- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

SEATTLE When the New York Yankees are playing their kind of baseball, the kind that has resulted in three straight (and four of the last five) World Series titles, they don't need a brilliant performance from their starting pitcher, they don't need to explode for seven or eight runs, and they don't need to pound their opponents into submission.

They just need to get to the seventh inning with a lead. Ramiro Mendoza and Mariano Rivera will take care of the rest.

That formula worked to perfection yet again last night in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. Mike Mussina gave manager Joe Torre six strong innings on the mound, Scott Brosius and teammates provided an early three-run cushion and the aforementioned bullpen mates shut the door on the Seattle Mariners.

The result? Another workmanlike, 3-2 victory that gave the Yankees a 2-0 series lead heading back east and left the Mariners two losses from an unceremonious conclusion to their sparkling season.

The Yankees marched into Safeco Field this week on an emotional high from their Division Series comeback against Oakland. They left town brimming with confidence and hoping to close out the series in the Bronx, negating any reason to fly back to the Pacific Northwest.

As has been the case so many times in the last six years, New York got here by relying on its rock-solid bullpen. On a night in which Mussina wasn't spectacular, allowing two runs in six innings and dodging a few bullets, Torre's relief corps did its job.

The veteran manager didn't even need vaunted left-hander Mike Stanton, who is usually sandwiched between Mendoza in the seventh and Rivera in the ninth. Instead, Torre got 11/3 innings from Mendoza and 12/3 from the best closer in the game.

Torre's biggest gamble was the decision to intentionally walk rookie extraordinaire Ichiro Suzuki (and potentially the winning run) with two out and a man on second in the seventh. Not wanting to deal with the hands-down American League Rookie of the Year batting .519 in the postseason Torre instructed Mendoza to issue four straight balls to Ichiro, bringing the less-dangerous Mark McLemore to the plate.

McLemore worked the count full against Mendoza, but with the runners breaking on the 3-2 pitch, grounded out to first to end the inning.

Never one to save his closer for the ninth inning, Torre summoned Rivera with one out in the eighth, and the right-hander responded by getting John Olerud to ground out and Mike Cameron to strike out.

Rivera (who has an 0.76 ERA and 23 saves in 46 career playoff games) closed out the ninth, and the game, in much easier fashion. Stan Javier, Dan Wilson and David Bell went down in order, and the Yankees had their two-game series lead.

Mussina held the Mariners scoreless for three innings last night, but the ex-Oriole ace clearly wasn't in command like he was during his shutout of the Oakland A's in the Division Series. At least one Seattle batter reached base in each of the first four innings, and seemingly everyone in the lineup managed to put the ball in play. After recording the first two outs of the second inning on four pitches, Mussina needed 25 to get through the next three batters, finally striking out David Bell with a 3-2 curveball.

Seattle starter Freddy Garcia, who has a history of early-inning blowups, struggled as well, giving up a single to Tino Martinez and walking Jorge Posada to lead off the Yankees' second. Two batters later, Scott Brosius (in a 1-for-20 slump during the postseason) laced a double down the left-field line that was misplayed in the corner by Stan Javier, allowing both runners to score and put New York up 2-0.

Garcia was on his way to getting out of the inning when Chuck Knoblauch tapped a sinking liner to shallow center field that Mike Cameron had a bead on. Cameron reached down and made what at first looked like a shoestring catch, but got no immediate call from an umpire. Crew chief Ed Montague, manning the right-field line, finally ruled Cameron's catch a trap, and Brosius raced around from second to score standing up.

Replays confirmed that Montague, who had to run about 100 feet from his position, made the correct call.

Up by three runs against a Seattle team that has struggled to score runs in the playoffs, the Yankees figured to be sitting comfortably. Cameron and Javier took care of that, though, in the bottom of the fourth.

With one out, Cameron was hit by a pitch. Two pitches later, Javier drilled a waist-high fastball from Mussina over the center field fence for a two-run homer that brought the Mariners within a run and brought the Safeco crowd of 47,791 back to life.

Mussina, however, didn't wilt under the added pressure. Following the Javier home run, he proceeded to retire the next eight batters he faced before Torre pulled him after the sixth having thrown 103 pitches.

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