- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 14, 2001

CLEVELAND The Mariners have the record. The Athletics have the momentum. The Yankees have the history.
And the Cleveland Indians are stealing the show.
The forgotten team among the four American League playoff contenders, having won its sixth Central Division title in seven years with virtually no fanfare, the Indians battered Seattle 17-2 yesterday at Jacobs Field and now find themselves one victory from an unlikely berth in the AL Championship Series.
The Indians didn't just squeak past the Mariners in Game 3. They beat the team that tied baseball's all-time regular-season victory record over the head with an oversized mallet. Repeatedly.
In the process, Cleveland took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 Division Series, and will have ace Bartolo Colon (who shut out Seattle over eight innings in Game 1) back on the mound today.
"Postseason baseball is different day to day," said Indians first baseman Jim Thome, who hit his 17th postseason homer, one shy of the record shared by Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle. "You might come out today and score 17 runs. Tomorrow you might not score any. When you do win games like this, you just want to keep it going."
It wasn't supposed to happen like this, baseball's best team pushed to the brink by a supposedly inferior club. Then again, anyone who witnessed yesterday's drubbing would have pegged the Indians as 116-game winners, not the farcical Mariners, who committed three errors, made several more shoddy plays in the field and appeared genuinely mystified by their own poor showing.
"We just didn't play good ball what can you say?" manager Lou Piniella said. "I mean, it can happen to anybody. You don't want to see it happen. I'm sure my guys don't want it to happen any more than anybody else. But listen, everybody is human."
Maybe so, but the Mariners looked superhuman during their super season. They don't typically dominate opponents with offensive outbursts or lights-out pitching. They do typically win games by doing the little things right: defense, baserunning, clutch hitting.
The exact opposite of the way they played yesterday.
"A game like this, you just say it wasn't our day today," said first baseman John Olerud, now 0-for-10 in the series. "We know we've played really well all season. We've come back from losses. I think having that type of season gives you confidence that you can come back and win the next two."
Said Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel: "They won 116 games. I followed them a lot more than you people probably think I did. They are better than that."
For one fleeting moment, Seattle had control of the game, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning. But even in jumping ahead, the Mariners underachieved, scoring their run on a bases-loaded walk and then twice fouling out to first to end the inning.
Cleveland, meanwhile, made the most of every scoring opportunity it had. And there were plenty of them.
The Indians jumped on loser Aaron Sele for two runs in the bottom half and two more in the second on Omar Vizquel's triple down the right-field line. That was as much as Piniella could stand to watch; he pulled Sele after two innings and called upon right-hander Paul Abbott, his No. 4 starter, who has been relegated to the bullpen in this series.
Abbott served a home run to Juan Gonzalez on his first pitch of the afternoon, then watched as three more runs scored on four singles and a pair of walks.
Three innings in the books. Cleveland ahead 8-1. Game over.
Not that the Indians were finished. Kenny Lofton homered in the fifth, Thome sent a blast over the right-field fence in the sixth (ensuring that all nine starters scored) and after adding two more runs, Cleveland had established a club record both for runs and hits in a postseason game. A five-run eighth inning only made it worse for the Mariners.
"Very uncharacteristic of the way we played all year," said Sele, a 15-game winner. "But a loss is a loss, a 1-run loss or a 50-run loss."
Rookie Indians starter C.C. Sabathia, making his first career postseason appearance at 21, was the beneficiary of his team's explosion. Perhaps overzealous through the first few batters, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound left-hander was told to intentionally walk cleanup hitter Edgar Martinez with two on and one out, then walked Olerud to push Seattle's first run across.
But much as he did in his first major league start a 4-3 win over the Orioles on April 8 Sabathia rebounded from a shaky start. He pitched his way out of the first-inning jam, then held the Mariners to two hits over the next five innings. It didn't hurt, of course, to be pitching with a 15-run lead.
"The closest thing I can put this to is when I was a little kid and my mom would take me to Toys 'R Us," Sabathia said. "When you get that anxious feeling going into Toys 'R Us and you can pick out anything you want that was what the feeling was like. I was like a little kid in a candy store. It was awesome."


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