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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / AMERICAN LEAGUE | CHICAGO vs. SEATTLE
: NOTES

Thomas Says His Struggles Are Dragging Team Down

October 06, 2000|Associated Press

SEATTLE — The Chicago White Sox are facing elimination today in Game 3 of the American League division series, and Frank Thomas is willing to shoulder much of the blame for the team's two losses to the Seattle Mariners.

"I think I'm setting the tone," said Thomas, who has stranded nine runners with four fly balls and three popups. "Guys are watching me overpressing. . . . I think it's making everyone else uncomfortable. There's no excuse for it. I don't know what it is."

The White Sox scored more runs (978) than any team in the majors this season, but the heart of their order is a combined two for 22 in the playoffs. Thomas is 0 for 7, Carlos Lee one for eight and Magglio Ordonez one for seven.

The Mariners have out-homered the White Sox, 4-0. During the regular season, Thomas had 43, Ordonez 32 and Lee 24.

"The top of our order has done a good job," White Sox Manager Jerry Manuel said. "It's just that the meat just hasn't been able to get it done for us."

*

All-Star pitcher Aaron Sele, a 17-game winner, will try to finish off the White Sox today. Chicago will counter with James Baldwin, a 14-game winner.

While Sele finished the regular season strongly by winning four straight starts in September, Baldwin missed two weeks because of a sore shoulder. He made his first start since Sept. 8 on Sunday against Kansas City, giving up five runs on six hits in three innings.

The Mariners hope to make their first playoff game at Safeco Field a celebration in Seattle.

"We've gotten ourselves in a very good position, obviously," Manager Lou Piniella said. "Now our job is to finish it off."

The Mariners didn't wrap up a trip to the playoffs until they clinched the wild-card berth Sunday in Anaheim. But they put the AL Central champion White Sox, the team with the league's best record, on the brink of playoff elimination with two victories in Chicago.

"We wanted to come in and break serve," said Seattle's Jay Buhner. "So to win the first two, take it back to our home field, have a home-field advantage, it's going to be pretty sweet."

In winning Tuesday, 7-4, in 10 innings and 5-2 Wednesday, the Mariners got 10 scoreless innings from their bullpen. Kazuhiro Sasaki, who set a major league rookie record with 37 saves this season, had two saves. He struck out the side in the ninth inning Wednesday.

*

Rickey Henderson struggled in the final month of the season, hitting .183, and wasn't in left field for the Mariners in their clincher at Anaheim. But he returned to the lineup and batted leadoff in Chicago.

After going one for three and scoring a run in Game 1, Henderson produced a run for the Mariners with his legs in Game 2. With Seattle leading, 3-2, he led off the fifth inning with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, stole third and then scored on a ground ball to third that didn't reach the infield dirt.

"He's still an intimidating factor on the bases," Piniella said.

Henderson, 41, jammed his left index finger sliding into third base on his steal. He came out of the game and had his finger heavily bandaged, but said he expects to play today.

THE SERIES

Game 1: Seattle 7, Chicago 4 (10 innings).

Game 2: Seattle 5, Chicago 2

Today: Chicago (Baldwin 14-7) at Seattle (Sele 17-10), 1 p.m., ESPN

* Saturday: Chicago at Seattle, 1:15 p.m., Channel 11

* Sunday: Seattle at Chicago, 1 p.m., ESPN

* If necessary All times PDT

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