Somewhere in October, Boone lost MVP groove

Mariners star baffled when 0 RBIs follow 141

McLemore's `insight'

Playoff notebook


October 16, 2001|By Peter Schmuck and Joe Strauss | Peter Schmuck and Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

There was not much overt celebration in the Seattle Mariners' clubhouse after yesterday's decisive Game 5 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Safeco Field, but relief pitcher Jeff Nelson made a point to douse teammate Bret Boone with a can of beer.

"You're still the MVP," Nelson said, as if any of the Mariners could have forgotten Boone's tremendous contribution during the regular season.

Boone led the American League with 141 RBIs and is considered a strong candidate for the AL Most Valuable Player award, but Nelson thought he needed some cheering up after managing two singles and no RBIs in 21 at-bats in the Division Series.

"What's going on right now, I don't know," Boone said. "I'm trying as hard as I can. Guys come up and say, `Don't worry about it. You're having a huge season. You're part of it.'

"I'm not going to mope around. We just won. When you win, you put your personal stuff aside. If we had lost, that would be a little bit harder to do."

Boone struck out in two run-production situations yesterday, missing opportunities to give the Mariners a comfortable lead in the late innings of their 3-1 victory. He appeared to overswing when he went down flailing with the bases loaded in the fifth, but said that appearances can be deceiving.

"I think my swing is a little screwed up," he said, "[but] you always look like you're trying too hard when you swing and miss. I was trying to hit a sacrifice fly and I couldn't even do that."

Familiarity breeds big hit

Mark McLemore should have an idea how Indians starter Chuck Finley is going to pitch. The two were teammates with the California Angels before McLemore left the club in 1990.

"No special insight," said McLemore, who delivered the key two-run single in yesterday's game. "I know what he's going to try to do to me. I was fortunate to get a pitch to hit. I definitely didn't want him to get ahead of me. Then he can be nasty."

Seeking inspiration

Inspiration, thought to be a pinstriped commodity as the Oakland-New York AL Division Series returned to Yankee Stadium, could be found draped in the back of the visitors' dugout last night.

Right fielder and cleanup hitter Jermaine Dye did not accompany the Athletics to New York on Sunday night after fracturing his left leg in the third inning of their 9-2 loss in Game 4. However, Dye's jersey was placed on the bench. Teammates could look to his usual seat or even walk by for a touch.

"He's such a well-liked guy on the team and such a big part of the club, everybody was feeling for him," said A's manager Art Howe, who inserted Ron Gant into last night's lineup in Dye's place.

Howe admitted the loss of Dye to a foul ball "deflated" a team that saw its 2-0 edge in the series evaporate in back-to-back defeats at Network Associates Coliseum. Howe addressed Dye's absence before last night's Game 5.

"We were really happy we had a player of his caliber on the bench to be able to plug into the outfield," Howe said of Gant. "He's been in the postseason before."

Gant, who entered the series with seven home runs in 48 playoff games, first appeared in the postseason with the 1991 Atlanta Braves and has reached the stage with the Cincinnati Reds (1995) and St. Louis Cardinals (1996).

The A's acquired Gant from the Colorado Rockies on July 3. He finished the series 2-for-11 (.182) with one home run.

Torre on Mussina

Yankees manager Joe Torre said his much-debated decision to hold back Mike Mussina until Game 3 ranked as his key move of the series.

Mussina's seven shutout innings turned the momentum of a series in which the Yankees had not enjoyed a lead while suffering two opening losses. Mussina received a 1-0 decision when closer Mariano Rivera backed him up Saturday night.

"I think Mussina really put us in a position to come back here by the way he pitched on the road in Game 3," Torre said. "So I think that decision was probably the best one I made."

Mussina likely will start Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against Seattle because last night's starter, Roger Clemens, will not be available until Game 3 at the earliest.

Around the horn

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