|Mariners 2, Indians 1 -- August 3 at Jacobs Field
More than half the regular season and the All-Star Game already had been played before the Mariners and Indians faced each other for the first time this season.
The four-game series was billed as a potential playoff preview as both teams led their respective divisions.
Two contrasting pitching styles had similar results in the series opener at Jacobs Field when hard-throwing Bartolo Colon of the Indians and soft-tossing Jamie Moyer of the Mariners hooked up in a dandy duel that got a possible playoff preview series off to an exciting start.
Finesse beat power.
Moyer allowed just two hits and no runs in the seven innings he pitched. Colon also was brilliant before finally buckling a tiny bit in the top of the eighth inning, surrendering a run-producing sacrifice fly to Mark McLemore and decisive run-scoring single to John Olerud, as the Mariners escaped with a 2-1 victory in the opener of a four-game series before 42,580.
Going into the first game of a four-game series, Seattle relievers Arthur Rhodes, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Jeff Nelson had not allowed a run in their last 38 combined outings, covering 39 innings. But that streak ended in the eighth inning when Nelson was charged with a run before Rhodes came in to put out a fire before it got out of control.
The Mariners' breakthrough eighth inning started with Bell's leadoff single. Catcher Tom Lampkin bunted David Bell to second and Ichiro Suzuki bunted for a single, moving Bell to third. McLemore put Seattle ahead with a sacrifice fly, Edgar Martinez walked and Olerud followed with his clutch RBI single to right field.
Seattle 000 000 020 - 2 4 0
Cleveland 000 000 010 - 1 3 1
WP - Moyer (12-5). LP - Colon (10-8). S - Sasaki (35).
Mariners 8, Indians 5 -- August 4, at Jacobs Field
The Mariners reached another milestone in the second game of the series, getting there by playing a game of pick-me-up. When one Mariner didn't get the job done, another did.
It happened twice in the final three innings at Jacobs Field as the Mariners beat the Indians and climbed to 50 games over .500 for the first time during this remarkable season. They are 80-30 and the fifth team in MLB history to win at least 80 games before losing 31.
Once again, the team concept became crucial to the win.
With the game tied 3-3 in the top of the seventh, the Mariners put two on with none out. Third baseman David Bell, usually a reliable bunter, failed to move Carlos Guillen to third base and Mike Cameron to second with a sacrifice bunt, popping to third instead.
But catcher Dan Wilson came to bat and promptly belted a three-run homer off Indians reliever Danys Baez, putting Seattle ahead to stay. Wilson's seventh homer of the season ended a stretch of 226 consecutive Mariners at-bats without a home run. They also had been 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position in the second game of the four-game series.
Second baseman Bret Boone tagged his career-best 25th home run in the eighth inning, boosting the Mariners' lead to a seemingly safe five runs. The Indians scored a run in the bottom of the inning on Travis Fryman's home run off Jose Paniagua.
2B - Alomar.
Seattle 000 300 320 - 8 14 0
Cleveland 002 001 011 - 5 13 1
WP - Garcia (13-3). LP - Baez (2-1). S - Rhodes (3).
Indians 15, Mariners 14 -- August 4, at Jacobs Field
Almost everything the Mariners had done this season up to this point compared to some of the best teams in MLB history. All of those two-out runs, those come-from-behind wins and a bullpen that rarely surrendered a lead. Then came the third game of the series, played on a Sunday night at Jacobs Field before a national television audience on ESPN.
When the Mariners carried a 14-2 lead into the seventh inning against the Indians, you could bet just about anything you own that the Mariners would coast to their fifth straight win and 81st of an improbable season.
Instead, there was an even more improbable ending and a 15-14 loss. It was a once-in-a-lifetime finish.
For only the third time in AL history -- and the first time since 1925 -- a team blew a 12-run lead and lost.
The fact it was the Mariners blowing that lead made it more astonishing. The best team in baseball this season took one on the chin as the Indians pulled off the mother of all comebacks -- scoring three runs in the seventh inning, four in the eighth and five in the ninth to pull even.
Putting the seventh, eighth and ninth innings in perspective, prior to that game the Mariners bullpen had allowed just seven runs since the All-Star Game -- 22 games. They surrendered eight runs in those three innings.
"You never know about baseball, that's for damn sure," Manager Lou Piniella said. "It looked pretty secure there. Look, give them credit. They scored a whole bunch of runs in those last innings. It's almost impossible to do, but they did it. What the hell can I say."
2B - Ichiro; Burks (2), Alomar (2), Einar. HR - Wilson (7), Boone (25); Fryman (2).
Seattle 048 020 000 00 - 14 18 0
Cleveland 000 200 345 01 - 15 20 0
WP - Rocker (3-4). LP - Paniagua (3-3).
Mariners 8, Indians 6 -- August 5, at Jacobs Field
One night after the colossal collapse put them in the Major League record book, the Mariners tested their mettle, nerves and bullpen again against the Indians at Jacobs Field. Seattle didn't blow another 12-run lead -- or even a four-run lead.
Just half of a four-run lead.
With the potential tying runs on base in the bottom of the ninth, Mariners reliever Jose Paniagua retired Juan Gonzalez on a fly ball to right-center field, sealing Seattle's victory before 42,058 -- many of them hoping for another miracle finish.
Apparently undaunted by what happened to them Sunday night, when they saw a 14-2 lead in the seventh inning become a 15-14 loss in the 11th inning, the Mariners gave the Indians nine chances to come from behind in the series finale.
The last chance came in the ninth when pinch-hitter Wil Cordero and Omar Vizquel hit back-to-back singles off Norm Charlton with one out. As the crowd noise increased, Charlton struck out Robby Alomar. Then, he handed the game over to Paniagua.
In most cases, Manager Lou Piniella would have started the ninth with closer Kazuhiro Sasaki, but with the right-hander working three of the previous four games, he was given the night off -- come hell, high water or a late-inning threat.
Kaz wasn't needed after all.
Gonzalez ended the game before Jim Thome could take another swing. The AL home run leader was due up after Gonzo and had already hit his 37th home run of the season, his third in two games. He went back to the dugout, carrying his bat.
"One thing for sure: You have to score runs when you play Cleveland," Piniella said.
Said second baseman Bret Boone, who hit a two-run homer in the fourth, "When they beat us last night, that was unbelievable. It would've been real easy to come out and get our butts kicked, but I knew we wouldn't do that. When you can comeback from that you can do anything."
2B - Martin, Cameron, Lampkin; Vizquel. 3B - Vizquel. HR - Thome 2, (36), Branyan (15), Cordova (13).
Seattle 212 120 000 - 8 13 0
Cleveland 110 020 200 - 6 9 4
WP - Abbott (12-2). LP - Nagy (4-5). S - Paniagua (3).
Mariners 4, Indians 1 -- August 24, at SAFECO Field
There wasn't any mystery about the challenge that Jamie Moyer faced in the opener of a three-game series at SAFECO Field.
The Mariners left-hander knew he had to be good. Anything less would not be good enough because of the pitcher who shared the mound with him -- Indians right-hander Bartolo Colon.
"I have faced him a number of times in the last couple of years," Moyer said. "He is pretty stingy with the runs, so I feel like I have to be at my best to be able to give him a headache and not allow them any runs, or a few runs, because you know rarely does he give up a lot of runs."
Moyer held the Indians to three hits and one run over seven innings and reliever Norm Charlton pitched two perfect innings of relief as the Mariners handed the Indians a loss in the opener of a three-game series matching American League division leaders.
An offense keyed by three Ichiro Suzuki singles, a two-run double by Edgar Martinez and Bret Boone's 29th home run of the season paved the way before 45,767. The Mariners' fourth straight win, coupled with the Athletics' fourth straight loss, reduced Seattle's magic number to 14.
Moyer was good before the All-Star break, posting a 9-4 record, but he has been a lot better since the mythical midway point, going 6-1. In the series opener, he pitched at least seven innings for the fourth straight start, surrendering two or fewer runs for the seventh time in his eight starts.
During that stretch, the veteran left-hander has walked nine, struck out 30 and reduced his ERA from 4.64 on July 13 to 3.67. And with 15 wins, Moyer is just two shy of his career high, set in 1997 when he went 17-5 and helped pitch the Mariners to their second AL West championship.
2B - Ichiro, Cameron, Bell; Lofton, Vizquel, 2. HR - Boone (26); Cordova (14), Thome (37).
Cleveland 000 001 000 -- 1 3 0
Seattle 002 000 11x -- 4 9 0
WP - Moyer (15-5). LP - Colon (10-10). S - Charlton (1).
Mariners 3, Indians 2 -- August 25, at SAFECO Field
Something wild or wacky seemed the most appropriate way for a game between the Mariners and Indians to end, and Cleveland reliever John Rocker provided the wildness.
His leadoff walk to John Olerud in the bottom of the 11th inning, and eventual wild throw to first base, allowed pinch-runner Al Martin to score from second base and give the Mariners the victory before 45,818 who watched some goofy things happen from the ninth inning on.
A bizarre exchange between Mariners reliever Arthur Rhodes and Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel turned a rather routine game into a verbal war over Rhodes' earrings, leading to his ejection before throwing a pitch.
As Rhodes was completing his unlimited amount of warmup tosses, Vizquel told plate umpire Ed Rapuano that he was being distracted by the sun reflecting off the earrings that Rhodes wears and asked the umpire to have them removed.
That set off an exchange of words between Rhodes and Vizquel and Rhodes' eventual ejection.
The full-count walk to Olerud got the decisive 11th inning started. After Mike Cameron fouled off a bunt attempt, Mariners Manager Lou Piniella replaced Olerud at first base with Al Martin, who is considerably faster. Cameron then hit a ball to deep shortstop and Martin beat Vizquel's throw to second.
With the crowd going nuts, David Bell layed down a bunt back to the mound. Rocker picked up the ball, looked at third, then looked at second and finally made a wild throw to first base. The ball bounced past Robbie Alomar and Martin easily scored the game-winning run.
2B - Martinez, Belle. HR - Boone (29).
Cleveland 000 110 000 00 -- 2 7 2
Seattle 000 000 110 01 -- 3 7 0
WP - Halama (9-6). LP - Rocker (3-6).
Indians 4, Mariners 3 -- August 26, at SAFECO Field
In yet another twist to EarringGate at SAFECO Field, Mariners reliever Arthur Rhodes was ordered to remove his jewelry before proceeding to the pitchers' mound in the ninth inning with the bases full of Indians and Seattle clinging to a one-run lead.
Rhodes followed umpire Tim McClelland's "take-the-earrings-out-or-you-won't-pitch" directive and proceeded to surrender a two-strike, two-run single to Kenny Lofton that gave the Indians the victory before 45,782.
And as further evidence that a Seattle-Cleveland playoff could be a dandy, the Mariners loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth against Indians closer Bob Wickman, but couldn't get the tying run home. Wickman put the finishing touches on Ichiro Suzuki's 21-game hitting streak by getting the right fielder to bounce into a pitcher-to-home force out and then retired Mark McLemore to end the game, and the Mariners' winning streak at seven games.
Mark McLemore had given the Mariners a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth with a solo homer, but right-handed reliever Jeff Nelson put three Indians on base in the top of the ninth inning, hitting one, giving up a single to another and walking the third.
2B - Javier. Olerud.
Cleveland 100 010 002 -- 4 8 0
Seattle 100 001 010 -- 3 10 1
WP - Riske (1-0). LP - Nelson (4-2). S - Wickman (24).
Jim Street covers the Mariners for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com.
2B - Vizquel; McLemore. HR - Lofton (10); McLemore (15).