|10/22/2001 06:30 PM ET
|Mariners look to escape from Bronx
|By Carrie Muskat
NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees are on the verge of becoming the first team ever to win four consecutive League Championship Series. The Seattle Mariners are on the brink of losing their mojo.
The Yankees can win their 38th pennant with a win Monday in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Mariners.
After romping through the regular season with 116 wins, the Mariners again face a must-win situation. They avoided being eliminated in the Division Series against Cleveland. The M's say they can do it again.
"We've done it all year," Seattle's Bret Boone said. "We've won every must-win game we've had this year. It's time to do it again."
New York took a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series with a 3-1 victory Sunday as rookie Alfonso Soriano added to the Yankees mystique. After Boone hit his second homer of the series in the eighth to go ahead 1-0 and send the folks in Seattle with tickets to Game 6 into a frenzy, Bernie Williams tied the game in the Yankees half of the inning with an opposite-field blast.
That set up Soriano's magical moment. The rookie, who hit 18 home runs on the season, lifted a two-run shot with one out in the ninth off M's closer Kazuhiro Sasaki. The Mariners don't normally blow leads. They were 97-4 when leading after the seventh inning during their dominant regular season.
Those 116 wins seem a long time ago.
Seattle will send Aaron Sele (0-2, 5.63 ERA) against opening-game winner Andy Pettitte (1-1, 1.26 ERA) in Game 5. Sele has been in the postseason in 1998 and '99 with the Texas Rangers and last year with Seattle. All three times, his team has been eliminated by the Yankees. All three times, New York has gone on to win the World Series.
Think there's a trend?
The right-hander also has yet to win any of his six postseason starts. In his career, he is 0-4 with a 5.48 ERA in postseason starts against New York.
"The other times I've faced them, other than this year, they went on to win a World Series, so it's a pretty good team you're playing," Sele said.
The Mariners did consider going with right-hander Freddy Garcia on three days' rest but instead will keep everyone in line. If the M's force the series back to SAFECO Field for Games 6 and 7, as Manager Lou Piniella said they would, they'd have Garcia and Jamie Moyer ready.
"I thought (Sele) pitched well in Game 1 of this series," Piniella said. "Aaron is experienced. He knows what he's going to do. He's not going to get rattled out there. He's going to give us a good, professional effort and that's all we can expect."
The Yankees are pros at this postseason stuff.
This is the 10th time in ALCS history that a team has led 3-1. Of those, six teams have advanced to the World Series. And the Yankees are 10-0 when leading 3-1 in a seven-game postseason series.
"This was a big game," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said after Sunday's win before a packed, raucous crowd of 56,375, "but whether it was a sloppy game or we won by a big score or we won the way we did, it still puts us up 3-1 right now and we have confidence going into (Monday)."
No team in either league has won four straight League Championship Series in four consecutive years. New York is seeking to accomplish that feat and win its sixth straight ALCS overall dating back to 1981.
And the folks down at Ground Zero can't wait to cheer them on.
Soriano's homer was the sixth game-ending home run in ALCS history and fourth by the Yankees. Williams has two, one in 1999 off Boston's Rod Beck in Game 1 and another in '96 off Baltimore's Randy Myers in Game 1. The other, by Chris Chambliss in 1976, gave New York the pennant in the first of several ALCS matchups with the Kansas City Royals.
"I was thinking that this was a big moment," Soriano said.
Williams also was aware of the moment.
"I feel a lot of pressure to do it but it's good pressure," said the center fielder, who hit 26 homers and drove in 94 runs during the regular season. "I think if you don't feel the pressure and you don't feel the adrenaline going, you won't be able to accomplish anything. I think you need a certain amount of pressure, a certain amount of like, 'Let's go and get 'em.'"
Mix veterans like Williams with young players like Soriano and the Yankees have the makings of a good formula. Finish up with Mariano Rivera, who improved to 3-0 lifetime in ALCS play, and New York is dominating. Rivera has allowed just two earned runs in 22 2/3 career innings over 15 ALCS games, and he has another motivating factor for ending the series Monday: He hates to fly.
"We don't want to fly back (to Seattle)," Rivera said.
No matter who wins Monday, both teams will have to get back on a plane. The World Series opens in the National League city and the Arizona Diamondbacks are waiting.
Piniella has spent the majority of the ALCS trying to dispel the Yankees' mystique.
"If you go out and play well enough on the field, mystique, what a manager says or doesn't say, those don't win ballgames," Piniella said. "What wins ballgames is how you play on the field. If you play well enough, your chances are pretty good."
The Mariners have one more chance Monday.
Game 5 Lineups:
|''We've won every must-win game we've had this year,'' Mariners star Bret Boone says. ''It's time to do it again.''
Ichiro Suzuki RF .455, 0 HR, 2 RBI
Mike Cameron CF .167, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Bret Boone 2B .222, 2 HR, 6 RBI
Edgar Martinez DH .250, 2 HR, 5 RBI
Jay Buhner LF .143, 1 HR, 1 RBI
John Olerud 1B .182, 1 HR, 4 RBI
Dan Wilson C .208, 0 HR, 0 RBI
David Bell 3B .233, 1 HR, 4 RBI
Aaron Sele (0-2, 5.63 ERA)
New York Yankees
Chuck Knoblauch LF .306, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Derek Jeter SS .313, 0 HR, 1 RBI
David Justice DH .192, 1HR, 3 RBI
Bernie Williams CF .226, 2 HR, 8 RBI
Tino Martinez 1B .152, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Jorge Posada C .321, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Paul O'Neill RF .200, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Scott Brosius 3B .103, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Alfonso Soriano 2B .290, 1 HR, 5 RBI
Andy Pettitte P (1-1, 1.26 ERA)
Carrie Muskat is a regional writer for MLB.com.