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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / AMERICAN LEAGUE

These Are Your Dad's Yankees

Game 3: New York regains its edge and rolls to 8-2 victory, good for a 2-1 series edge against Mariners.

October 14, 2000|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEATTLE — Whatever the New York Yankees were missing in the American League division series against the Oakland Athletics and in the first 16 innings of the championship series against the Seattle Mariners, it has been found.

The two-time defending World Series champions look like champions again. They have that edge back, that strut. They have an air of confidence that was absent the first week of October but could be felt all around Safeco Field on Friday night.

Their dynasty teetering on the brink of collapse only three days ago, the Yankees dispatched the Mariners with surgeon-like precision in Game 3 of the ALCS, suffocating them with superior arms, bats and gloves in an 8-2 victory before a crowd of 47,827.

The Yankees outhit the Mariners. They out-pitched them. They out-defended them. They even out-Martinez'd them--Yankee first baseman Tino Martinez had a home run and a single, while Mariner designated hitter Edgar Martinez managed only two singles.

The Yankees now have a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series, and New Yorkers are probably beefing up the balance on their Metropolitan Transit Authority cards in anticipation of a Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets.

"I think we're hitting our stride as a team," Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter said. "The whole lineup is having quality at-bats, we're getting good pitching and playing good defense. . . . Everyone said we were playing terribly a few days ago, and now we're up 2-1 in the ALCS."

For that, the Yankees can thank Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez, who hit consecutive home runs in the second inning to erase a 1-0 deficit, and David Justice (RBI double in the third) and Paul O'Neill (RBI single in the sixth), who had key two-out hits to push New York ahead, 4-2.

And left-hander Andy Pettitte, who was touched for nine hits in 6 2/3 innings but gave up only two runs; who pitched his way out of second-and-third jams in the first and second innings; who shattered two of Rickey Henderson's bats with nasty cut fastballs, and who extended his playoff win streak to five and improved his career postseason record to 8-4.

And reliever Jeff Nelson, who struck out Edgar Martinez with a runner on second and one out in the eighth and the Yankees ahead by two, a punch-out Tino Martinez called "a huge turnaround, the biggest out of the game."

And no Yankee playoff victory would be complete without a save from stone-faced right-hander Mariano Rivera, who retired the last five batters to extend his postseason scoreless streak to 33 1/3 innings, breaking Whitey Ford's previous major league record of 33 innings, set from 1960-62.

"You can never tell by his expression what he's done," Jeter said of Rivera, who hasn't given up a run in the playoffs since Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar homered off him in Game 4 of the 1997 division series.

"He's not afraid to fail, and he comes right at you. He challenges you. He's got great stuff, and he's tough. He comes in and thinks the game is over. He doesn't talk about it, but you can tell by his body language."

The Yankees are giving off similar vibes. This playoff-seasoned team knows not to get overconfident, but they have the look of that 1996 Yankee team that split the first two games of the ALCS at home and steamrollered the Baltimore Orioles in the next three games at Camden Yards.

It started to come back in Game 2 Wednesday, when the Yankees ended a 21-inning scoreless streak with a seven-run eighth inning, coming from behind for a 7-1 victory over Seattle.

And it grew in strength Friday night when everyone in the Yankee lineup except catcher Jorge Posada had at least one hit and Williams led a 13-hit attack with two singles and his homer, which came courtesy of Manager Joe Torre, who gave Williams the green light on a 3-0 count.

"I think coming from behind in Game 2 really enabled the team to relax a bit," said Tino Martinez, who is batting .462 (six for 13) in the series and .438 (14 for 32) in the postseason.

"We didn't play very well the first two games, but we played great tonight. These are the real New York Yankees. We just need to do this all over again [today]."

ALCS

NEW YORK: 8

SEATTLE: 2

Yankees lead series, 2-1

TODAY

New York

at Seattle

4:30 p.m., Ch. 4

SUNDAY

New York

at Seattle

1 p.m., Ch. 4

NLCS

Mets lead

series, 2-0

TODAY

St. Louis

at New York

1:15 p.m., Ch. 11

SUNDAY

St. Louis

at New York

5 p.m., Ch. 11

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