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Weekend Warrior
Tom Verducci
October 09, 2000
With a playoff berth on the line, the Mariners needed a resolute Alex Rodriguez to snap out of a 3-for-29 swoon and lead them
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October 09, 2000

Weekend Warrior

With a playoff berth on the line, the Mariners needed a resolute Alex Rodriguez to snap out of a 3-for-29 swoon and lead them

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The A's and the Indians also win, Oakland mauling Texas 23-2 and Cleveland beating Toronto 6-5. One day is left in the season—or not. The Mariners aren't sure. " Oakland may have to take a long ride to Tampa Bay...maybe not, I don't know...I don't think so...who cares?" Piniella says. "I don't want to hear any scenarios. All I know is I packed for seven days, and I want to use all my clothes."

"Let me get this straight," Abbott asks another group of reporters. " Oakland has to play that game Monday if we win [on Sunday]?"

Well, no. The A's would have to fly to Tampa only if they lose and the Mariners win and the Indians....

"It comes down to this," Piniella finally says. "We need to win one game, and we have our hottest pitcher in September going. I'll take that."

Sunday, Oct. 1: Anaheim

Seventy bottles of champagne, purchased after the previous day's win, are put on ice in the Seattle clubhouse. Forty-five minutes before the first pitch, the Mariners are quiet, "a little nervous," Rodriguez says, while an NFL game plays on the clubhouse television. No watching the Indians today. "Because we knew they'd win," Rodriguez says later. "And we knew Oakland would win. We had to treat our game like it was the seventh game of the World Series. We didn't want to see the Indians on Monday. They might be the hottest team right now."

As Seattle begins its game, Cleveland is on the verge of an 11-4 victory. Righthander Aaron Sele, the 17-game winner whom the Mariners signed last winter only after the Baltimore Orioles voided his free-agent deal because of medical concerns, coughs up two runs in the first inning. Seattle is in trouble. It has to play from behind. It's staring straight at a one-game playoff with the Indians for the wild card.

In the fourth, though, Rodriguez comes to the rescue again. He gives the Mariners a jolt: a leadoff home run off righty Mark Petkovsek. Seattle rallies. Mike Cameron, Griffey's replacement in centerfield, ties the game in the fifth with a double. Third baseman David Bell puts Seattle ahead 3-2 with a leadoff homer in the seventh. Four batters later, with two runners on, leftfielder Raul Ibanez, a defensive replacement half an inning earlier, steps out of the batter's box to think about his mother. Moraima Ib��iez underwent quintuple bypass surgery three days earlier. He says a prayer for her, steps in and lashes a double to left centerfield. Two runs score on the game-breaking hit. "I'm not sure if she was watching," Ib��iez says, "but I hope she wasn't. She gets too nervous watching."

Relievers Rhodes and Kazuhiro Sasaki take care of the last 10 outs. The final one, a pop-up, lands with poetic precision in the glove of Rodriguez. Though Oakland has beaten Texas 3-0, Seattle has won the wild card. In the last two games of the season Rodriguez has whacked five hits, including three home runs, in 10 at bats. "I'm proud of this team," he says in the delirious Seattle locker room. "We showed guts, knowing we had to win two games on the road after that ugly game Friday night. It was like Games 6 and 7 of a World Series, and that's why you see everyone like this."

He gestures around the clubhouse, where his teammates engage in such a wild, wet celebration that even the 63-year-old Gillick, who presumably has seen it all, is impressed. "That's because you're seeing an outpouring of emotions after what this team has gone through," Gillick says.

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