2001 MLB Postseason - American League Championship Series

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O'Neill finds power stroke against M's

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Posted: Wednesday October 17, 2001 9:24 PM
  Paul O'Neill's two-run homer in the fourth inning was the key blow in Game 1. AP

SEATTLE (AP) -- Paul O'Neill seems determined to do in the Seattle Mariners in another AL Championship Sseries.

O'Neill hit only his second home run since Aug. 25 to key the New York Yankees' 4-2 victory in Wednesday's opener.

Dropped to the seventh spot in the order, O'Neill hit a two-run homer off Aaron Sele in the fourth inning to give New York a 3-0 lead. O'Neill finished the day 2-for-3, adding a single to his homer in the sixth.

"Obviously, as a hitter your job is to get a pitch to pull," he said. "There's no secret what the pitcher is trying to do and what the hitter is trying to do. You know, I'm sure if you asked Sele, he made a mistake. He got a pitch up."

Pitcher's mistake or not, it was a nice start for O'Neill after a frustrating Division Series against Oakland. He hit .091 (1-for-11) in three games against the Athletics, and was benched in the third and fifth games against tough left-handers Barry Zito and Mark Mulder.

"Everybody wants to come out and play well every game in the playoffs but it just doesn't happen," O'Neill said.

But success against Seattle in the postseason is nothing new for O'Neill. He had five RBIs against the Mariners in last year's ALCS, won by the Yankees in six games. Then he hit a team-high .474 in the World Series.

"He swung the bat great today," third baseman Scott Brosius said. "He got some pitches and did what he was supposed to with them. He drove it out of the park. They were big hits for us today."

This probably will be the final postseason for the 38-year-old O'Neill. Though he has opted not to discuss it, O'Neill is likely to retire after the season.

He has been a symbol of these resilient Yankees, playing through injury and demanding perfection from himself. He expects to get a hit in every at-bat, and at times becomes visibly angry when he doesn't.

A broken left foot kept O'Neill on the sidelines from Sept. 7 to Oct. 3 but he seems to have bounced back.

"He did great," leadoff hitter Chuck Knoblauch said. "For him to miss so much time and to come back and contribute is huge. Hopefully he can continue it."

O'Neill and winning pitcher Andy Pettitte ate dinner together Tuesday night, and Pettitte had a good feeling about O'Neill's chances Wednesday.

"He's a special kind of player," Pettitte said. "We had a nice meal last night and we were both ready for today."

Related information
Statitudes: ALCS, By the Numbers
Jeff Pearlman's ALCS Breakdown
Yanks-M's make for glamorous ALCS
Pettitte, O'Neill give Yankees ALCS opener
Yankees-Mariners Box Score
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