Work in Sports
For the second straight afternoon, the Seattle Mariners got a dominant effort from their bullpen and put a stranglehold on their American League Division Series with a 5-2 triumph over the Chicago White Sox.
Despite having one of the most powerful offenses of the last decade, Seattle never has reached the World Series because of its pitching -- particularly its bullpen.
But after Paul Abbott (1-0) gave the Mariners 5 2/3 strong innings today, Rhodes recorded two outs. Mesa, who struggled as Seattle's closer last season, tossed 1 2/3 hitless innings before Sasaki struck out the side in the ninth for his second save in as many days.
The spectacular bullpen efforts have given Seattle a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, which switches to Seattle for Game Three on Friday.
"Pitching and defense have been our true trademarks all year," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said. "Our defense has been very, very solid, and our bullpen in this series has just been superb.
These guys are coming in focused, throwing strikes and realy have done a great job for us."
"The pitchers that are playing ahead of me, have done a great job and I'm just continuing to do what they're doing and they are taking me along with them," Sasaki said. "They all have great talent and are doing well right now."
Most Valuable Player candidate Frank Thomas has been symbolic of Chicago's struggles, going 0-for-7 with eight runners left on base. Chicago has dropped nine straight home postseason games since defeating Los Angeles in the opener of the 1959 World Series.
"I've seen other outstanding hitters go through these things before in the playoffs," Thomas said. "It didn't happen to me in 1993, but it's happening to me now. It's not a situation where I'm not seeing the ball, I'm just missing my pitch every at-bat.
"It's all on me right now. I'm disappointed, this team counts on me. The other guys are having their struggles but I'm the guy that has to set the tone. So far I haven't done that."
The White Sox had the best record in the American League and the opportunity to have home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Instead, they need to sweep both games in Seattle and that is a tall order as they send injured righthander James Baldwin to the mound against Seattle ace Aaron Sele.
"We gotten ourselves in very good position obviously," Piniella added. "Now our job is to finish it off. We're going to go out there and play with intensity on Friday. We can't let our guard down. We have to take it to them like we have the first two games of the series."
The White Sox started lefthander Mike Sirotka, who was battling a hyperextended elbow. He allowed four runs -- three earned --and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"I thought I had decent stuff," Sirotka said. "I could have pitched better. I know the offense is slumping. You don't score runs, you don't win."
"Obviously when you get a start like we did and you don't get anything out of it, you're obviously a little disappointed with the offense," White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. "It makes for a tough afternoon when your big guys don't come through in those situations."
Seattle answered immediately with two runs in the second inning.
Martinez doubled and John Olerud was hit by a pitch. Valentin -- who led the major leagues with 36 errors during the season --threw away a grounder to shortstop to load the bases and David Bell singled to tied the game. Dan Wilson followed with a sacrifice fly for a 2-1 advantage.
Chicago got even in the third as Valentin beat out a bunt, stole second, took third when the ball went into center field and scored on Lee's sacrifice fly.
Jay Buhner's seventh career postseason homer, a solo shot in the fourth, put Seattle ahead to stay.
"It was a terrible pitch, a hanging curveball right over the plate," Sirotka said. "The team has tremendous confidence it can battle back."
"Basically, he threw two cut fastballs that I fouled off," Buhner said. "Then he hung a curveball that stayed just high."
Chicago had a chance to tie in the bottom of the frame, but Durham bounced into an inning-ending double play with two aboard.
All-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson manufactured a run with his speed in the fifth. Second all-time in walks, Henderson opened the inning with a free pass and Mike Cameron bunted him to second. Henderson stole third and scored when Rodriguez bounced to shortstop.
Henderson left the game in the fifth with jammed left index finger, believed to be a residual effect of his slide into third. He is day-to-day.
Rhodes retired Charles Johnson to open the seventh but walked Durham and Valentin. Mesa, who retired Ordonez to send Tuesday's game to extra innings, got Thomas on a fly to center and Ordonez on a grounder to second that Mark McLemore made a diving stab on.
After Cameron's bloop single into center field provided Seattle with an insurance run in the ninth, Sasaki struck out pinch-hitter Harold Baines, Johnson and Durham.