- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

SEATTLE The New York Yankees have a certain look about them right now, a look all too familiar to anyone who has watched this team win four of the last five World Series. It's the look of a champion, and for the Seattle Mariners, it could spell doom.
Given up for dead less than one week ago, the resurgent Yankees systematically beat the Mariners yesterday in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, riding Andy Pettitte's effective eight-inning pitching performance and Paul O'Neill's two-run homer to a 4-2 victory at Safeco Field.
Since dropping the first two games of its Division Series to the Oakland Athletics, New York has won four straight by a combined 19-7. Perhaps more impressively, the Yankees have done so without revealing even the slightest amount of anxiety.
"We're used to winning big games," said O'Neill, whose fourth-inning homer off Seattle starter Aaron Sele accounted for the game's big blow. "It doesn't mean that you can just show up and expect these things to happen. I mean, we have got jitters and nerves, just like everybody else. But when we take the field, we've been successful with what we do because of, obviously, our great pitching, and once in a while, getting a big hit."
Playing with all the confidence of a team poised to win its fourth straight World Series, the Yankees took the Mariners and their crowd of 47,644 out of the game and left Seattle which has won 119 times this season in a seemingly must-win situation for Game 2 tonight.
"You're not going to score as many runs in the postseason, and you've got to hit good starting pitchers," said Mariners manager Lou Piniella, whose team managed just one run and three hits off Pettitte. "For us to win this series, we're going to have to hit their starting pitching."
Easier said than done. The Yankees will send right-hander Mike Mussina, their best pitcher over the last month, against 25-year-old Freddy Garcia tonight. And they've still got Orlando Hernandez and Roger Clemens for Games 3 and 4.
"In a short series, you're facing conceivably four No. 1 starters," Yankees outfielder David Justice said.
Pettitte certainly pitched like a staff ace yesterday. Making his 21st career postseason start at age 29, the left-hander didn't dominate the way Mussina did in shutting out the A's in Game 3 of the Division Series, but he was highly efficient, needing only 99 pitches to stifle the Mariners' suddenly punchless lineup.
Seattle hit only six balls out of the infield in Pettitte's eight innings and was held hitless through four. Edgar Martinez quashed the prospects of a no-hitter when he singled to right to lead off the fifth. Mike Cameron followed with a double off the left-field wall, and John Olerud drove Martinez in from third with a groundout to short.
But Pettitte responded by striking out Jay Buhner (on three pitches for the second time in the game) and Dan Wilson to end the rally. The Mariners never threatened against him again.
"Guys like Pettitte, you have to get to them early," Piniella said. "Once they settle in and get a good rhythm out there, it becomes a little more of a difficult chore."
Pettitte entered the game having won just once in his last nine starts and having been shelled by Seattle for 15 runs and 20 hits in two starts this year. But that all took place in the regular season, and Pettitte has a history of performing in October.
"He gets locked in," New York manager Joe Torre said. "I think the most impressive thing he does is that he is able to really focus and block everything out."
The same can be said of countless players on the Yankees playoff roster, such as O'Neill, a slumping veteran outfielder battling an injury to his left foot and who hit .091 in the Division Series. Limited mostly to designated hitter duties down the stretch, O'Neill convinced Torre to start him in right field for Game 4 against Oakland and again yesterday against Seattle.
He responded by going 2-for-3 and launching a two-run homer to right in the fourth that put New York up 3-0 at the time.
"In these playoff games, to score early has been so big," O'Neill said. "Obviously, when Andy is throwing the way he was, if we score some runs then we've got a good shot."
The majors' fourth-winningest pitcher since 1998 (trailing only Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine), Sele hasn't been nearly as effective in the playoffs. He allowed the first batter to reach base in five of his six innings yesterday, and by day's end saw his postseason record fall to 0-5 with a 4.73 ERA.
"In the playoffs, you are facing the best teams and the best pitchers," Sele said. "Look at what Andy did to us today he pitched great, and he's really the key to that ballgame."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide