Season on the brink

  • Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, October 13, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

By Kirby Arnold

Herald Writer

CLEVELAND – Bret Boone provided the most puzzling description at the end of a day the Seattle Mariners couldn’t fully define.

“We’ve gotten boat-raced before this year,” the Mariners’ second baseman said.

Boat raced?

“You know,” Boone said, trying to find a better definition. “Boat raced. A lopsided victory against us. But we’ve always come back the next day and played well.”

That is what the Mariners are holding onto in the blowover that came of Saturday’s Game 3 in the American League Division Series, a 17-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.

The Mariners, considered heavy favorites to win the best-of-five series, are one loss from elimination. Right-hander Freddy Garcia will start today’s game against Bartolo Colon, who dominated the Mariners in a 5-0 victory in Game 1.

“We’re in a win-or-else situation,” catcher Dan Wilson said. “That’s not where you want to be. But if we win, maybe the pressure shifts a little more to their side when we go home for Game 5.”

Paul Abbott, whose three innings in relief of ineffective starter Aaron Sele didn’t slow the blowout when he allowed eight runs, looks at the Mariners’ dire situation this way:

It’ll take a two-game winning streak to advance to the next round and extend the Mariners’ goal of reaching the World Series.

“If anything, this will make us better tomorrow,” Abbott said. “I’ll just about bet any amount of money that this team won’t have two days like this in a row on all sides, pitching, defense and offense. You don’t lead all three of those categories in the league by having many of those days. Everything they were hitting was hit hard or it was finding holes. I just don’t think it’s that tough for this team to win two games in a row.”

Getting three outs in a row was nearly impossible on Saturday.

There wasn’t an inning when the Indians didn’t get a hit, and the only 1-2-3 inning the Mariners pulled off happened when they turned a double play in seventh. That, and the fourth, were the only innings the Indians didn’t score.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame may be the only place in Cleveland with more hits, and the Indians got close to that on Saturday.

Their 19 hits were the most in Indians postseason history, and Omar Vizquel’s six RBI broke a 71-year-old club record.

“We got embarrassed,” Mariners center fielder Mike Cameron said.

The Indians scored two runs in the first inning, two in the second, four in the third, one in the fifth, three in the sixth and five in the eighth.

All that on a night when the Mariners actually accomplished what they wanted: rattle Indians rookie pitcher C.C. Sabathia in the first inning.

Ichiro Suzuki slapped a leadoff single and Mike Cameron looked at three pitches well out of the strike zone from the jittery 21-year-old before he poked a 3-1 double into the left-field corner.

Just as Sabathia seemed to settle himself by striking out Bret Boone with a wicked curveball, he intentionally walked Edgar Martinez to load the bases and fell into a three-ball count on John Olerud.

Olerud fouled off two pitches, then drew a walk that forced in Suzuki. The Mariners led 1-0 and Sabathia had to stare down Jay Buhner.

Sabathia got him to pop out, and then did the same to Dan Wilson.

Suddenly, 1-0 became awfully small.

“We had a chance to break the game open a little bit,” Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. “But he pitched out of it.”

And then the Indians swung their bats like the top of the first didn’t happen.

Sele got Kenny Lofton on a ground out but gave up hits to the next three hitters, Vizquel, Roberto Alomar and Juan Gonzalez. Alomar and Gonzalez each drove in runs.

The Seattle defense also showed its first signs of a tough night. Suzuki’s relay throw after Alomar’s double sailed wide of Olerud for an error that allowed Alomar to reach third.

The Mariners committed two more throwing errors, a bad throw by Boone after he made a diving stop in the second inning but pulled Olerud off the bag and a throw from Buhner in left field that bounced off Travis Fryman as he scored in the sixth.

The Indians’ dance around the bases included home runs by Gonzalez, Thome and Lofton.

Thome’s sixth-inning blast off Abbott was his 17th career postseason homer, pulling him within one of the major league record shared by Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle.

“It’s not characteristic of the way we’ve played,” Sele said. “But one thing that is characteristic is that we’ve shrugged off losses all year long, come back and played hard the next day.

“A loss is a loss. A one-run loss or a 50-run loss.”

The only problem is that a one-run loss, if it happens today, will end the Mariners’ season. After winning 116 times in the regular season to tie a major league record, that could leave this team with a huge stain on its reputation.

“If that happens, then we can talk about it,” Abbott said. “But more than the 116 games, we’ve won two in a row all season long. If we win two in a row, we go to the ALCS. It’s not that big of a task.”

“The chance we have (today) is to put this behind us real fast,” Cameron said. “Plain and simple, we’ve got to win. “Are we going to do it? We’ve got to find a way to do it.”

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