Run aground - Mariners' smooth sailing ends abruptly in ALCS

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

SEATTLE -- The New York Yankees made the Seattle Mariners look more ordinary than magical in the AL championship series.

Maybe, in retrospect, the Mariners' 116 regular-season victories were more surprising than their disappointing ending.

"You know, the amazing thing about baseball is that no matter how many games you win, unless you win a World Series, you're going to feel disappointment," manager Lou Piniella said.

After breaking the AL record of 114 victories set by the 1998 Yankees and tying the 1906 Chicago Cubs' major league mark of 116 wins, the Mariners lost to the Yankees in five games.

Or one less than it took the Yankees to beat the Mariners in the 2000 AL championship series.

The Mariners took six of nine games from the Yankees during the regular season, including five of six at Yankee Stadium. In the ALCS, the Yankees were the much better team, though. Even their bullpen was better, and the bullpen was the Mariners' strength this season.

The Yankees stunned the Mariners and relief pitchers Sunday during Game 4 in New York. Ahead 1-0 after Bret Boone's home run in the top of the eighth, the Mariners were five outs from tying the series at two games all.

All downhill

But Bernie Williams hit a homer off Arthur Rhodes with one out in the bottom of the inning to tie the score and Alfonso Soriano followed that with a two-run homer with one out off closer Kazuhiro Sasaki in the ninth.

The Mariners' season might as well have been over right then. The Yankees wrapped up the series with a 12-3 win over Aaron Sele on Monday night.

"We knew coming in here we had to hit their starting pitching," Piniella said.

Although the Mariners led the league with a .288 batting average and scored a major league-high 927 runs this season, they couldn't do much against Yankees starters Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens, and closer Mariano Rivera. Pettitte beat the Mariners twice and was the ALCS MVP, after losing twice to Seattle during the regular season.

The Mariners didn't hit much in winning their AL division series from Cleveland in five games. They hit even less against the Yankees.

In the ALCS, the Mariners hit .211 (36-for-171).

Designated hitter Edgar Martinez, their cleanup hitter, was 3-for-20 (.150); Mark McLemore was 2-for-14 (.143); Mike Cameron was 3-for-17 (.176); and John Olerud was 4-for-19 (.211). Even Ichiro Suzuki, who hit .600 in the Cleveland series, couldn't figure out the Yankees' pitching, hitting .222 (4-for-18).

"We didn't really hit in this series," Piniella said. "We didn't pitch that badly. We just didn't swing the bats all that well and that was really the key."

There will be a lot of changes in Seattle during the offseason. The Mariners have nine players eligible to become free agents, including 15-game winner Aaron Sele, and second baseman Bret Boone, who led the Mariners with 37 homers and the AL with 141 RBIs.

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