Yanks drop Mariners in 0-2 hole

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

Champs take 2 in Seattle

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 the "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 three 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.

The Mariners were faced with essentially the same situation that they encountered in Game 2 of their Division Series against the Cleveland Indians. They dropped the first game at Safeco Field and would have been in deep trouble if they had been forced to travel to Cleveland down two games in the best-of-five playoff.

The situation wasn't quite as urgent last night - since the ALCS is a best-of-seven affair - but the pressure to gain a split in the first home segment of the series remained intense, while the task facing the Mariners in Game 2 was far more difficult than the second game against the Indians.

For one thing, the Indians are not the Yankees, which has pretty much been obvious since the dawn of professional baseball. For another, the Mariners did not enter last night's game with a rested 20-game winner (Jamie Moyer) who matched up perfectly against the opposing lineup.

Statistically speaking, the Mariners did have their best pitcher taking the mound, but American League ERA leader Freddy Garcia was pitching on short rest for only the second time in his career, and he was pitching against a rested and rolling Mike Mussina.

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 one-out double into the left-field corner that caromed past outfielder Stan Javier and brought home two runs.

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 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.

It was shaping up to be a long evening for the Mariners. Mussina appeared to be more hittable than he was in Saturday's seven-inning performance against the Athletics, but he worked out of trouble in the first two innings and battled back to hold the Mariners scoreless in the third after Bernie Williams dropped Ichiro Suzuki's long fly ball for a two-base error.

Mussina seemed to be settling in, but he brushed Cameron with an inside pitch in the fourth and Javier launched a long home run to center field to turn it into a one-run game.

Javier's one-out shot - his first career postseason home run - traveled 416 feet and brought the edgy crowd back into the game. But it also seemed to give Mussina renewed focus in the middle innings.

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