Yankees finish of Mariners, earn 38th trip to World Series
Updated: Tuesday October 23, 2001 5:10 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- This was the best one, Joe Torre said, for many reasons.
To come back and beat Oakland after being down two games.
To beat the best team in baseball.
And to do it for a city that needed something to cheer about.
"This ballclub will be remembered by me forever," the New York Yankees manager said.
The Yankees did all those things, wrapping up their fourth straight trip to the World Series with a 12-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Monday night's Game 5 of the AL Championship Series.
A team that looked old and tired and was a home run swing away from being swept by the Athletics, the Yankees showed a resiliency that endeared them more than ever to their fans in this shaken city. As unlikely as it seemed two weeks ago, the Yankees have a chance to win their fourth straight championship and fifth in six years.
"Down 2-0 to one of the best clubs in baseball, you never, never, never doubted yourselves," Torre said in a toast. "This city needed something like this. We needed something like this."
MVP Andy Pettitte took a shutout into the seventh inning, Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez homered and the Yankees put the bumbling Mariners away early and made a liar out of their manager, Lou Piniella, who guaranteed the series would return to Seattle.
The Yankees jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning -- thanks to third baseman David Bell's error and Williams' third homer in as many days.
The rest was just a formality as the Yankees brought a swift ending to Seattle's record-tying 116-win season and won their 38th pennant.
"To get to this point is very gratifying," Martinez said. "I like to think it's destiny. The city's gone through a lot, the country's gone through a lot, but mainly the city. We try to represent New York City well."
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was among the 56,370 fans cheering so loudly the stadium shook. The win was a wonderful distraction from the heartache and devastation endured by this city following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"The Subway Series was terrific, but that was normal times," Giuliani said. "This was very needed. It was very important. I think some of the Yankees felt that pressure."
After Shane Spencer's sliding catch ended the game, Giuliani and Torre walked arm in arm to the mound to congratulate the celebrating players.
Afterward, a simple toast by Torre replaced the usual, raucous party in the winning clubhouse, a gesture of respect to the victims of the attacks.
"We can celebrate without throwing champagne around," Jorge Posada said.
The Yankees of Derek Jeter, Williams and Pettitte became the first team since their predecessors in 1960-64 -- led by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford -- to win four straight pennants.
There was no more tough talk to come from Piniella on this night. All he could do was stare at the field and pop his chewing gum while the Yankees romped around the bases.
After two straight losses at Safeco Field to open the series, a defiant Piniella made a promise his team couldn't keep -- that the ALCS would return to Seattle for Game 6.
"First of all, I won't say it again," Piniella said. "You live and learn. I just had confidence in my team. That was it."
Piniella looked like a prophet after Seattle's 14-3 Game 3 win Saturday. But the Mariners lost in the ninth inning on Sunday and they let him down again in the clincher. After becoming the first team in 53 years to lead the league in batting average, fielding and ERA, the Mariners could do nothing right.
Seattle committed one error, let three flyballs fall in front of outfielders for hits and threw a run-scoring wild pitch in a sloppy finish to a wonderful year.
After Martinez's three-run homer in the eighth inning, the fans chanted: "No Game 6! No Game 6!" -- as if Piniella and the Mariners didn't know that already.
"The one thought that did come to my mind strangely enough is this city had suffered a lot and let out a lot of emotion," Piniella said. "I felt good for them. I really did. That's a strange thought from a manager who was getting whipped badly."
The Mariners joined baseball's only other 116-win team as a postseason dud. The 1906 Chicago Cubs lost the World Series to the crosstown White Sox in six games.
"Today they mean nothing, period," starter Aaron Sele said. "Doesn't matter if you won 85 to get in the playoffs or 185 to get in the playoffs. It's how you finish."
The Yankees showed a bit of their own bravado -- they didn't even bring their suitcases to the stadium for a cross-country flight.
"Why put any thoughts in your head when we have the opportunity to go out and play the game we did to win it here," O'Neill said.
Seattle's best shot in the game came in the first inning after Mike Cameron reached on a one-out double that third baseman Scott Brosius appeared to lose sight of in the red-white-and-blue background of bunting hanging over the stands.
But with two outs, Edgar Martinez hit a soft liner to left field that Chuck Knoblauch made a shoetop catch on to save a run. It was Knoblauch's miss on a similar play that turned Game 3 in Seattle's favor.
The fielding play that turned this game came in the third inning when the sure-handed Bell misplayed Brosius' grounder leading off the inning for an error.
Alfonso Soriano, whose ninth-inning homer won Game 4, lined a single to center field off Aaron Sele. After a sacrifice bunt, Jeter hit a sacrifice fly to give New York the lead and David Justice followed with an RBI double.
Williams then hit a drive toward the monuments in left-center -- where Yankee greats from past dynasties are honored -- for his 16th postseason homer to make the score 4-0.
"It gave us a crack and we took advantage," Brosius said. "We got some huge two-out hits in that inning and that's how you win games."
O'Neill, likely in his final days before retirement, hit his second homer of the series to make it 5-0 in the fourth and that was more than enough for Pettitte.
Pitching with his hat pulled tight over his steely eyes, Pettitte held Seattle scoreless until Bell's two-run single in the seventh inning cut New York's lead to 9-2.
Pettitte allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings to improve to 10-5 in the postseason. More importantly, the Yankees won for the 17th time in Pettitte's 22 postseason starts.
Notes: Torre joined John McGraw (New York Giants 1921-24), Joe McCarthy (Yankees 1936-39) and Casey Stengel (Yankees 1949-53 and 1955-58) as the only managers to win four straight pennants. ... Williams trails Jim Thome (17), Mantle (18) and Reggie Jackson (18) on the all-time postseason homer list. ... Sele dropped to 0-6 in his postseason career with five losses to the Yankees.