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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / AMERICAN LEAGUE | CHICAGO VS. SEATTLE
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Mariners Hitting Stride With Pitching, Defense

October 08, 2000|Associated Press

SEATTLE — Now that they've swept the team with the American League's top record, the Seattle Mariners can look ahead to the American League championship series--and maybe their first trip to the World Series.

"We're having a lot of fun," pitcher Aaron Sele said after Friday's 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox completed the three-game sweep. "Hopefully, we can carry this through."

Seattle starts the championship series Tuesday at New York or Oakland. The Mariners were 6-4 in their season series against the Yankees but were 4-9 against the Athletics, who finished half a game in front of Seattle to win the AL West.

"We're doing it with good pitching and good defense," Mariner first baseman John Olerud said. "That's what this team was built for."

Seattle held the highest-scoring team in the major leagues to seven runs and 17 hits in three games. The Mariner relievers pitched 11 2/3 scoreless innings.

"They're on a roll now," White Sox Manager Jerry Manuel said. "They're playing extremely well."

After a day off Saturday, the Mariners will work out today at Safeco Field before leaving for New York or Oakland.

Seattle had a 19-10 record in September, clinching the wild-card berth on the final day of the season.

These aren't the same Mariners who moved from the Kingdome to $517.6-million Safeco Field on July 15, 1999. The team that Ken Griffey Jr. used to lead with home runs now wins with pitching and defense. The Mariners turned five double plays and made only one error in the three games against the White Sox.

The series-winning hit came on a squeeze bunt by Carlos Guillen that scored Rickey Henderson. It was Seattle's fourth successful bunt of the game.

"Earlier in the year, we weren't bunting the ball well," Mariner Manager Lou Piniella said.

"All of a sudden, we got ourselves in a groove."

Alex Rodriguez, who hit 41 home runs during the regular season, sacrificed Raul Ibanez to second base in the fourth inning. Ibanez wound up scoring the tying run.

Like Griffey, Rodriguez doesn't like hitting at Safeco. He had 28 of his home runs on the road this season.

So bunting in the fourth inning Friday was a no-brainer for him.

"You couldn't depend on a long ball in that situation," Rodriguez said. "It's not going to happen in this ballpark. We had to do some sacrifices. There was a lot of value in a run today."

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

Game 2: Seattle 5, Chicago 2

Game 3: Seattle 2, Chicago 1

Mariners win series, 3-0

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