Mariners alive thanks to ARod

Rodriguez's RBI single ignites Seattle bats, spells doom for Yankees

Posted: Monday, October 16, 2000

SEATTLE -- Alex Rodriguez didn't want it to end. Not his career with Seattle. Not this AL championship series with the Yankees.

With the Mariners facing elimination, Rodriguez brought his team back to life, reviving Seattle with a go-ahead, two-run single off Jeff Nelson in the fifth inning.

Edgar Martinez and John Olerud followed with consecutive homers that carried Seattle over New York 6-2 on Sunday, pulling the Mariners to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.

''We just want to get it to Game 7 and extend it, somehow, some way, and make it a little difficult on these New Yorkers,'' Rodriguez said.

He is eligible for free agency after the World Series and likely to become the sport's highest-paid player. He also helped Seattle with a sparkling stop of Luis Sojo's grounder in the sixth.

''You don't want any team celebrating on your field if, indeed, it is going to be your last game,'' said the 25-year-old shortstop said. ''I think last night, for the first time, it hit me. I had a hard time sleeping a little bit, because, you know, you might be facing the end, and you don't know really what the future holds for me. ... This could be, maybe, it.''

Seattle is stressed Rodriguez might get $200 million to sign with a team in New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta. After he extended his season, the four-time All-Star sounded conflicted.

''You become a bit apprehensive about the possibilities,'' he said. ''And my mom has always told me, 'Sometimes, it's not greener on the other side.'''

The Yankees, trying to fulfill the AL half of what would be the first Subway Series since 1956, returned to New York with their top two playoff pitchers ready: Orlando Hernandez faces John Halama in Game 6 Tuesday night, with Andy Pettitte in reserve if there is a seventh game the following day.

''I sure like our chances, basically because we have two of our best going,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ''Hopefully, only one is enough.''

Rodriguez understood that he might have pushed off the end only by one game. Hernandez is 7-0 with a 1.22 ERA in postseason play.

So how will Rodriguez prepare?

''Pray a lot, for one,'' he said.

The Mariners' mission is similar to their first-round upset of the Yankees in 1995, when they lost twice in New York, then took three straight at the Kingdome to win he best-of-five series. This time, they must win the final two in Yankee Stadium.

''All of the pressure is on them,'' Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. ''They are supposed to win and they are going home. The onus is on them.''

Playing against the two-time defending champions, Seattle feels like the little guy trying for an upset.

''We're in a no-lose situation,'' Olerud said. ''Down 3-1 against this ballclub, I don think there's a whole lot of people that would give us a chance to be able to come back.''

Freddy Garcia beat New York for the second time in six days, allowing seven hits in five innings. The Yankees, 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position in the opener, were just 2-for-15 Sunday with runners on second or third and stranded an ALCS record 15 in all.

''We had our chances and didn't get the job done. They had their chances to and got the hits,'' said Paul O'Neill, taken out for a pinch hitter for the second time in five games.

Safeco Field was nearly silent after Sojo's two-run double gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the fourth.

Seattle, which scored five runs in the first four games of the series, got five runs in the fifth alone, the inning ignited by Mark McLemore's 40-foot bunt single up the third-base line.

And the Mariners didn't even take batting practice.

''We just got loose and played the game. We've had good results with that,'' Piniella said. ''Sometimes, it's a more relaxing thing.''

Denny Neagle, who lost to Garcia in the opener, then issued his fourth walk of the game, to Rickey Henderson.

Fans stood, cheering, and a train whistle sounded loudly from beyond right field.

Mike Cameron sacrificed and Torre brought in Nelson to face Rodriguez, deciding not to walk him and pitch to Martinez.

''It's depending on how you want to burn your hand,'' Torre said. ''Do you want to use dry ice or do you want to use fire?''

ARod lined Nelson's first pitch into left field.

''That was the big hit that we've been looking for this whole series,'' Olerud said.

Martinez, who hit a come-from-behind grand slam off Nelson on Aug. 29 but struck out against him Friday, followed by driving a 2-0 pitch about 10 rows deep into the center-field bleachers.

Olerud, robbed of a home run an inning earlier when Bernie Williams pulled a ball back over the center-field fence, then sent an 0-1 pitch into the right-field seats.

Nelson had allowed two homers in 69 2-3 innings during the regular season. Now he had allowed two in six pitches.

''It happened quick,'' Nelson said. ''I didn't make good pitches.''

Entering the inning, Seattle was batting just .180 in the series. The Mariners then started the fifth by going 5-for-5, mirroring the Yankees' performance in Game 2, when they trailed 1-0 in the eighth inning, then went 8-for-8 and scored seven runs.

New York loaded the bases in seventh before Arthur Rhodes struck out Jorge Posada and threw a called third strike past Glenallen Hill. O'Neill had been walking to the batter's box when Torre decided to hit for him. Hill also took a third strike from Rhodes in Game 1 when he was the potential tying run.

Olerud ended Seattle's 14-inning scoreless streak with a sacrifice fly in the first after Neagle walked the bases loaded -- giving the Mariners as many runners as they had against Roger Clemens on Saturday night.

After Sojo's double, which made him 4-for-4 against Garcia in the playoffs, Garcia retired Scott Brosius, Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter, keeping it 2-1.

''Now,'' Martinez said, ''we have a little momentum.''

Notes: The game took 4 hours, 14 minutes, an ALCS record, one minute more than the Orioles and Yankees needed for Game 2 in 1996. ... Olerud swiped his first base of the season. ... Mariners 3B David Bell threw out Knoblauch from a sitting position in the sixth.

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