What a relief

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

By KIRBY ARNOLD

Herald Writer

NEW YORK – Boxers have corner men to nurse their cuts.

Stock car racers have pit crews with duct tape.

The Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees have relief pitching specialists who make the seventh, eighth and ninth innings a never-never land of run support.

Two of baseball’s best late-inning pitching staffs will clash in the American League Championship Series beginning tonight at Yankee Stadium, where the mantra on both sides may be this:

Score early or don’t score at all.

“If anybody can have a big inning in the first five innings, they’ve got a huge advantage,” Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price said. “It very easily could be the key to the series.”

Beyond the fifth, both the Mariners and Yankees have been spectacular on the mound when they’ve called on their bullpens.

Mariners relievers pitched 11 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed only three hits in their three-game sweep of the White Sox in the first round of the playoffs. If their starters can carry the game into the sixth inning, the M’s believe right-handers Jose Mesa and Jose Paniagua, left-hander Arthur Rhodes and right-handed closer Kazuhiro Sasaki are more than able to finish the job.

The Mariners’ bullpen went 2-0 in the three-game sweep of Chicago with two saves and a 0.00 earned run average. The relievers stranded all nine runners they inherited.

“We’ve got experience and we’ve got good arms out there,” Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. “We’re going to need our bullpen to pitch well. We need to throw strikes and stay away from the high-scoring games.”

Why?

Because the Mariners, who don’t exactly light up the scoreboard offensively, know they won’t go far if they must score late in the game to beat the Yankees.

The Yankees finish with right-handed closer Mariano Rivera, who had 36 saves in the regular season and recorded his record 16th postseason save in Sunday’s 7-5 victory over Oakland to win New York’s first-round series.

“Mariano has been dominant, there’s no question,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “The confidence he has in the postseason games is felt by everybody around him.”

Everybody, that is, who Torre has deemed worthy enough to use.

Torre used only six pitchers in the five games against Oakland, including two relievers – left-hander Mike Stanton and righty Jeff Nelson – besides Rivera. He says he’ll try the same approach in this series, mostly because a trio of ineffective former starters – Dwight Gooden (6-5, 4.54 ERA), David Cone (4-14, 6.91) and left-hander Randy Choate (0-1, 4.76) – comprise the remainder of the bullpen.

The Mariners are a giant leap ahead of the Yanks in middle relief, with Brett Tomko having proven himself in that role with 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 1 against the White Sox after inheriting a bases-loaded, one-out situation.

The idea, of course, is not to need middle relief at all.

Right-hander Freddy Garcia will get the ball tonight coming off some solid regular-season numbers, 9-5 with a 3.91 ERA, but a two-week period of great concern. In his last two starts, Garcia has allowed six earned runs in 9 1/3 innings, including four runs in 3 1/3 innings last Tuesday in Game 1 against the White Sox. He didn’t face the Yankees this season, and went 1-1 against them last year.

“He’s had a few rough outings lately, but I think he knows what he has to do to be successful,” Price said. “It’s a matter of being aggressive in the strike zone with his stuff. If he’s in and around the zone, he matches up well with everybody (in the Yankee lineup) as far as I’m concerned.”

The Yankees have their worries as well with their Game 1 starter, Denny Neagle. The left-hander (7-7, 5.66) has allowed 10 earned runs in his last two starts, neither of which went past 5 1/3 innings. Torre avoided using him in the Oakland series, instead starting Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte on three days of rest.

“The only thing that I’m a little cautious about is the fact that sinkerball pitchers, when they are a little strong (because they haven’t pitched in a long period), tend not to have good sinkerballs,” Torre said.

And when a sinkerball doesn’t sink, it usually flies long and far the other direction.

The Mariners can only hope that’s what happens early in tonight’s game, because the fate that awaits them in the late innings – Stanton, Nelson and Rivera – hasn’t been pleasant to opponents.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

Mountlake Terrace players react to a run during a baseball game between Mountlake Terrace and Bishop Blanchet at Edmonds-Woodway High School in Edmonds, Washington on Saturday, May 18, 2024. Mountlake Terrace won, 12-7.(Annie Barker / The Herald)
Mountlake Terrace baseball’s season ends in state quarters

The Hawks beat Bishop Blanchet 12-7 in the morning, but fall 10-9 to West Seattle in the afternoon.

X
Prep roundup for Saturday, May 18

Prep roundup for Saturday, May 18: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Jackson players react to beating Kamiak to win the 4A district championship on Friday, May 17, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Jackson softball rallies past Kamiak for district title

Yanina Sherwood dominates in the circle, striking out 10 in the 4-3 come-from-behind victory.

Wolfpack carrying on, despite AFL turmoil

The rebooted league contracts, changes commissioner in the wake of unpaid obligations.

X
Prep roundup for Friday, May 17

Prep roundup for Friday, May 17: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Why being mad on the mound is good for Andrés Muñoz, M’s

The Mariners’ closer is dominating, and a lot of that is because of his attitude.

Everett players celebrate during a Class 3A District 1 softball championship game between Snohomish and Everett at Phil Johnson Fields in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 16, 2024. Everett won, 10-0. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett softball upsets Snohomish for district championship

Freshman Mia Hoekendorf leads the way as the Seagulls defeat the top-seeded Panthers 10-0.

The members of the Snohomish High School boys golf team (from left to right): Cade Strickland, Tyson Olds, Palmer Mutcheson, Hudson Capelli, Drew Hanson and Jackson Dammann. (Photo courtesy of Mark Myers Photography)
Senior-led Snohomish takes aim at state boys golf

Five of the six Panthers who will play at state are seniors who attended elementary school together.

X
Prep roundup for Thursday, May 16

Prep roundup for Thursday, May 16: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Snohomish's Hannah Wells, right, celebrates during a Class 3A District 1 girls tennis tournament at Snohomish High School in Snohomish, Washington on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Shorewood girls tennis claims third straight district trophy

Rylie Gettmann leads the way for the Stormrays, winning her third district singles championship.

Everett Community College’s women’s soccer team won the 2014 Northwest Athletic Conference championship. (Photo courtesy of Everett Community College)
EvCC announces its 2024 Hall of Fame induction class

Men’s gymnastics, 2014 women’s soccer team headline this year’s class.

Everett AquaSox pitcher Tyler Cleveland is presented with his 2023 Rawlings Gold Glove Award prior to Everett’s game against the Eugene Emeralds on Wednesday at Funko Field. (Photo courtesy of the Everett AquaSox)
AquaSox pitcher Tyler Cleveland presented with Gold Glove

Cleveland was honored for his defensive prowess with Modesto during the 2023 season.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.