Mariners go long in 5-1 win, get even

Seattle hits three HRs in victory over Indians

Moyer stays in control

October 12, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - Suspense has been in short supply at Safeco Field this season. The Seattle Mariners never faced a serious challenge en route to a runaway American League West title, even though the second-place Oakland Athletics won 102 games.

It wasn't until the Cleveland Indians snatched Game 1 of the Division Series on Tuesday that the Mariners produced anything resembling drama during their dream season.

The plot did not thicken yesterday. The Mariners quickly proved that among their many great qualities is a healthy measure of resilience. They pounced on Indians starter Chuck Finley for four runs in the first inning and parlayed a strong performance by left-hander Jamie Moyer into a 5-1 victory that evened the best-of-five series at a game apiece.

In theory, the Indians still wrested away the home-field advantage by splitting the two games in Seattle, but the Mariners played better on the road (59-22) during their incredible 116-win performance. The series continues tomorrow when 15-game winner Aaron Sele faces Indians rookie C.C. Sabathia.

Moyer worked into the seventh inning and beguiled the Indians with his usual assortment of pitches and varying speeds. He surrendered just five hits and walked only one batter on the way to his first career postseason victory.

Of course, it didn't hurt that he took the mound for the second inning with a comfortable lead, thanks to a pair of quick two-run home runs by outfielder Mike Cameron and designated hitter Edgar Martinez.

"I think that was huge for us," said veteran outfielder Jay Buhner. "It gave everybody a sense of relief as far as the pressure was concerned, because these are all huge games."

Leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki drew a walk to open the first inning and Cameron launched his first career postseason home run to charge up the record Safeco Field crowd of 48,052. The two-run shot also snapped a string of 22 consecutive scoreless innings by the M's against the Indians in postseason play.

Finley gave up a single to No. 3 hitter Bret Boone, and Martinez took him out to center field to give the Mariners a four-run lead before there was an out.

"It all happened so quick," said Finley. "I had to get it together in a hurry. I feel bad about it, but if we win [the series], I won't. If it turns out bad, this will be the turning point in the series."

The veteran left-hander settled down to pitch three scoreless innings before giving up his third homer of the game to Mariners third baseman David Bell. By that time, Moyer was very much in control.

He had retired the Indians in order in the first inning to serve notice that there would be no postseason jitters for a 38-year-old pitcher whose previous opportunities to pitch in the postseason had been submarined by injuries.

"I think it's trying to set a tone early in the game," said Moyer. "Go out in the first inning and going three up, three down allows you to get yourself somewhat grounded and going in the right direction. And we came back and scored four runs in the first. I felt that was pretty important."

Moyer worked easily through six innings, but left the game after allowing back-to-back singles in the seventh. Reliever Jeff Nelson created a little suspense when he walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but got out of the inning with only one run across and combined with former Oriole Arthur Rhodes and closer Kazuhiro Sasaki to give up just one hit the rest of the way.

It was a textbook pitching performance from start to finish. Moyer, who has now given up just two runs in 20 innings against Cleveland this year, kept the Indians off balance with consummate finesse, and three hard-throwing relievers pumped up the volume to finish them off.

The Mariners have been talking tough ever since Indians starter Bartolo Colon overpowered them in Game 1, denying that they felt any extra pressure to win Game 2 and get back on course to fulfill the promise of their outstanding regular season. They seemed surprisingly relaxed and confident during their day-off workout on Wednesday, but they knew what was at stake.

"Of course, this is a really big series," said second baseman Boone. "You lose this series, you go home. It's an important win, but I didn't see any real urgency in this room. These guys prepared today the way we have prepared all year."

Still, there was room to wonder just how they would respond to the first real adversity of the season. The Mariners really had played only two crucial games this year and lost them both. They wanted badly to break the all-time major-league record for regular-season victories on Sunday, but lost a one-run game to the last-place Texas Rangers. They knew that Tuesday's playoff opener could be pivotal, but lost decisively.

Manager Lou Piniella said he was not concerned.

"No, I knew we'd come out and play well," he said. "You can't assure yourself or anyone else for that matter that you're going to win a ballgame. You can't assure yourself that you're going to win a series. But I knew we would play good baseball.

"The first game, their pitcher dominated. Today our starting pitcher and our bullpen dominated in a different way. But the results were the same, so we'll go out and play good ball in Cleveland and, hopefully, things will go our way."

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