Work in Sports
BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- With a moment of hesitation, the Seattle Mariners' opportunity was lost.
Mariners left fielder Al Martin's dropped line drive broke open a record-tying seven-run eighth inning for the New York Yankees, who ended a 16-inning scoreless streak and evened the American League Championship Series with a 7-1 victory.
Behind a brilliant effort by Orlando Hernandez -- who earned his seventh straight postseason victory -- and some timely hitting in the eighth, the two-time defending world champion Yankees gained a home split. Game Three is Friday in Seattle.
"It's huge to win," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "I don't care how we win or how many runs we beat them by. We're 1-1 going to Seattle and we're comfortable with that."
"I just sensed that we relieved a lot of pressure today," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We were very uptight, but we've played that way before and we've been successful."
Seattle pitchers had tossed 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings and the bullpen had recorded 14 straight scoreless frames coming into the game. After six superb innings by New York native John Halama, Seattle got a scoreless seventh from Jose Paniagua and took a 1-0 lead to the eighth.
Lefthander Arthur Rhodes (0-1) allowed a leadoff double off the left-center field by David Justice, a lefthanded batter. Bernie Williams singled up the middle to tie the game and give the Yankees their first run of the series.
"My first thought was just trying to move the guy over to third base, but I just kept looking pitch-by-pitch," Williams said. "He made a pitch on the outside part of the plate. It was like 3-1 and then 3-2 and he threw it inside. And once I had two strikes, I said, 'I'm just going to try to hit the ball any way that I can.'" "He's (Rhodes) a key guy in the bullpen for us," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said. "He's been that way all year and he's going to have to feel these lefthanded hitters out. Justice started by getting a ball up and he hit it off the wall. It escalated from there but we've got all the confidence in the world in him that he will have success in the rest of the series."
Tino Martinez, another lefthanded hitter, hit a sinking liner to left field. Martin broke in, stopped and dove for the ball. The moment of indecision proved costly as the ball bounced off his glove and allowed Martinez to reach.
"The way he dove, I was going to have enough time to go back to first base," Williams said. "It was a big play, no doubt about that, because it kept men on first and second with no outs."
Torre eschewed the bunt and Jorge Posada grounded sharply to second. Mark McLemore, who committed an error in the first inning, knocked the ball down and watched helplessly as it dribbled into short right field.
Williams came around to score the go-ahead run and Martinez took third. The baserunning move proved crucial when Paul O'Neill lofted a sacrifice fly to right for a 3-1 lead.
After the Yankees appeared to run themselves out of the inning as Posada was picked off third base, Jose Vizcaino delivered an RBI double against Jose Mesa. The inning continued with an RBI single by Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter snapped out a funk with his fifth career postseason homer. The two-run shot was the eighth hit in the inning, tying a LCS record.
Prior to the inning, Williams was 5-for-22 in the postseason, while David Justice was 4-for-24 and Jeter 5-for-25. Williams' RBI single was the Yankees' first hit in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the series. New York has scored 26 runs this postseason with 13 coming in two innings.
"It was only 1-0 so we knew one swing of the bat could tie the game," Justice said. "I think you guys (the media) are so spoiled by the Yankees' postseason success that you expect miracles every time."
"We had to get something going," O'Neill said. "We figured if we got enough opportunities, something would give. Once we scored that first run, things started to fall into place."
The eighth-inning rally was the perfect 31st birthday present for Hernandez, who improved to 7-0 in eight postseason starts.
The Cuban righthander allowed one run and six hits in eight innings, walking three and striking out seven.
"I believe in my team a lot and I believe I'm going to do my job and hold the other team down and I believe our hitters are going to do their job and score some runs," Hernandez said through an interpreter. "We all speak and encourage each other, but I don't involve myself in their job."
Orel Hershiser was the last pitcher to win his first seven postseason decisions.
"I don't look at stats," Hernandez added. "I really focus on doing my job and helping my team. I really don't pay attention to the records. Maybe one day when I retire, I'll look."
"'El Duque' was obviously the biggest part of the game and I'm glad we were able to get him the win," Martinez said. "He wasn't begging for runs, he just wanted to keep going out there and shut them down inning after inning."
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera took over for Hernandez in the ninth and nearly saw his consecutive scoreless postseason innings streak come to an end. John Olerud doubled and took third on a groundout by Martin. But with his streak at 31 innings, Rivera got David Bell on a comebacker and pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez on a bouncer to second.
The streak is second only to former Yankee Whitey Ford, who threw 33 scoreless innings between 1960-1962.
Things looked good for New York after "El Duque" struck out the side in the first inning and the first three batters reached in the bottom of the frame. But Williams grounded into a double play and Martinez grounded out.
Seattle appeared poised to capitalize on the momentum swing when Edgar Martinez and Olerud reached to open the second. However, Martin flied out and David Bell lined into a double play.
The Mariners broke through for a run after two were out in the third. Mike Cameron walked, stole second after nearly being picked off and scored on former Yankee Stan Javier's soft single into center field.
Staked to the lead, Halama was mowing down New York, allowing only five singles and a double. He walked three and struck out two, throwing 50 of 83 pitches for strikes.
"I could've pitched (the seventh), I definitely could have pitched but that's a decision Lou has been making all year and I don't question him," Halama said. "With our bullpen, all you have to do is give us five (innings)."
Paniagua allowed a hit in the seventh but struck out Jeter with a runner at third and two outs. Hernandez capped his dominant effort by striking out Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez to end the eighth.
New York has won 26 of its last 32 postseason games.
"It's 1-1," Cameron said. "We're going to our house, our backyard. The momentum is at a standstill right now. If we come out, get the job done on Friday, it's right back in our favor."