The Mariners hosted their Telgheder party the following night. Martinez's homer made him the fourth Seattle player with 100 RBIs this season. Only 15 other lineups in history have included four 100-RBI players, with the Mariners becoming only the fourth such team since World War II.
After the Mariners established themselves as one of the premier offensive clubs ever, they would finally be beaten on Sunday in a manner they could appreciate: Mark McGwire of the A's led off the fifth with a home run and capped the eight-run inning with a grand slam, which also happened to be his major-league-leading 52nd dinger of the year. Still, trailing 13-3, Seattle rallied for seven runs in its half of the fifth and lost 13-11. That's strong.
The best division race, between the Dodgers and the Padres, only got better
Against the roar of the crowd at Jack Murphy Stadium late Sunday afternoon, the fireworks that exploded in the sky above the bleachers seemed strangely redundant. The four-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres featured an endless succession of gimmicks and garnishes, from a dog named Pawdre who ran the bases between innings to a flag-waving Chicken to brawling party animals in the bleachers, but in the end an odd thing happened: Baseball got in the way. The county fair was interrupted by an intense four-game series that kept alive the best divisional race in the major leagues and set up a possible all-or-nothing showdown between the same two teams in L.A. this weekend, the season's last. The Dodgers and the Padres may have split this series, but baseball swept the day.
"I wouldn't have admitted this if we had lost," Padres rightfielder Tony Gwynn said after San Diego took the finale 3-2, "but this was a game we absolutely had to win."
When they took the field on Sunday, the Padres were trailing the National League West-leading Dodgers by 1½ games and facing Hideo Nomo, whose previous appearance had been one of the great pitching performances of recent years. Nomo's no-hitter in Colorado on Tuesday was just one reason San Diego issued 207 press credentials for the series against Los Angeles (up from an average of 30) and sold nearly 200,000 tickets. There were other factors adding to the interest, including a batting race (between Gwynn and L.A. catcher Mike Piazza), an MVP contest (Piazza versus San Diego third baseman Ken Caminiti) and a geographical rivalry that finally seems to be taking off—only 27 years after San Diego joined the National League. "I've seen it like this for football, but not baseball," said Dodgers first baseman Eric Karros, who grew up five minutes away from Jack Murphy Stadium. "The whole place was just incredibly fired up. One time [Padres centerfielder] Steve Finley came down to first base and said, 'So this is what it's all about, huh?' "
This is what it was all about: A loss on Sunday would have dropped San Diego 2½ games behind Los Angeles, which amazingly would have matched the largest gap between these two teams since June 9. This race has been tighter than Rosie O'Donnell's bike shorts, so it was fitting that in the big picture, this epic series determined absolutely nothing. The Dodgers headed north on Sunday night the same way they hit town on Wednesday night: a half game up, with a big red circle around this weekend's three-game set at Dodger Stadium. The two teams have split 10 games so far this season. A one-game playoff on Monday would come as no surprise to anyone involved. And entering the season's final week, it appeared the West runner-up could beat out Montreal in the race for the wild card.
The Padres chased Nomo after five innings. Finley knocked a high forkball into the rightfield seats with a runner on to give San Diego a 3-1 lead in the fifth. It was the third homer of the series and the 28th of the year for Finley, who over the four days did everything but the macarena. It may be time to take the sharp objects away from the front-office person who, while in the employ of the Houston Astros, took a call from the Padres before last season and said, "Oh, you want Caminiti and Finley? I don't see why not."
"I like to be up there in the important situations," said Finley, "just like everyone else on this team."
San Diego survived Piazza's 446-foot home run to leftfield in the eighth inning, only the 13th ball to reach the second deck at the Murph. Unfortunately for L.A., the bases were empty at the time, just as they had been in the fourth inning when Raul Mondesi went deep. After Caminiti made a diving stop on Greg Gagne's grounder in the ninth, the crowd of 51,092 erupted one last time, standing and chanting, "M-V-P!" That, it seems, is yet another matter to be decided in these final days.