of the series.
"Today was an example where, in these big games, you need the middle part of your lineup to come through for you," Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. "That’s exactly what happened today. … You put five runs on the board very quickly."
All that remained between the fifth inning and a trip back to New York were four shutout innings by the Mariners bullpen after Freddy Garcia endured seven hits, two walks and two runs through five innings.
Jose Paniagua pitched a scoreless sixth, Arthur Rhodes walked three but struck out four and didn’t allow a hit in the next 1 1/3innings, and Kazuhiro Sasaki finished the last 1 2/3with an eventful one hit, one walk, one strikeout, one hit batter and, most importantly, one monumental save.
The Yankees left town still needing one victory in two games to win the series, but Piniella said the pressure is solidly on them.
"It’s not on us," Piniella said. "They are supposed to win and they are going home. The onus is on them. We’re going to go in there and play nice and relaxed and take our chances."
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