CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Rookie C.C. Sabathia showed poise well beyond his 21 years. The Seattle Mariners uncharacteristically self-destructed.
Sabathia rebounded from a rocky first to throw six-plus innings and the top four hitters in the lineup accounted for 12 hits and 14 RBI as the Cleveland Indians pushed the mighty Mariners to the brink of elimination with a 17-2 triumph in Game Three of their American League Division Series.
Sabathia threw just 67 of 117 pitches for strikes and allowed six hits and five walks. But as he has all season, he got the crucial outs when he needed them.
The Indians' winningest rookie in 53 years, Sabathia survived a potentially disastrous first inning and cruised thereafter as his teammates staked him to an early lead.
"The closest thing I can put this to is when I was a little kid and my mom would take me to Toys 'R' Us," Sabathia said. "When you get that anxious feeling going into Toys 'R' Us and you can pick out anything you want. That was what the feeling was like. I was like a little kid in a candy store."
Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Roberto Alomar and Juan Gonzalez gave Sabathia plenty of room for error. Vizquel had one of the best games of his career with four hits and six RBI -- one shy of a Division Series record. Alomar and Gonzalez, who also had four hits, drove in three runs apiece.
"Everything we hit was falling in the right place," Alomar said. "We got a couple of bloops and we got some pitches to hit and got some big hits."
Cleveland's 17 runs were its most ever in the postseason, and its 19 hits also established a playoff high.
After a major league record-tying 116 wins in the regular season, the Mariners face a must-win situation Sunday. And just to force a Game Five in Seattle on Monday, they must find a way to hit Indians ace Bartolo Colon, who throttled them in a 5-0 victory in Game One.
Seattle got a poor start from veteran Aaron Sele, committed three errors and failed to make a series of other routine plays. They hope their ace, righthander Freddy Garcia, can bounce back from a rough outing against Colon.
Game Four is slated for 1 p.m. EDT.
"In the postseason, you never know how it's going to be day-to-day," Indians first baseman Jim Thome said. "They might come out and shut us out. You want to carry the momentum over but the postseason is weird -- you never know what is going to happen."
"When a team wins 116 games, you expect that team to go all the way," Vizquel said. "But every time you step into a playoff, it is a completely different story."
Sabathia passed a major test in the first. Japanese rookie sensation Ichiro Suzuki singled and Mike Cameron doubled to left. After Bret Boone fanned on a pitch out of the strike zone, Edgar Martinez was intentionally walked.
"I was just trying to get a ground ball," Sabathia said. "I just threw a fastball away and was lucky they popped them up."
Alomar went to the mound during the inning and tried to calm down the 6-7 Sabathia.
"I just went in and told him he could get out of it," Alomar said. "C.C. handles things very well. That's the turning point of the game."
"(Sabathia) doesn't understand what is going on," Lofton said. "He's pitching like he is in Little League. I don't think he understands the magnitude of the situation we are in. I wasn't surprised he got out of the first inning. He has been doing that all year."
The Mariners knew the importance of that opening inning.
"We ended up only scoring one run in that situation," Boone said. "Ideally you would like to score at least two."
"He did not look real nervous," Olerud said. "We got a quick run and got the bases loaded but he made real good pitches and gout out of it."
The Indians got to Sele in the first with the help of some sloppy play and poor pitch selection. Vizquel singled with one out and scored when Alomar crushed an 0-2 pitch into the right-field corner. Gold Glove candidate Suzuki overthrew the cut-off man, allowing Vizquel to score. Gonzalez followed with a bloop single to left for a 2-1 lead.
The miscues continued in the second. Travis Fryman reached on a throwing error by second baseman Boone, a former Gold Glove winner. Einar Diaz singled between outs and Vizquel tripled into the right-field corner. Fryman scored easily and any chance Seattle had of getting Diaz at the plate evaporated when Boone's relay throw was off the mark.
Seattle pulled Sele after the second inning and turned to Paul Abbott. But the 17-game winner could not hold Cleveland in check, surrendering a leadoff homer to Gonzalez and run-scoring singles to Diaz and Vizquel. Alomar followed Vizquel's single with a walk that forced in Diaz for an 8-1 cushion.
Sele allowed four runs -- two earned -- and five hits. Abbott was worse, giving up eight runs and nine hits in three-plus innings.
Lofton, who had been hitless in 10 at-bats in the series, hit his third career postseason homer in the fifth and Thome opened the sixth with his 17th career postseason homer, one shy of the major league record held by Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle.
Cleveland tacked on two runs later in the sixth and, after Seattle plated a run in the seventh, scored five in the eighth. Consecutive doubles by Vizquel, Alomar and Gonzalez drove in the runs, with Vizquel's hit plating three.