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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS | NEW YORK vs. SEATTLE

Notes

October 18, 2000

A strained thigh muscle kept lead-footed Mariner catcher Joe Oliver out of the starting lineup for Games 5 and 6, but it did wonders for Manager Lou Piniella's budding career as a comic.

Over the weekend, Piniella said Oliver injured his leg "trying to put it into a different gear running to first base. . . . I told him a John Deere tractor only has one gear."

After testing the leg before Game 6 on Tuesday night, Piniella said Oliver ran "at about 50% . . . which means he's lost about a quarter of a step."

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During a brief team meeting before Game 5 in Seattle on Sunday, Piniella told the Mariners they should relax and enjoy themselves because all the pressure was on the Yankees. Piniella still felt that way before Game 6.

"They're expected to win, we're not," he said. "They're the ones carrying the burden right now. I'm sure [the Yankees] will disagree with that. But it's a good selling point, anyway."

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There have been plenty of stories claiming that Piniella, known for years for his emotional outbursts and impatience with pitchers, has mellowed this season. That was news to Mariner second baseman Mark McLemore.

"He has, huh?" McLemore said. "No, Lou has always been a fiery manager . . . and I don't think he's lost any fire. He may channel it in different directions or different ways, but I don't think he's lost any fire at all."

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The Mariners' 6-2 victory in Game 5 Sunday was not only the longest in AL championship series history, at 4 hours 14 minutes, it matched the longest nine-inning postseason game in history, equaling Toronto's 15-14 victory over the Phillies in Game 4 of the 1993 World Series. Game 6 was a tidy 4:03. . . . Think Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas have struggled in the playoffs? Going into Game 6, Seattle catcher Dan Wilson was 0 for 25 lifetime in the AL championship series and two for 58 in postseason play. Wilson blooped a single to right field in the fifth inning, ending an 0-for-42 playoff drought.

--MIKE DiGIOVANNA

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