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Yankees Break the Tension in a Snap, 7-1

Game 2: New York ends 21-inning postseason drought with seven-run eighth and evens series going back to Seattle.

October 12, 2000|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — It wasn't so much a rally as it was a release, the tension of a thoroughly frustrating afternoon and a demoralizing series, the mounting speculation their dynasty is nearing its final at-bat, all disappearing with one monster inning Wednesday.

The New York Yankees, disoriented and in disarray, in danger of a two-game deficit in the American League championship series, rediscovered themselves in the eighth inning, stringing together eight hits for seven runs in a 7-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Game 2 before 55,317 in Yankee Stadium.

The stunning outburst at the expense of Mariner relievers Arthur Rhodes and Jose Mesa shattered New York's 21-inning playoff scoreless streak and the Seattle bullpen's 15-inning postseason scoreless streak.

Bernie Williams, whose two-foot tapper resulted in a double play with the bases loaded and no outs in the first, ended the Yankees' string of 13 hitless at-bats with runners in scoring position when he followed David Justice's leadoff double with a tying RBI single to center.

That triggered an avalanche of offense that included Jorge Posada's go-ahead RBI single, Paul O'Neill's sacrifice fly, Scott Brosius' RBI double, Chuck Knoblauch's RBI single and Derek Jeter's two-run home run.

It also breathed new life into a team that had flat-lined since the fourth inning of Sunday night's division-series clincher against Oakland and tied the best-of-seven series, 1-1. Game 3 is Friday night at Seattle's Safeco Field.

"We haven't been scoring runs, and guys were starting to worry," said second baseman Luis Sojo, who singled during the eighth. "There was some tension. Normally we're joking around on the bench, but there was no joking around today. It was quiet.

"I think the eighth inning turned everything around. We needed that release. As soon as Bernie got that hit, we knew we were going to win, and everyone was jumping around like we had just won the World Series."

It was the least the Yankees could do for pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, whose sterling October performances are becoming as regular as Halloween.

The Cuban right-hander gave up one run on six hits and struck out seven--including all three batters in the first--in eight innings and has a 7-0 record and 1.22 earned-run average in eight career postseason starts.

"It's just ridiculous," Jeter said. "He always seems to pitch well in big situations. He's not built for failure. I'm glad he's on our team."

For seven innings, though, it appeared Hernandez would finally suffer his first playoff loss, as Mariner left-hander John Halama and reliever Jose Paniagua blanked the Yanks.

Williams tapped into that almost absurd first-inning double play, Brosius got picked off first base in the third, O'Neill was out on a controversial call at first in the sixth, and Seattle third baseman David Bell robbed Sojo of a leadoff double with a diving backhand stop of his seventh-inning shot and the ensuing throw to first from one knee.

The Mariners, meanwhile, took advantage of a Yankee mistake to score their run in the third. Mike Cameron walked and got caught leaning toward second on Hernandez's pickoff move, but first baseman Tino Martinez swiped his tag too early, and the ball nicked off his glove. Cameron, given a second chance, stole second and scored on Stan Javier's two-out single to center.

"We've been through this before, but still, that human element takes over when everybody tries too hard," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "You see a bad umpire's call, guys are jumping up and spinning around. We don't normally react like that. I think a lot of it was the tension of the situation and the thought of going on the road 0-2."

Those thoughts dissipated in the eighth, a 41-minute, 52-pitch half-inning that began with Justice's double off the wall in left-center. Williams fouled off two full-count pitches before singling on Rhodes' eighth pitch for a 1-1 tie.

Seattle left fielder Al Martin lost Martinez's liner momentarily in the lights, and the ball bounced off his glove for a single, putting runners at first and second.

Posada, who hasn't had a sacrifice bunt since 1997, was ordered to swing away, and swing he did, grounding an RBI single off diving second baseman Mark McLemore's glove for a 2-1 lead, and the Yankees were on their way.

"I just sense that we relieved a lot of pressure today," Torre said. "We were very uptight, but we've played that way before and been successful. We know we're better.

"I think that's what frustrates everybody. We obviously know we're better than the way we've been playing; we just haven't been putting runs on the board. Hopefully this will carry over."

Mariners vs. Yankees

GAME 2

NEW YORK: 7

SEATTLE: 1

Series tied, 1-1

GAME 3

NEW YORK Pettitte

at SEATTLE Sele

Friday, 5 p.m., Ch. 4

ALSO

ROSS NEWHAN

Even with his Yankees in a big slump, Torre comes out swinging and it pays off. D9

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