"In the future, starting times will be arranged so that games will not conflict."
—Baseball's chief TV negotiator, Barry Frank
As in the stillness after a stubborn storm has blown its last breath, there was the wreckage. One manager wept and another slumped deep into a sofa, pulling hard and long on cigarettes. Many pitchers ached, having worked themselves to such exhaustion that at least one of them could hardly lift a comb to his hair. A grueling American League Division Series between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees left the Mariners not so much victors as survivors. Only then, after the unprecedented became commonplace and the unexpected became familiar over five excruciating nights, did respite come. Seattle pitcher Randy Johnson, the largest man of them all by any measure, ducked his head under the doorway of his manager's office late Sunday and wondered about a workout for the next day.
"Nothing," came the reply from Lou Piniella, puffing away on his office couch. "Enjoy the day off."
"Trust me," Johnson said. "I will."
In a seven-day span the 6'10" Johnson at the least had matched the October gallantry of Los Angeles Dodger pitchers Orel Hershiser in the 1988 National League Championship Series (24⅔ innings in four appearances over nine days) and Sandy Koufax in the 1965 World Series (two shutouts, including one in Game 7, in four days). Johnson pitched three times in those seven days and won all three games, beginning with a three-hitter on three days rest against the California Angels to win a playoff for the American League West regular-season title.
On short rest again—and with Seattle trailing the best-of-five Division Series two games to zip—he threw seven solid innings to beat the Yankees 7-4 last Friday. Then, with only one day off, he came out of the bullpen on Sunday to give Piniella three more innings, the last three of an 11-inning, 6-5 Mariner victory that will be remembered as long as people look for citations that help define the game. Pitching each time with his team facing elimination, Johnson went 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 19 innings, during the last of which he willed the baseball past hitters at 99 mph.
Still, Johnson pointed reporters over to the locker of designated hitter Edgar Martinez and said, 'He's the man. Edgar's the real hero here. He's been our MVP all year long." Martinez had provided the game-winning hits in Seattle's last at bats in Games 4 and 5.
Even after all of that, the Mariners had barely dipped a toe into a postseason pool that has never been so deep. They had won no title by outlasting the Yankees and still faced the possibility of two seven-game series, starting with the American League Championship Series this week against the Cleveland Indians, the team with the best record in baseball. Because of his heroics against New York, Johnson would be unavailable to pitch until Game 3. In fact, so taxed was Seattle's staff by the Division Series that on Sunday night Piniella was thinking about giving the ball in Game 1 against the Indians to Bob Wells, who had started four games all year, none since May.
"I've got to rest my staff," Piniella said Sunday night. "We've got to get guys back in sync. Do you think anybody's going to give us a chance against Cleveland?"
The Indians demonstrated the advantage of breezing through a Division Series, enjoying three days off after allowing the Boston Red Sox only six runs in their three-game sweep (page 28). Said Yankee righthander David Cone, "I'm sure Cleveland is sitting back and smiling, watching Randy Johnson pitch like this."