Work in Sports
Yankees pound Mariners, take 2-1 lead in ALCS
Updated: Saturday October 14, 2000 3:59 AM
Big outs by Andy Pettitte.
Key hits by David Justice and Paul O'Neill.
And, of course, perfect relief from Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees finally are playing like, well, the Yankees.
After slumbering through the final three weeks of the regular season and the first 10 days of the playoffs, the Yankees have shaken their lengthiest slump in five seasons, pummeling the Seattle Mariners 8-2 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the AL championship series.
"Maybe that last game helped us get over the hump," O'Neill said. "We believe we're going to take the field and score some runs now."
On Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, they were six outs from falling behind 2-0 in the series before riding a seven-run eighth inning to a 7-1 win.
Before that, the Yankees were starting to wonder if they would ever hit again.
"It did help. It helped boost our confidence," Williams said. "We were grinding it from the first inning on. We were able to score a lot of runs, it was just a great game for us."
The Yankees, who could wind up in New York's first Subway Series since 1956, made their third cross-country trip in less than a week and fell behind in the first, then did everything right, from timely hitting to clutch pitching.
New York got 13 hits and scored in four innings for the first time in this year's playoffs, breaking open the game with four runs in the ninth.
"Tonight was more like when we are winning," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Pettitte improved to 8-4 in postseason play, allowing nine hits in 6 2-3 innings, but just two runs.
"He walks that high wire without a safety net and gets himself in trouble," Torre said. "Andy, when he needed to get out of a jam, made some quality pitches."
Rivera broke Whitey Ford's record for consecutive scoreless postseason innings, getting five straight outs for his fourth save of the postseason.
With a runner on second and the tying run at the plate in the eighth, he retired pinch-hitter Stan Javier on a grounder and John Olerud on a flyout, then pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save of the playoffs.
His teammates think he's Mr. Automatic.
"I hope they always feel like that," Rivera said.
Rivera has 33 1-3 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason since Sandy Alomar's homer in Game 4 of the 1997 division series, one more than Ford, the Yankees' Hall of Fame left-hander. Rivera has allowed two earned runs in 55 postseason innings, a 0.33 ERA.
"You get spoiled with him," Pettitte said. "The guy just comes in and just doesn't give up runs."
Meanwhile, eight of nine Yankees' starters got hits.
For the first time this October, the two-time World Series champions looked like they were in control, playing with renewed resolve rather than cringing from the weight of their past accomplishments.
Even O'Neill came through. The right fielder, the Yankees' warrior and backbone, had been 0-for-8 in the series, flailing at the plate in perhaps the worst slump of his career.
After Seattle clawed back to 3-2 in the fifth, O'Neill came right back with a sharp two-out single in the sixth off Aaron Sele, his first RBI hit of the postseason.
"I have a feeling we're going to come out tomorrow and start swinging the bats the way we're capable of," Mariners manager Lou Piniella said.
Jeff Nelson also extended his scoreless streak, to five innings in this fall's playoffs. He relieved Pettitte with the score 4-2, and struck out Mike Cameron to end the seventh with a runner on first.
At the beginning, it looked like yet another Yankees' struggle. Consecutive one-out singles by Cameron, Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez put Seattle ahead in the first, but Pettitte retired Jay Buhner on a pop and the Yankees rebounded in the second with their first consecutive homers in 16 games since Sept. 23.
"It's never easy for me, always a battle," Pettitte said. "After I gave up the run in the first, the guys came right back and battled."
Williams connected to right on a 3-0 pitch and Tino Martinez, who played for the Mariners when they beat the Yankees in the 1995 playoffs, followed four pitches later with a drive just over a leaping Cameron in center. Neither had homered since Sept. 24 against Detroit, the Yankees' next-to-last home game of the regular season.
New York made it 3-1 on Justice's RBI double in the third, scoring in consecutive innings for the first time during this year's playoffs.
Seattle closed within a run in the fifth when Rickey Henderson doubled with one out and Cameron followed with an RBI single.
But New York came right back in the sixth, getting the single from O'Neill after Sele picked up a slow roller by Martinez but couldn't get the ball out of his glove.
With that, it seemed like the hex finally was off the Yankees. And why not?
It was, after all, Friday the 13th.
"I don't think pressure's off until we can plan on going to the World Series," Torre said. "You can't take anything for granted."
Notes: Jorge Posada was the only Yankees starter without a hit. ... Sele gave up four runs and nine hits in six-plus innings, dropping to 0-3 in the postseason -- with all three losses to the Yankees. ... It was the 40th anniversary of Bill Mazeroski's home run that won Game 7 of the 1960 World Series for Pittsburgh. The roof was closed at Safeco Field, where the Mariners were 10-3 in regular-season games that ended under cover.