- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2001

NEW YORK As the night wore on and zero after zero was added to the scoreboard, every one of the 56,375 who packed themselves into fabled Yankee Stadium recognized that they were witnessing one of the most thrilling games in postseason history.
The Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees were playing one for the ages last night in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, and only one question remained:
Who would be the hero?
Alfonso Soriano, welcome to Yankees lore.
The rookie second baseman belted a 1-0 pitch from Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki over the right-field fence for a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, giving New York a dramatic 3-1 victory and a commanding 3-1 series lead.
"It's something very big, to be the hero in game like this," the 23-year-old Dominican said through an interpreter. "There were a lot of people watching it, not just here in the stadium, but at home on television too. It was a very big moment for me."
Soriano, the Yankees' No. 9 hitter, came to the plate with one out, Scott Brosius standing on first base and the game tied 1-1 following eighth-inning homers by Seattle's Bret Boone and New York's Bernie Williams. Sasaki delivered a fastball over the plate, and Soriano who hit 18 homers in his first full season in the majors crushed it to right-center. Center fielder Mike Cameron tried to climb the wall to haul it in, but the ball landed well beyond his reach, causing the stadium to erupt in celebration.
They'll be back tonight hoping to celebrate a series-clinching win in Game 5 that would send the Yankees to another World Series, this time against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"This was a wonderful ballgame," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It was an emotional ballgame, especially falling behind when Bret hit the home run and with then Bernie coming back. We were even, but we felt we had the advantage because we were playing at home. That changed the momentum right there."
"We gave it everything we had," Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. "It was a great ballgame. We didn't lose, they just beat us."
Soriano was the ultimate hero, but for a brief moment, it looked like it would be Boone, the Mariners' suddenly resurgent offensive star, who homered off Ramiro Mendoza in the top of the eighth inning (his second in as many days) to give Seattle a 1-0 lead.
But before the Mariners bench had a chance to fully celebrate their hard-earned lead, Williams had answered for the Yankees, driving a solo shot over the right-field fence against left-hander Arthur Rhodes in the bottom of the eighth, tying the game heading into the ninth.
"It's good pressure," said Williams, who has made a habit of producing clutch hits in the postseason. "If you don't feel the pressure and don't feel the adrenaline going, you're not going to accomplish anything."
The pair of home runs, which came only minutes apart, were all the more surprising given the two teams' inability to amass any offense for seven innings. The Mariners and Yankees had combined for two hits to that point, though both teams certainly had opportunities to score.
The pitching, though effective, was erratic. The two teams collectively drew an LCS-record 15 walks, yet could not find a way to bring a single runner across the plate for seven innings.
That Seattle starter Paul Abbott held the Yankees hitless for five innings was stunning enough. That he did it while walking eight batters was downright preposterous.
The right-hander retired the side just once in the first inning. After that, he walked two batters in every inning he pitched, yet still managed to keep New York out of both the runs and hits columns.
When Paul O'Neill and Soriano drew walks in the third, Abbott calmly got Chuck Knoblauch to foul out and Derek Jeter to ground out. When Soriano and Knoblauch reached in the fifth, he induced a fly ball from Jeter and a ground ball from David Justice.
But after struggling to consistently throw strikes in his first postseason start he threw 97 pitches, only 49 for strikes Abbott was pulled by Piniella after the fifth with the no-hitter intact.
Veteran left-hander Norm Charlton fell into instant trouble. After Williams sent a deep drive to left-center that was finally hauled in by Cameron, Tino Martinez went the other way and dropped a base hit just inside the left-field foul line that bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double the Yankees' first hit of the game. Piniella had Charlton intentionally walk Jorge Posada, then after Shane Spencer was announced to pinch-hit for O'Neill, summoned right-hander Jeff Nelson from the bullpen.
Nelson got behind Spencer and wound up walking him to load the bases for Brosius and bring the sellout crowd to its feet. Rather than bring the corners in for a possible play at the plate, Piniella kept his infield at double-play depth. Brosius complied in perfect fashion, grounding hard to second baseman Boone, who started the inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to keep the game scoreless.
Like Abbott, Yankees starter Roger Clemens had some of his best stuff of the playoffs (leading to seven strikeouts) yet was wildly inconsistent around the plate. Still battling a tight right hamstring that has hampered him since Game 1 of the AL Division Series, Clemens walked four batters, and after holding the Mariners hitless through three innings, surrendered a single up the middle to John Olerud on his first pitch in the fourth.
Not wanting to take any chances with his somewhat-ailing ace, Torre pulled Clemens after the fifth, turning the game over to reliever Mendoza, then closer Mariano Rivera, who earned the win with a scoreless ninth inning.

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