The thrill is gone

  • KIRBY ARNOLD / Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, October 17, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

M’s season comes to an end as Justice’s three-run homer sparks Yankees to 9-7 victory and American League pennant


Herald Writer

NEW YORK — Arthur Rhodes knew he was in trouble before he even threw the pitch.

Desperate to throw a slider to David Justice in the seventh inning, Rhodes had backed himself into a three-ball, one-strike count.

A fastball count.

A hitter’s count.

And that fastball, the power pitch from Rhodes that had been so valuable to the Seattle Mariners all season, spun plateward with nowhere near the life it once had.

Justice crushed it, along with the Mariners’ World Series hopes.

Justice’s three-run home run sparked a six-run seventh inning that carried the New York Yankees to a 9-7 victory Tuesday night in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

Before Rhodes threw that pitch, his coach stood in the dugout fearing that outcome that unfolded before his eyes.

"Arthur had pitched his ass off for us all year, but you could tell tonight that the life in his arm and the quickness of his pitches weren’t as crisp as we’ve seen," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "But we’ve had to use him a lot in the postseason. We’ve had a lot of close games, and he’s our lefty out of the pen."

The Mariners called on Rhodes for the third time in the series to face Justice with two runners on base.

Rhodes threw two balls, got a foul ball, and then thew a pitch he thought was strike two. Justice started to swing but pulled back, just in time according to third-base umpire Mark Hirschbeck.

"Now it’s a 3-1 count and I’ve got to come back with a fastball, and that’s it," Rhodes said.

Justice hit the ball off the facade of the third deck in right field, giving the Yankees a 6-4 lead.

"It’s not like I’m trying to give up the game or anything," Rhodes said quietly at his locker as a dozen reporters surrounded him. "I’m down on myself because I gave up the home run. I didn’t want to fall behind in the count. I think he went around (on the checked swing)."

After the homer, Price went to the mound and tried to calm his pitcher.

With switch-hitting Bernie Williams batting next, and two left-handers behind him, the Mariners needed Rhodes to pitch to them.

"My feeling was that we were going to come back, and we did," Price said of his conversation. "I wanted to reminded him that as upset as he may be with the home run, that if he could keep things at bay, we would make a run."

Rhodes didn’t get anybody out.

Williams singled and Tino Martinez hit a double down the left-field line, and Rhodes intentionally walked Jorge Posada to set up a double-play situation with left-hander Paul O’Neill coming up.

O’Neill smacked a two-run single.

It took Jose Mesa to finish the inning, but not without another run scoring on a sacrifice fly by Jose Vizcaino.

In a matter of minutes, the Mariners’ hope of forcing a Game 7 had vanished along with their early 4-0 lead.

The M’s scored twice in the first inning off Yankee starter Orlando Hernandez when Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez each hit run-scoring doubles.

With one swing, third baseman Carlos Guillen, starting in place of David Bell as Piniella loaded his lineup with left-handed hitters against Hernandez, crushed a pitch into the third deck in right field for a two-run homer in the fourth inning.

The Yankees climbed back in the bottom of the fourth against M’s starter John Halama. Posada had the big hit, a two-run single, and O’Neill drove in another run with a single.

That chased Halama in favor of Brett Tomko, who pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief before he handed the ball to the relievers who had been so stout all season for the Mariners.

Jose Paniagua gave up two seeing-eye singles before Piniella brought in Rhodes to face the left-handers.

The game, and the series, were never the same.

The Mariners did come back, as Price predicted.

Rodriguez homered and Mark McLemore drove in two runs with a double in the eighth.

But Yankees closer Mariano River struck out pinch-hitter Jay Buhner with a runner on in the eighth and he got Edgar Martinez on a groundout with a runner on in the ninth to end the game.

"We wanted to bring the World Series to Seattle in the worst way," Piniella said. "The city deserves it. They have got great fans and have supported us so well. We just fell a little short."

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