By KIRBY ARNOLD
NEW YORK – The Seattle Mariners had experienced their worst nightmare – they hope – and decided it’s best to look ahead.
The New York Yankees hammered two Seattle relief pitchers with seven runs in the eighth inning to win 7-1 Wednesday in the second game of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.
With the best-of-seven series tied 1-1, the Mariners are hanging their hopes on the fact that the next three games will be at home.
Three victories would earn the Mariners their first trip to the World Series. Three by the Yankees, who have won the past two World Series, would give them their 37th berth in the Fall Classic.
“I feel good about our situation,” Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. “We came in here, really, wanting to split. We got in position to win two ballgames, but it didn’t happen.”
The outcome made it certain that there will be three games this weekend in Seattle. Game 3 is scheduled for 5:12 p.m. Friday at Safeco Field, with Game 4 at 4:42 p.m. Saturday and Game 5 at 1:09 p.m. Sunday. The sixth and seventh games, if needed, would be played in New York.
With Games 3 and 4 already sold out, about 17,000 tickets for Game 5 went on sale at area outlets immediately after Wednesday’s game. Those were gone in 30 minutes.
The Yankees ended a string of 21 scoreless innings in the postseason Wednesday by scoring three runs in the eighth off relief pitcher Arthur Rhodes and four more off Jose Mesa, including a two-run home run by Derek Jeter.
Until the eighth, Mariners relief pitchers hadn’t allowed a run in the 15 innings they had been used in the postseason.
It spoiled a five-hit shutout through six innings by Mariners starting pitcher John Halama.
“They scored seven quick runs, but at the same time, we shut them out for seven innings,” Piniella said. “Let’s hope that is the norm.”
Mariners hitters, meanwhile, continued their postseason struggle.
They have scored just five runs in their past three games, and their team batting average in two games against the Yankees is a paltry .188. The Yankees are hitting .299 in the series.
“It’s a shame this one got away,” Piniella said. “But there’s nothing wrong coming into your opponent’s ballpark and splitting with them.”