|SEATTLE--When asked what they remember about playing in their first post-season game, many of the Mariners said it was like several Opening Days rolled into one. Butterflies are in the pit of stomachs and nerves have a tendency to be lively.
There is the excitement of a "new" season, but at the same time, they know it can end in only a few days.
Every playoff game means more than any game they probably played during the regular season.
In the best-of-five Division Series, three losses mean elimination, and in the best-of-seven Championship Series and World Series, four losses mean you are finished.
Like just about anything else, familiarity means a lot in the MLB playoffs.
"It's nice to have some experience," outfielder Jay Buhner said. "Like anything else, when you have been in a certain situation, you build up confidence, the skin get a little thicker and you know to react. The postseason can be overwhelming if you are not prepared for it."
The Mariners begin the 2001 playoffs Tuesday night with plenty of playoff experience.
Of the 15 position players on the team, only catcher Tom Lampkin, rookie shortstop Ramon Vazquez and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki lack MLB playoff experience. Ichiro, however, played post-season games in Japan, so is well aware of the higher intensity. Among the 10 pitchers Manager Lou Piniella will carry, right-hander Joel Pineiro is the only one who hasn't pitched in a post-season game.
Among the Mariners, right-handed reliever Jeff Nelson has the most experience - 16 Division Series games, 13 Championship Series games and 13 World Series games. He participated in the 1995 Division Series and Championship Series for the Mariners, was traded to the Yankees and has been in the post-season every year since.
"There is something to say about experience, no question about it," Mariners Manager Lou Piniella said. "We (Yankees) played the Reds in '76 and they just overpowered (us). I think experience probably had something to do with it, but Cincinnati was decidedly better than what we were. Then, in '78, our experience won it for us. It takes a year to get to the point where you have confidence in what you are capable of doing and you just go out and do it."
Each of the four American League teams in the playoffs this season have postseason track records. The Yankees are by far the most experienced while the Wild Card Athletics are the neophytes. The Mariners have a slight overall edge on the Indians, although the AL Central champs have more World Series games under their collective belts.
"Experience always is important," said outfielder Stan Javier, who has played in three Division Series, three Championship Series and two World Series. "You know the game is still the same, but the intensity is higher. You have to try to approach it the same way as (a regular season game) but concentrate more. Just because it's the playoffs you should automatically be more focused. But experience makes you relax a little more and that allows you to play better."
Javier has fond memories of his first postseason game.
"I was playing for Oakland in 1988, we played Boston and I went 2-for-4 with two RBIs," he said. "I don't remember being nervous, but I know I was excited."
But that was nothing compared to playing in the World Series that season or the following season.
Looking back to 1995, when the Mariners first played in the post-season, that team was on such an emotional high after overcoming the Angels to win a one-game playoff, that the adrenaline was still flowing freely throughout the Division Series against the Yankees.
"We were still on a high and eating it up," Javier said. "Maybe we were naive and didn't know the difference, but we had nothing to lose. I don't think the lack of post-season experience hurt us that year, but it probably did in '97 (when they lost in four games to the Orioles in the Division Series).
"I don't think experience is overrated at all. You need some kind of experience to know what to expect and how to prepare yourself."
Jim Street covers the Mariners for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com.