Mariners come alive, pound Yankees, 14-3

7-run 6th gives Seattle first win in AL series

October 21, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Seattle Mariners manager Lou Piniella does not have a degree in psychology, but he apparently had some idea of what was going on in the heads of his struggling players when he stuck his neck out on Thursday night.

Piniella, faced with a seemingly hopeless situation after the Mariners lost the first two games of the American League Championship Series at home, guaranteed that his team would win at least two of three games at Yankee Stadium and force the series back to Seattle.

He must have known something, because the Mariners awoke to the challenge in Game 3 and hammered the New York Yankees, 14-3, yesterday before a sellout crowd of 56,517 in the Bronx.

Slumping American League RBI champion Bret Boone broke out big-time with an ALCS record-tying, five-RBI performance and the Mariners erupted for seven runs in the sixth inning to chase perennial postseason hero Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.

Former Orioles pitcher Jamie Moyer delivered again, giving up just two runs on four hits over seven innings on the way to his third straight victory of this postseason - each one of them in a must-win situation.

Piniella appeared to be out over his skis, considering how quietly the Mariners went down in the first two games and considering that no team has ever come back to win a best-of-seven league championship series after losing the first two games at home, but it doesn't seem quite so outlandish now.

"You can say a lot of things, but you've still got to get it done on the field," said Piniella, who also held a brief team meeting before last night's game. "I said what I said because I have confidence in my team."

The Mariners were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position in the series and Boone did not have an RBI in seven postseason games when he lofted a shallow fly ball to left field with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth.

Left fielder Chuck Knoblauch looked like he was going to make a sensational diving catch and keep the struggling Seattle lineup in a state of suspended animation, but he landed hard and the ball popped out of his glove to allow two runs to score.

That was all it took for the momentum to shift. John Olerud hit a go-ahead home run to lead off the sixth and former Oriole Mark McLemore delivered a game-breaking, three-run double as the Mariners batted around to break the game open.

Time will tell whether the middle-inning outburst also turns the tide for a Seattle team that must reach the World Series to validate a record-tying, 116-win season.

The Yankees, who were uncharacteristically sloppy yesterday, still can close out the series in New York with big performances from Roger Clemens in Game 4 today and left-hander Andy Pettitte on Monday, but there clearly has been a change in the chemistry between the three-time defending World Series champions and this year's winningest team.

"Tonight was a crucial game and we won it," said Boone, who also hit a two-run homer and an RBI single as Seattle piled it on in the late innings. "Now, with Roger going out there, we just have to find a way to even up the series."

Nearly halfway through last night's game, it appeared that the Mariners were going to go down quietly again. Moyer gave up just one hit through his first five innings of work, but that one hit was a two-run home run by Bernie Williams in the first that looked like it might hold up with Hernandez on the mound.

"El Duque" also carried a one-hitter into the fifth and the fact that he had never lost an LCS game (5-0 in six previous starts) had to be playing on the minds of the Mariners. It certainly had the Yankees feeling pretty good about their chances of taking an all-but-insurmountable three-game lead.

"No question," said manager Joe Torre. "We get a lead, we feel we put the pressure on them, which is what momentum is all about, and we weren't able to hold on. We're used to pitching a lot better in the second half of a game than we did tonight. ... We certainly felt that we had the chance to do some good things, but you have to credit Jamie for keeping us right there at two runs."

Hernandez, so automatic for so many postseason games, struggled with his command in the fifth and walked back-to-back batters to load the bases for Boone.

"We let it get away," Torre said, "but again, I don't think it's as much that we squandered it as much as they did what they're capable of doing."

Boone had led the league with 141 RBIs in the regular season and both Cleveland and the Yankees had kept him quiet for six games. Olerud also had struggled through the postseason, finally turning to hitting coach Gerald Perry for some swing help after Game 2.

The Yankees hoped to sneak through a few more games without waking them up, but the entire Mariners lineup appeared to relax in the middle innings.

Today's games

NL Championship Series

Atlanta vs. Arizona

(Arizona leads series 3-1)

Arizona (Johnson 22-7) at Atlanta (Glavine 18-7), 7:30 p.m., chs. 45, 5

AL Championship Series

New York vs. Seattle

(New York leads series 2-1)

Seattle (Abbott 17-4) at New York (Clemens 20-4), 7:30 p.m., CSN

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