NEW YORK -- Sooner or later, the Yankees kept saying to themselves, their scoreless streak had to end.
This wasn't any old team, this was the two-time World Series champions, the franchise of the century.
And they couldn't even manage a run.
Bernie Williams finally ended the slump with an RBI single, and it sparked a seven-run eighth inning as New York rallied past the Seattle Mariners 7-1 on Wednesday to tie the AL championship series at one game apiece.
''Down 2-0 going into Seattle would've been devastating,'' Chuck Knoblauch said. ''And right now, we're riding a high.''
Orlando Hernandez was brilliant, as usual, this time pitching on his birthday. He allowed one run and six hits in eight innings on an afternoon of brilliant sunshine, improving to 7-0 with a 1.22 ERA in postseason play.
But as twilight turned to dusk, it seemed like the Yankees' hopes for a third straight World Series title were fading away.
''We know we're better,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ''I think that's what frustrates everybody.''
After Williams singled in the tying run off Arthur Rhodes, stopping the Yankees' scoreless streak at 21 innings, weeks of pent up offense poured out of their bats: singles, doubles and even a home run.
When it was done 41 minutes after it began, New York had a seven-run, eight-hit inning.
The pressure lifted off Yankee Stadium like a weather front. Players, fans and even team executives exhaled.
''I just sense we relieved a lot of pressure today,'' Torre said. 'We understand there's pressure involved. As I say, we were very uptight.''
The series resumes Friday at Safeco Field, with Andy Pettitte pitching for New York against Aaron Sele. Seattle was six Yankees outs from going home with a 2-0 lead.
''We didn't make very good pitches and they swung the bats,'' Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. ''We accomplished what we wanted here, we split with them in New York, and now we go to our home ballpark. It's a shame, because we had seven good innings of baseball, and in the eighth they exploded on us.''
Seattle went ahead in the third when Mike Cameron walked with two outs, stole second and came home on Stan Javier's single. That was all the Mariners managed off El Duque, who says he turned 31 but whose birth certificate shows he's 35.
''He threw the best game I ever caught today,'' said Jorge Posada, who also was behind the plate for David Wells' perfect game two years ago.
But New York's offense was sputtering. The Yankees were 12-for-58 (.207) against the Mariners in the first 16 innings of the series, 53-for-226 (.236) in the postseason.
Yankees batters were like pressure cookers, Paul O'Neill, dropped to seventh in the batting order for the first time since April 1997, had to be pulled away from first-base umpire Wally Bell after being called out in the sixth inning, throwing his helmet with more force than he's hit the ball in six weeks.
''There's nothing worse than struggling and they're booing you,'' O'Neill said.
Justice jumped in disbelief when umpires rules he didn't check his swing on a 1-1 pitch leading off the eighth.
''Guys are jumping up and spinning around,'' Torre said. ''We don't normally react like that. I think a lot of it was the tension of the situation., and the thought of going on the road 0-2.''
And then it happened.
The Yankees went 8-for-8 to start the inning, the crowd of 55,317 rocking Yankee Stadium with every hit. The eight were an ALCS record and the most in an inning for the Yankees since June 29 at Detroit.
Seattle's bullpen, which had pitched 15 scoreless innings in the postseason when Rhodes took the mound at the start of the inning, got blown apart, wasting six shutout innings by starter John Halama, a kid from Brooklyn who left 14 tickets for family and friends.
After the controversial call, Justice took a ball, then sent a drive to left-center that hit a foot from the top of the wall.
At that point, the Yankees were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-13 in the series. The 21-inning scoreless streak had tied the team postseason record, set against the New York Giants in the 1921 and 1922 World Series.
Up came Williams, who with the bases loaded and no outs in the first hit the ball 6 inches in front of the plate, with catcher Dan Wilson turning it into a 2-3 double play.
Williams fouled off a 3-1 pitch, then fouled off two more, just hanging on. Finally, he slapped a single to center off Rhodes that drove in Justice.
''I was struggling through the whole game,'' Williams said. ''This guy was throwing it 94, 95 miles an hour. There was no way I could be thinking too much in that at-bat.''
Tino Martinez followed with a sinking liner to left that bounced off the glove of a diving Al Martin for a single that allowed Williams to take second.
Posada then hit a smash that rolled off the glove of a diving Mark McLemore in the hole between first and second, bounding into left field as Williams scored. It was the first time in 15 games since Sept. 23 at Detroit that four straight Yankees got hits.
O'Neill's sacrifice fly made it 3-1, and Jose Mesa came in and allowed a single to Luis Sojo, putting runners on first and third.
Posada was thrown out at third, apparently as Jose Vizcaino missed a bunt sign, but Vizcaino then doubled in Sojo and Knoblauch singled home Vizcaino for a 5-1 lead.
Derek Jeter followed with a two-run homer into the right-field seats, just the second homer for the Yankees in their last 88 innings -- a streak dating back to the regular season.
Mariano Rivera got the final three outs, and the Yankees headed West, feeling a little reborn.
''If we played the way we played yesterday and today,'' Posada said, ''we're going to be all right.''
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