Not bad for openers

  • KIRBY ARNOLD / Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, October 3, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

10th-inning homers by Martinez and Olerud lift Mariners to Game 1 victory

By KIRBY ARNOLD

Herald Writer

CHICAGO — Before Lou Piniella made his curious walk onto the field, and before Edgar Martinez took his mighty game-winning swing, five guys in the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen simply did their jobs.

Without 6 2/3innings of scoreless relief pitching, Game 1 of the American League Division Series never would have come down to 10th-inning heroics.

Without Brett Tomko, Jose Paniagua, Arthur Rhodes, Jose Mesa and Kazuhiro Sasaki, the Seattle Mariners might be talking about a game that got away, and not a 7-4 road victory over the Chicago White Sox that has them sitting pretty in the best-of-five series.

The Mariners won Game 1 at Comiskey Park with crafty pitching against the American League’s third-best hitting team, and then a one-two hammering by Martinez and John Olerud in the decisive 10th.

Martinez lined a changeup from Keith Foulke over the left-field fence for a two-run homer, then Olerud drove a ball deep over the center field fence on the next pitch to silence a once-boisterous crowd.

Sasaki kept them, and the White Sox, quiet for another half-inning. He allowed a leadoff double by Carlos Lee, then finished with a groundout and two strikeouts to close a masterful night by the bullpen.

"Our bullpen is as good as anybody’s," Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price said. "I feel awfully good when we get a game like this, when Lou points a finger to any of these guys."

When starter Freddy Garcia fell apart by allowing two runs in the second inning and two in the third, Piniella pointed at everyone in the pen but rookie Joel Pineiro, and he did it with a magic touch.

Tomko relieved Freddy Garcia one out into the fourth inning and escaped a bases-loaded jam with two fly balls, then retired six of the next seven hitters he faced.

Paniagua mowed down the Sox in the seventh and eighth, then was lifted after allowing a leadoff single in the ninth to Charles Johnson.

Rhodes got Ray Durham on a sacrifice bunt that moved pinch-runner Josh Paul to second base, and he retired Jose Valentin with a fly to left field.

And then came Mesa, the once-dominant right-hander whose image, if not his command, hasn’t been the same since he allowed the run that gave the Florida Marlins a Game 7 World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians in 1997.

"I know I can do the job in any situation," Mesa said. "The past is in the past. You’ve got to move forward."

Moving forward against the White Sox doesn’t always make for effective therapy. Brought in to face Frank Thomas, Mesa nibbled for two straight balls, and then walked him intentionally to put runners on first and second.

"Mesa was trying to throw strikes, but they had to be the right kind of strikes," said Price, not at all disappointed at losing Thomas to a walk instead of something bigger that could have won the game for the White Sox.

The burden then fell to Magglio Ordonez, who had hit .250 in his career against Mesa. Make that .222 now, after Mesa got him on a fly to right field, ending the inning.

"To walk Thomas to get to Ordonez isn’t any easier situation by any means," Price said.

Out of that inning, the Mariners won it in the 10th.

Mike Cameron, who scored a run in the first inning and drove in the tying run with a single in the seventh, led off with a single to left off Sox closer Foulke.

With Martinez digging in at the plate and Cameron scratching the dirt, Foulke made several throws to first to keep him close.

Piniella called time out and slowly walked out of the dugout. He pulled Cameron off first base and filled his ear with instructions that nobody will reveal.

"It was baseball, a secret that we have to keep under the sheets," Cameron said.

Cameron stole second on the next pitch, a strike.

And Martinez won the game on the next, a changeup that he lined just over the fence in left for a 6-4 lead. There was no doubt about Olerud’s blast, a 415-foot drive to center field.

Sasaki nailed down his first major league postseason save, completing a day when the Mariners’ bullpen made an emphatic statement about its strength.

"This was a Herculean victory in the sense that we came into a ballpark with a lot of energy, against a team like the White Sox," Price said. "Then we play this kind of a game against them."

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