Work in Sports
After struggling in Game One of the American League Division Series, Garcia allowed three hits over 6 2/3 innings as the Mariners posted a 2-0 triumph over the two-time defending world champion New York Yankees in the opener of the AL Championship Series.
The righthander, who turned 24 on Friday, shackled the inconsistent Yankee offense, allowing two walks while striking out eight. Garcia (1-0) gave up four runs and six hits in 3 1/3 innings in last week's ALDS opener but justified manager Lou Piniella's decision to stick with him in the opener of this series, buzzsawing through the heart of the Yankees' lineup.
"I was feeling pretty good and I had a lot of confidence," Garcia said. "I was free to throw (my curves and changeups) for a strike every time I wanted to. ... When I needed it, that was it -- my change, my curve. They were there."
"He sure as (heck) pitched well," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He certainly pitched well when he had to. He pitched pretty well when he didn't have to."
With Garcia lifted after throwing 103 pitches, Seattle's bullpen was just as unhittable. Jose Paniagua struck out three of the four batters he faced. Arthur Rhodes fanned pinch-hitter Glenallen Hill to end the eighth before Kazuhiro Sasaki took over in the ninth.
The Japanese closer surrendered a leadoff single to Bernie Williams but struck out David Justice. Tino Martinez singled up the middle to put the tying run on base, but Jorge Posada flied out to right and, after a foul ball that just missed being a home run, Luis Sojo flied to center.
"(Garcia) pitched a heck of a game," Piniella said. "He gave us 6 2/3 innings ... then Sasaki pitches out of the jam in the ninth and we win, 2-0. To have a young pitcher come into a playoff game for us like Garcia did, he should be very proud of his effort tonight."
The shutout was the first against the Yankees in 37 ALCS games and the 18th in ALCS history. It helped the Mariners lower their postseason ERA to 1.46.
"He was really locating and keeping his ball down in the zone," Seattle catcher Joe Oliver said of Garcia. "Freddy was on a roll and had a lot of confidence going. He showed the type of pitcher he is and what he is capable of."
The loss overshadowed an outstanding effort by New York starter Denny Neagle, who bailed out an overworked rotation and held Seattle in check into the sixth. His only mistakes were a two-out, two-strike RBI single by Rickey Henderson in the fifth and a mammoth solo homer off the left field foul pole by Alex Rodriguez in the sixth.
"Both were fastballs in," Neagle said. "The pitch to Rickey, I saw the replay and I thought it was a pretty good pitch. He just did a good job, he inside-outed it. We almost had a play at home. That's baseball.
"I think the only thing I wish I could take back, obviously, was the pitch to 'A-Rod.' I threw a 3-1 changeup and usually the old adage is, if you throw one on 3-1, you gotta throw it on 3-2. And if I would've had that back, I would have thrown a 3-2 changeup. I still made a decent pitch, and that's why he's a good hitter."
After Neagle and Garcia traded zeros through four innings, Seattle broke on top in the fifth. Mark McLemore recorded the Mariners' first hit of the game, a double down the left-field line, and Henderson grounded a base hit into right field. Paul O'Neill came up throwing, but McLemore dove in just ahead of the tag.
After New York threatened in the bottom of the fifth, Rodriguez launched his second career postseason homer and second in five career at-bats against Neagle.
"I saw the pattern that he was developing and he was jamming in the ball," Rodriguez said. "He was trying to tie me up with my hands a little bit. The whole at-bat, I was focused on a fastball in and I finally got it.
"I was apprehensive when I hit it. I didn't know if it was going to stay fair or not. I hit one earlier in the first inning and I thought it was going to stay fair and it didn't. It was just a sense of relief when I saw it hit the foul pole."
Neagle (0-1), who pitched poorly down the stretch, gave the Yankees 5 2/3 solid innings, allowing two runs and three hits. The veteran lefthander walked three and struck out three in his first appearance in two weeks.
"I thought he was terrific," Torre said. "He was a little shaky early, which we figured he would be, just to settle in and get comfortable. ... But he pitched, obviously, well enough to win and I'm pleased for him. It gives us something to look forward to."
New York had a chance to take an early lead when it put the first two runners on in the third inning. But after failing to get down a bunt, Scott Brosius grounded into a double play. Chuck Knoblauch ended the threat by bouncing to third.
Knoblauch opened the sixth with a double into the left-field corner and Garcia walked Derek Jeter after getting ahead 0-2. But O'Neill and Williams struck out before Justice flied to the wall in center field. O'Neill, Williams and Justice are a combined 14-for-68 in the postseason.
"He pitched well," Jeter said of Garcia. "He throws hard, obviously, but it's not like he rares back and throws the ball right down the middle. He was in and out. We hadn't seen him in a while, we didn't face him this season, so we were real impressed with what he had."
Knoblauch gave New York another chance with a one-out single in the eighth off Paniagua, but Jeter struck out to fall to 4-for-22 in the postseason. Piniella called on Rhodes, but Torre yanked No. 3 hitter O'Neill and summoned Hill, who looked at a third strike.
Game Two is Wednesday afternoon in New York.