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A Great Start for Mariners

Game 1: Garcia comes through against heart of the Yankee order in the clutch, and three relievers finish off 2-0 victory.


NEW YORK — The situation did not merely call for Seattle Mariner reliever Arthur Rhodes on Tuesday night. It screamed for it, louder than an October full house in Yankee Stadium, louder than the Kingdome in its 1995 playoff heyday.

The Yankees had two on and no outs in the bottom of the sixth, trailing by two. Left-handed Paul O'Neill, switch-hitter Bernie Williams and left-handed David Justice, the heart of the order, were due up.

Surely, this was a time for Rhodes, the left-handed relief ace, and when Manager Lou Piniella took a slow, contemplative walk to the mound, it appeared he was giving Rhodes a few extra warmup tosses before he'd pull his right- handed starter, Freddy Garcia.

Conventional wisdom took a beating. Garcia did not.

Piniella stuck with him, and Garcia struck out O'Neill and Williams and retired Justice on a fly to the wall in center, and the Mariners went on to a 2-0 victory over the Yankees in Game 1 of the American League championship series, the first time New York has been shut out in 37 ALCS games.

A Yankee Stadium crowd of 54,481 watched Garcia, 24, throw 6 2/3 shutout innings, giving up three hits while striking out eight and walking two, and shortstop Alex Rodriguez--Derek Jeter's buddy--smash a mammoth homer high off the left-field foul pole in the sixth.

Relievers Jose Paniagua (three strikeouts), Rhodes (one strikeout) and Kazuhiro Sasaki (scoreless ninth) blanked the Yankees over the final 2 2/3 innings--this is definitely not your big brother's Mariner bullpen--to extend the Seattle relief corps' playoff scoreless streak to 14 innings.

The Yankees put two on with one out in the ninth when Williams and Tino Martinez singled, but Sasaki got Jorge Posada to fly to right and Luis Sojo to fly to center to close Seattle's fourth consecutive playoff victory and silence a crowd that cranked the volume to ear-splitting levels in the ninth.

"I'm fortunate that I've got some good power arms out in the bullpen, and at the same time, they're very resilient," Piniella said. "They bounce back pretty darned good."

So does Garcia. After Chuck Knoblauch's leadoff double in the sixth, Garcia jumped ahead of Jeter with two strikes before throwing four balls for a walk. Out came Piniella, and most figured Garcia would join him on the walk back to the dugout.

"Put it this way--Rhodes was ready to come in," Piniella said, when asked to explain his rationale. "But I felt Freddy's pitch count was low, he was throwing well, and he has that good heavy sinker that can get a double-play ball. The catcher [Joe Oliver] reassured me he was throwing the ball well, so I stayed with him."

Garcia's sinker didn't get him out of the jam, though. O'Neill and Williams both struck out on changeups that faded slightly away from the plate before Justice crushed a ball to deep center. But it was to the deepest part of the park, in front of the 408-foot sign, and Mike Cameron made the catch.

"Facing this lineup in Yankee Stadium, he really responded," Oliver said of Garcia. "This shows you what kind of pitcher he is. He has a lot of confidence."

Garcia, one of two pitchers the Mariners acquired in the 1998 Randy Johnson trade--Game 2 starter John Halama is the other--also pitched out of a first-and- third, two-out jam in the fifth when he retired Scott Brosius on a slow roller to third.

"Freddy was calm, he wasn't too hyper," second baseman Mark McLemore said. "He was a little too excited in his first [playoff] start. He just pitched in the sixth and struck out two big hitters."

Ditto for Rhodes, who eventually entered with two outs in the eighth and caught pinch-hitter Glenallen Hill looking at a curve for strike three, the only batter he faced.

Yankee Manager Joe Torre lifted O'Neill, his No. 3 hitter, a hero of Octobers past who is hitting .182 this postseason, for Hill, a move that raised several eyebrows, including one furrowed pair in the Yankee dugout.

"He looked at me [strange], but he understands the situation," Torre said. "Paul has been struggling a bit, and I just felt [Hill] had a chance to pop one out of the ballpark."

Torre seems to have a Midas Touch in October because most of his moves--including his decision to start Denny Neagle in Game 1--work out. Neagle threw 4 2/3 no- hit innings before McLemore doubled to left in the fifth.

Rickey Henderson, a former Met and Yankee who thrives on the October stage, poked a single through the second-base hole, and McLemore scored ahead of O'Neill's throw from right with a dive into the plate.

Oliver saved a run in the bottom of the fifth when he blocked a nasty Garcia curve that bounced several feet in front of the plate with runners on first and third.

Third baseman David Bell made a nice charge-and-throw play on Brosius' roller to end the inning, and Rodriguez led off the sixth by rocketing a full-count Neagle pitch about three-quarters up the foul pole.

"It's good to be up one game, but they're not going to give it to us," McLemore said. "But I like our ballclub. Our bullpen is solid, the rotation is solid and our defense is solid. If we get some hits, we have a chance to win some games."


Yankees vs. Mariners


Seattle: 2

New York: 0


at New York, 1 p.m.


John Halama

vs. Yankees'

Orlando Hernandez


Friday at

Seattle, 5 p.m.


Saturday at

Seattle, 4:30 p.m.


Sunday at

Seattle, 1 p.m.


Tuesday at

New York, 5 p.m.


Oct. 18 at

New York, 5 p.m.

TV: Channel 4.

* if necessary

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