SEATTLE -- Shut out at home. Blown out on the road. Down to their final nine outs. Twice in danger of having their record-setting, season of seasons end in failure.
The Seattle Mariners endured it all during five pressure-packed games against the Cleveland Indians.
And as they did all year, the Mariners came out winners.
Jamie Moyer tamed Cleveland's bats for six innings, Ichiro Suzuki got three more hits and Mark McLemore drove in two runs Monday as the Mariners advanced to the ALCS with a 3-1 win over the Indians in the deciding Game 5 of the playoffs.
Back home where their magic multiplies, baseball's best team during the regular season guaranteed it would be around for some more postseason fun.
The Mariners faced elimination twice and twice refused to let this season of seasons end.
''We were down 1-0, and we had to win Game 2,'' reliever Jeff Nelson said. ''We had to win Game 4, and we had to win today. It shows what kind of players we have and what kind of team we are. We tied history, but it wouldn't have looked very good if we got knocked out in the first round.''
After nearly seeing their record-tying 116 wins in the regular season overshadowed by an early October exit, the Mariners returned to the safety and screaming fans in Safeco Field and did what they've done all season.
They got solid starting pitching, clutch base hits, solid relief work and defense and improved to 119-48 since opening day.
''It's a good formula,'' Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. ''This is fun. There's no pressure.''
There was no wild celebration after third baseman David Bell threw out Juan Gonzalez at first for the final out. The Mariners know they still have a lot of work ahead.
As 47,867 stood and cheered, the players exchanged hugs and high-fives near second base before heading to a clubhouse celebration.
And now, the Mariners advance to their third ALCS -- they also appeared in '95 and '00 -- but for the first time, they'll have home-field advantage when they get there.
''We've been in this situation before,'' Edgar Martinez said. ''We've been behind. We've bounced back and won. It's amazing the way this team is able to bounce back.''
Seattle will play host to the best-of-seven series beginning Wednesday against the New York Yankees, who beat the Oakland Athletics 5-3 in their Game 5 on Monday night.
Suzuki, the speedy Japanese sensation whose legion of fans grows with every infield single, gave Cleveland headaches all series long. He went 12-for-20 (.600), scored four runs and set the table for nearly every Mariners' rally.
''That guys flys,'' said Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel. ''If he hits the ball two steps to your right or left, it's almost a sure base hit.''
The Indians managed just four hits and will have the winter to think about what might have been.
Cleveland was in command of the series following a 17-2 blowout in Game 3, but the Indians couldn't put away the Mariners, who after running away from the AL all year, showed they're not bad at comebacks, either.
''It showed what we're made of,'' Moyer said. ''The last two games have been win or go home.''
It could be a while before the Indians are back in the postseason. The AL Central champs are expected to slash payroll during the offseason, and Monday's game could be the last for center fielder Kenny Lofton, pitcher Dave Burba and Gonzalez.
GM John Hart, who built the Indians into a winner, is also stepping down and there's speculation that manager Charlie Manuel may not have his contract renewed.
''This hurts,'' said rookie pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who won 17 games during the regular season and got the victory in Game 3. ''I feel like it's all for nothing. My team didn't win and that's tough to take.''
Moyer beat the Indians for the second time in the series and fourth time this season, allowing one run and three hits in six innings.
The 38-year-old, pitching on three days' rest, walked one, struck out seven and got just enough help from plate umpire Mark Hirschbeck's low strike zone to make it tough on the Indians.
It's not like Cleveland could hit Moyer's off-speed stuff, anyway.
The Indians' 3-through-6 hitters -- Roberto Alomar, Gonzalez, Ellis Burks and Jim Thome -- went a combined 0-for-14 with six strikeouts.
''We just couldn't get to that changeup,'' Vizquel said. ''He just paints the corners.''
Relievers Jeff Nelson and Arthur Rhodes got the Mariners to the ninth and Kazuhiro Sasaki pitched a perfect final inning for his first save of the series.
Indians starter Chuck Finley, too, had his problems with Hirschbeck's strike zone, allowing two runs and three hits in 4 1-3 innings.
Leading 2-1, the Mariners loaded the bases and chased Finley in the fifth on singles by McLemore and Suzuki and a walk to Stan Javier. But rookie David Riske came in and struck out Bret Boone and got Martinez to ground into a force play.
Seattle missed another chance to extend its lead in the sixth.
But the Mariners made it 3-1 in the seventh on Martinez's RBI single off Danys Baez.
The Indians got within 2-1 in the third on Kenny Lofton's RBI single, and things looked promising with Alomar batting with the bases loaded and one out.
But Alomar, who hit into a double play to end the first, swung at Moyer's first pitch and bounced into a 5-4-3 double play. Alomar, a switch-hitter, grounded into nine double plays this season -- none from the right side, as he did against Moyer.
Finley, who fell behind 4-0 after 14 pitches in Game 2, was in trouble this time in the second, loading the bases with walks to Martinez and Olerud before hitting Mike Cameron.
Finley got two strikeouts, but McLemore, who batted .164 right-handed this season, dropped a two-run single in front of diving left fielder Marty Cordova.
''Before this series, 116 wins meant nothing,'' McLemore said. ''Now it still means nothing. We still have to go out and win.''
Notes: Moyer had a 1.50 ERA in his two series wins. ... Suzuki batted .489 (23-for-47) against the Indians this season. His 12 hits tied the division series record set by Martinez in 1995, and Suzuki's .600 average was a new five-game mark. ... Piniella said Aaron Sele will start Game 1 of the ALCS. ... Cleveland is 14-12 in division series games.
Peninsula Clarion © 2015. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us