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Closer Look

With count in favor, Yankees solve Sele again

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Posted: Saturday October 14, 2000 1:33 AM
Updated: Saturday October 14, 2000 2:01 AM
  Aaron Sele Aaron Sele fell to 0-3 in the postseason against New York, surrendering 12 runs and 23 hits in 17 innings. AP

By David Vecsey, CNNSI.com

SEATTLE -- When it came to his control Friday night, Aaron Sele may have had too much of a good thing.

The Mariners starting pitcher was around the plate all night in what became an 8-2 Yankees victory in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. In hindsight, Sele could have given the Yankees a little more reason to think about swinging the bats.

Despite throwing 59 of his 90 pitches for strikes, striking out four and walking nobody, Sele ran into trouble on the rare instances when he fell behind in the count. Four times he ran into the proverbial "hitter's count" and four times the Yankees punished him for it.

Bernie Williams, swinging at 3-0 leading off of the second inning, crushed a Sele fastball over the wall in right-center. Tino Martinez, the next batter, took a grooved fastball at 2-1 over the centerfield wall. David Justice one-hopped a 2-1 pitch off the right-center wall for an RBI double in the third. And Paul O'Neill ripped a 2-1 pitch for an RBI single in the sixth.

It amounted to a 4-2 deficit when Sele came out after the leadoff batter in the seventh reached on an error, and the Mariners bullpen let it get out of hand with a four-run ninth.

All told, Sele only threw 22 balls to the other 23 batters he faced, and didn't hear a peep out of them.

"What you're talking about are 'strikes' and 'quality strikes,'" Sele said, "and if they are quality strikes, then I don't think you can throw enough of them.

"Williams and Martinez put two good swings on the ball. The pitch to Bernie was more in the middle of the plate than I wanted. And Tino just went down and got one, too. At some point you have to give good hitters credit for hitting the ball hard."

Hitters are trained to look for the pitch they want to hit when the count falls in their favor. The impression we get is that they bear down even more when they feel the pitcher has to be near the plate.

"By the book you do," said O'Neill. "But when you're at the plate, you don't really think of that. You're just trying to get in position to get a good pitch to hit."

In other words, just when we think hitters are thinking the most ... they're not.

"Just look for a fastball. Period," said Martinez, who has hit safely in all eight games this postseason.

The Mariners were not nearly as opportunistic. Their offense was a lot like Mariah Carey's musical career -- plenty of hit singles, but none too terribly memorable nor important. They stranded seven runners in Game 3 (not including three more thrown out or doubled up) giving them a total of 23 LOBs in the three-game series.

"Certain hitters to [change their approach when the pitcher gets in trouble]," Sele said. "[The Yankees] have a philosophy, though, and they stick with that philosophy. I don't see much change in their approach whether they're ahead or behind."

Sele would know. He is 0-3 in the postseason for his career, with all three losses coming to the Yankees.


 
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