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Still in control
Yankees unfazed by Game 5 loss at Safeco
Updated: Monday October 16, 2000 4:04 PM
By Jamal Greene, Sports Illustrated
SEATTLE -- The Mariners were a discount outfit. Parking lots around Safeco Field in Sodo, Seattle, had routinely knocked $5-$10 off the playoff rate for what appeared on Sunday morning to be little more than a Yankee curtain call in an ALCS win over the Mariners.
The Yanks betrayed little bravado, but before the game bench coach Don Zimmer said, "We're right on target."
Until this season the best laid plans of mice, men and Zim had not gone oft astray. But like an old prizefighter of ample heart but wobbly knees and unsound mind, the Yankees at times this season and this postseason have wanted but simply couldn't.
The Yankees failed for just the second time in 12 chances to knock out a postseason opponent under Joe Torre. The first time was against Oakland in the Division Series.
"We've always been able to close out a team when we have a chance, but this time we didn't," said reliever Jeff Nelson, who allowed a game-winning single to Alex Rodriguez and back-to-back home runs to Edgar Martinez and John Olerud in the fifth.
That five-run fifth marked the most runs the Mariners, who entered the game hitting .183 in the series, have scored in an inning since Sept. 30.
It reminded several observers of the seven runs the Yankees scored in the eighth inning of Game 2 to break out of their own offensive stupor. The Yankees were able to build on that momentum, scoring eight, then five runs in the next two games.
Shortstop Derek Jeter was not optimistic that the Mariners would be able to do the same. "This is just the first time for them," he said. "Their second time's probably next year."
The Yankees, as is their style, seemed barely fazed by the loss. Asked if it was disappointing to be going home without closing out the series, third baseman Scott Brosius said, "It's always frustrating to lose a game, but we had to get on a plane anyway."
First baseman Tino Martinez credited his team's experience for its unfettered mood. "A younger team might feel bad about the loss, but we feel good being up 3-2 and having El Duque going on Tuesday."
Like Muhammad Ali battling Leon Spinx, the Yankees are confident if not as able as they have been in the past. Paul O'Neill, who has battled a hip pointer and an unparalleled offensive slump (one extra-base hit since Sept. 14) epitomizes that as much as anyone. Manager Joe Torre pinch hit for him with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
Said the erstwhile Yankees No. 3 hitter, "Joe manages this team and his decisions are what we go by. I was a bit surprised, but that's not the story." The story, rather, is that Ali won the rematch.
One consequence of the Yankee loss is that manager Joe Torre won't be able to have Orlando Hernandez -- who has never lost in the postseason -- start Game 1 of the World Series. Of course, it means he will start Game 6 of the LCS, when the Yanks, to be sure, won't go down without a fight.
Jamal Greene is a reporter for Sports Illustrated.