Indians one game from ousting Mariners

Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2001

CLEVELAND -- Nobody has had their way with the Seattle Mariners this season quite like the Cleveland Indians.

First, there was The Comeback. Now, it's The Blowout.

Rookie C.C. Sabathia handled postseason pressure like a veteran and Omar Vizquel had six RBIs as Cleveland clobbered Seattle 17-2 in Game 3 of the AL playoffs on Saturday, moving the Indians one win from the AL championship series -- and of ending the Mariners' magical season.

''We don't want to fly back to Seattle for Game 5,'' Vizquel said. ''After a game like this it's going to be hard for them to concentrate.''

Juan Gonzalez, Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome homered for the Indians, who led 8-1 after three innings and never stopped pouring it on, finishing with 19 hits and stunning the Mariners for the second time this season.

On Aug. 5, Seattle led 12-0 in the third inning and 14-2 in the seventh before the Indians rallied to win 15-14 in 11 innings, matching baseball's biggest comeback in 76 years.

Now the Mariners will have to make their own comeback.

''We got crushed,'' outfielder Mike Cameron said. ''It was embarrassing.''

Cleveland's Bartolo Colon, who shut out Seattle for eight innings in Game 1, will get a chance close out the Mariners on Sunday in Game 4 (1:12 EDT). Freddy Garcia, who lost the opener, will have to try and save Seattle's season.

''Tomorrow's a big game for us,'' Garcia understated.

The Mariners entered the series as huge favorites after winning an AL record 116 games this season. But unless they can win Sunday, they'll be remembered more for their postseason failure than any victories.

They can't play much worse than this.

Seattle, which became the first team since the 1954 Indians to lead the league in batting average, ERA and fielding, did none of the three very well. The Mariners made three errors, got seven hits and left the Jake shaken.

''It just steamrolled and avalanched right over us,'' said pitcher Paul Abbott. We haven't lost like that all year.''

But they aren't the Mariners for nothing, and the Indians know that the team which lost just 46 times during the regular season will be tough to put away.

''We've still got one more game to win,'' Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. ''Do we want to end it? You bet your butt we do. Hopefully, we'll hit like that tomorrow.''

After splitting two games in Seattle, the Indians looked like a different club back home, setting team postseason records for runs and hits. They knocked out Aaron Sele in just two innings, led 8-1 after three, scored five runs in the eighth and had 45,069 towel-waving fans on their feet for much of the game.

Vizquel had four hits and set an Indians' postseason record for RBIs. Cleveland's 1-through-4 hitters, who came in a batting a collective .147 (5-for-34) in the series, were 6-for-9 in the first three innings with six RBIs.

The four -- Lofton, Vizquel, Roberto Alomar and Gonzalez -- finished 11-for-18 with 13 RBIs.

''We've been in the playoffs and World Series,'' said Vizquel, trying to make up for a subpar regular season. ''We know what it takes to win.''

The 15-run margin of victory tied for the second largest in playoff history since the format changed in 1969 behind Boston's 23-7 win over Cleveland in Game 4 of the '99 playoffs.

The 21-year-old Sabathia, who went 17-5 this year as the league's best rookie not named Ichiro Suzuki, didn't face Seattle this season and spent the past few days reviewing film and reading scouting reports on the Mariners.

With his mother, Margie, nervously watching from the stands, Sabathia settled down after a shaky first inning. He allowed two runs and six hits in six-plus innings, walked five and struck out five -- three coming against Bret Boone, the AL's RBI champion.

''You sure can't tell he's a 21-year-old kid,'' Thome said. ''He doesn't act his age. He's been special for us all season.''

On Friday, Sabathia said his mom was more nervous than he was, but that he expected some ''jitters'' when he took the mound.

''It was a totally different feeling,'' Sabathia said. ''I was excited. I was nervous all in one.''

Asked to describe the feeling, Sabathia said. ''The closest thing is when I was a little kid and my mom would take me to Toys 'R' Us when you can pick out anything you want. I was like a little kid in a candy store. It was awesome.''

Before the game, Manuel worried Sabathia handling his emotions in the first, and Manuel had more to fret when the Mariners loaded the bases.

Suzuki singled -- his fifth hit of the series -- and Mike Cameron doubled before Sabathia struck out Boone. Not wanting to take any chances, Manuel had Edgar Martinez walked intentionally to face the left-handed John Olerud.

But Sabathia missed low and away with a 3-2 pitch, forcing in a run before calmly getting Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson on foul pops.

''He did not look real nervous,'' Olerud said of Sabathia. ''We got a quick run and had the bases loaded. He's in a jam but he made good pitches to get out of it.''

The Indians had Seattle's bullpen busy in the first as they took a 2-1 lead off Sele, who lasted just two innings and is now 0-4 in five career postseason starts.

Vizquel singled with one out, and Alomar followed with an RBI double and went to third on Suzuki's throwing error. Gonzalez then dumped a broken-bat single into right.

Boone's throwing error helped the Indians score twice more in the second. He made a nice spinning stop Travis Fryman's grounder but his throw to first was off the bag.

Einar Diaz singled with one out, and one later, Vizquel tripled into the right-field corner scoring two to make it 4-1 and Sele didn't get a chance to leave the dugout again.

Abbott, 5-0 in his career vs. Cleveland, didn't fare any better. The Indians scored four times in the third, ignited by Gonzalez's seventh career postseason homer.



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