Work in Sports
John Olerud singled off Kelly Wunsch's midsection and moved to second on the reliever's throwing error before pinch-runner Rickey Henderson scored on Carlos Guillen's bunt single, giving the Mariners a 2-1 victory and a three-game sweep of the American League Division Series.
Seattle's bullpen, which dominated the series, tossed 1 2/3 scoreless frames after Aaron Sele's brilliant performance and the Mariners came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with a chance for their first postseason sweep.
Olerud, a fearsome line-drive hitter, stroked a 3-1 pitch from Wunsch (0-1) right back to the mound. The ball bounded off Wunsch's stomach before rolling toward the third-base line. The rookie pounced on the ball but fired wildly to first as the slow-footed Olerud made his way to second.
"He just wanted to try to get an out," Chicago first baseman Frank Thomas said of Wunsch. "I wish he had held it. I didn't think he was going to throw him out anyway."
Chicago closer Keith Foulke entered and Henderson scampered to third on Stan Javier's sacrifice. Foulke walked David Bell and Guillen fouled off a pitch before surprising the White Sox and the record crowd of 48,010 at Safeco Field.
"When I got strike one on him, the third-base coach (Larry Bowa) hollered at him and he stepped out," Foulke said. "Sometimes that's just to shake things up. But definitely, the bunt did surprise us."
Guillen dragged a bunt on a line through the right side of the drawn-in infield, plating Henderson and sending the crowd and the Mariners into a wild celebration.
"Well, I just went out and (Seattle manager Lou Piniella) told me before I got up, he told me try to hit a ground ball to Thomas because he don't play too much first base," Guillen said. "And I got the first pitch and the next pitch I wanted to make sure to follow what Lou told me."
"That was the plan the whole way," Piniella said. "And Carlos can push the ball as well as anybody we've got -- or drag it. Let me tell you, (during spring training) we worked on our bunting more than any other team I've ever been associated with."
Replays indicated that Guillen's foot was out of the batter's box when he made contact with the ball.
"I think it was basically like a safety squeeze," Chicago manager Jerry Manuel said. "It was really hard, it wasn't one where -- he could have easily popped the ball up, but he didn't. We happened to be in a tough situation. We put ourselves in it and they executed at the right time and we didn't."
James Baldwin shrugged off a sore right shoulder to toss six strong innings for the White Sox. The righthander limited the Mariners to one run -- which could have been unearned -- and three hits, walking three and striking out two.
Baldwin threw 58 of 92 pitches for strikes and worked his way out of a jam in the sixth before pounding his fist into his glove as he strode off the mound.
But while Baldwin exhibited considerable grit, Sele was dominant. He yielded a run and three hits, walking one and striking out three in 7 1/3 frames before Arthur Rhodes and Jose Paniagua (1-0) got the final five outs.
"Today Aaron Sele did a heck of a job for us for seven innings," Piniella said. "And then came Rhodes and Paniagua and got us to the bottom of the ninth."
Seattle's bullpen clearly was the difference in the series, tossing 11 2/3 scoreless frames.
"Well, they did just a fantastic job," Piniella added. "Everybody that we brought out of the pen just pitched great. And that's one of the reasons we were able to do what we did."
Thomas, a Most Valuable Player candidate, had a miserable series, going 0-for-9 and failing to knock down Wunsch's wild throw to first. The White Sox posted the best record in the American League during the regular season but failed to take a single game from the wild-card Mariners.
"Obviously, Frank didn't hit," Manuel said. "But it was a team thing. It wasn't one guy, it wasn't one man. We all lost it. We lost to a team that's playing good baseball."
"This was it. You put up or shut up," Thomas said. "You don't get it done, you don't get it done. I've been on the short end of the stick twice and it doesn't feel good. It was a great season for this team. But we didn't finish the business. We got here, we played hard, but we didn't finish it. I gave what I had and it just was not good enough. Popping the ball up and doing things like that, I was not swinging a hot bat and it hurts."
Seattle last advanced to the AL Championship Series in 1995, losing in six games to the Cleveland Indians. The Mariners await the winner of the Oakland Athletics-New York Yankees ALDS, which continues tonight at Yankee Stadium. That series is tied at 1-1.
"I would like to write a book about every single person in this clubhouse and the way this season has transpired for us," Rodriguez said. "We wanted to finish it today. I had a pretty good feeling we were going to end it today."
Much as it did the entire series, Chicago squandered an opportunity in the first against Sele. Ray Durham led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second before Thomas walked. But the White Sox failed to cash in when Magglio Ordonez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Harold Baines led off the top of the second with a double to left and used his 41-year-old legs to move to third on Charles Johnson's fly ball before scoring on Carlos Lee's sacrifice fly to center. Chicago was done scoring for the season.
Baldwin was able to hold off Seattle until his defense let him down in the bottom of the fourth. Raul Ibanez led off with a single and moved to second when slugging shortstop Rodriguez gave himself up with a sacrifice.
Edgar Martinez grounded to shortstop and Olerud walked to put runners at the corners. Baldwin induced Javier into an apparent inning-ending force play. But Ray Durham was unable to cleanly backhand the ground ball to second and Ibanez scored as the ball bounced onto the outfield grass.
The play was one Durham normally makes but Javier was awarded a single as the Mariners forged a 1-1 tie.
Baldwin ran into trouble in the sixth when he walked Martinez and Olerud with one out. But he got Javier to swing at a third strike in the dirt and he and his teammates displayed their excitement, running into the dugout.
"(Baldwin) ended up with, I think 92 pitches and six innings," Manuel said. "And he really showed the heart of a lion the way he performed. And that was a great effort."
Sele immediately took back the momentum, retiring the White Sox in order in the top of the seventh.
Herbert Perry started the top of the eighth with a single to right off Sele. Carlos Lee flied to right and Rhodes came on and got Paul Konerko to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Howry was masterful in the bottom of the eighth, getting Ibanez to ground out before striking out Rodriguez and Martinez.
Rhodes began the ninth by striking out Durham and Valentin before Paniagua walked Thomas and struck out Ordonez, setting the stage for the dramatics in the bottom of the frame.
Chicago has not won a World Series title since 1917 and has been unable to win any of its five postseason series since. The White Sox had not appeared in the playoffs since Toronto knocked them out of the 1993 ALCS in six games.
Seattle was beaten in the 1997 ALDS by Baltimore but will now set its sights on making the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
"This series we played about as well as you could hope to play," Olerud said. "We made big plays defensively. We executed, getting bunts down and moving runners over and we got great starting pitching. So we just played some real solid baseball for this series."