Yanks drop Mariners in 0-2 hole

'Pen backs Mussina, early lead holds up for 3-2 ALCS win

Piniella: `We'll be back'

Brosius' 2-run double is key hit

Mendoza, Rivera provide relief

October 19, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson knows a little something about "Yankee mystique," that intangible team chemistry that has made the New York Yankees the winningest professional sports franchise in history.

So when Jackson stood at the batting cage yesterday afternoon and proclaimed that the Yankees had regained their swagger in the opening game of the American League Championship Series, it didn't bode well for the Seattle Mariners in the second game of the best-of-seven playoff.

`The game they played [Wednesday] was the most confident game they have played in a long time," Jackson said. "For the first time in a while, I felt there was the mystique."

Sure enough, the three-time defending world champions confidently dispatched the Mariners, 3-2, last night at Safeco Field, and put a huge dent in the world title hopes of the team that won a record-tying 116 games during the regular season.

Former Oriole Mike Mussina turned in his second strong performance of the postseason and the Yankees parlayed a three-run second inning into their second straight road victory before a disappointed sellout crowd of 47,791.

Mussina worked six innings and gave up just two runs on four hits before giving way to middle reliever Ramiro Mendoza, who combined with closer Mariano Rivera to shut out Seattle the rest of the way.

Now, the Mariners have to deal with that Yankee mystique in its most oppressive form. They head to New York needing to win two of three games at Yankee Stadium just to force the series back to Seattle. Not an enviable assignment, especially with the heightened sense of purpose that has gripped both the Yankees and the city where they play.

Mariners manager Lou Piniella knows all about that, but he stuck his neck out after the loss, all but guaranteeing that the Mariners would play again at Safeco Field.

"Before they ask any questions, let me interject one thing: We'll be back here to play Game 6," he said.

It'll be a neat trick. The Yankees have perennial postseason hero Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez to pitch against Mariners 20-game winner Jamie Moyer in Game 3 tomorrow, and future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens set to go against Paul Abbott on Sunday. If the series goes to a fifth game, it will be a rematch of the opener between Andy Pettitte and Aaron Sele, a matchup that clearly favored Pettitte in Game 1.

What makes last night's loss even more damaging to the Mariners is that they failed to get to Mussina on a night when he clearly was not at his best. He struggled to locate his changeup and was high in the strike zone throughout his performance, but he still was resourceful enough to protect the early three-run lead.

"It wasn't flowing as well as it has the last few games," Mussina said. "It was work. You're in a situation where you want to put out your best performance. ... It was a struggle. But there are always days when you don't feel as good as you want to and you still have to find a way to get it done."

The Mariners were supposed to be the team with the shaky pitcher. They had American League ERA champion Freddy Garcia on the mound, but Garcia was pitching on short rest for only the second time in his career.

The only other time Garcia had pitched on three days' rest in a major-league game was June 1, 1999, when he gave up six runs over 5 1/3 innings in a 14-11 loss to the Orioles. Not exactly Murderers' Row.

Garcia was not overpowering this time, either. He allowed at least one runner in each of his first six innings and gave up three runs in a rocky second inning that put Seattle in desperate need of that Mariners "Mojo" that everybody around here likes to talk about.

Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez started the second-inning rally with a leadoff single to right and Garcia complicated the situation with a walk to catcher Jorge Posada. Scott Brosius made him pay with a two-run double into the left-field corner that took some of the sting out of a 1-for-20 performance in the first six games of the postseason.

Chuck Knoblauch, who has gotten hot at just the right moment for the Yankees, brought home the third run of the inning with a sinking line drive to center field that the sellout crowd was certain had been caught by charging outfielder Mike Cameron.

The shoestring play was ruled a trap by right-field umpire Ed Montague, and the video replay supported the call. It was Knoblauch's fifth hit in his first seven at-bats of the series. He had singles in his first three at-bats of Game 1 and also singled to lead off Game 2.

"This postseason has been really big for him because he has been able to get on base," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "He disrupts a little bit. He's been aggressive on the base paths, and I'm certainly happy for him and happy for us. We're a better team when he's leading off because we don't have to mess up the lineup that much."

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