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Yankees Do Good Job With the Suzuki Shift

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES / NOTES

October 18, 2001|Mike DiGiovanna

SEATTLE — There is no proven single strategy for defending Ichiro Suzuki; otherwise, every team would align its infield and outfield the same way when the Mariner leadoff batter steps to the plate.

But the Yankees found something that worked Wednesday, positioning third baseman Scott Brosius on the grass about 12 feet inside the line and shortstop Derek Jeter several steps in from his normal position, pinching the shortstop hole the speedy Suzuki loves to shoot for.

Suzuki grounded to third in the first inning, struck out swinging at an Andy Pettitte cut-fastball in the dirt in the fourth and grounded to second in the sixth before doubling off Yankee closer Mariano Rivera and scoring a meaningless run in the ninth.

"That was huge for us," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "When we got him out the first few times up, it made pitching to the rest of the lineup a lot less stressful."

Suzuki led the major leagues with a .350 average and hit .600 (12 for 20) in the division series, but he didn't hit a ball hard off Pettitte.

"I just tried to change his eye level and move the ball around," Pettitte said. "He has such good hand-eye coordination, I really wanted to move the ball around and not show two pitches in a row that were exactly the same."

*

Seattle right-hander Aaron Sele, who gave up three runs on seven hits in six innings Wednesday, is now 0-4 in four playoff starts against the Yankees. In six career postseason starts, Sele has received seven runs of support, never getting more than two runs in any start.

He didn't help himself much in Game 1, continually falling behind batters; in his second time through the Yankee order, he went to 2-and-0 or 3-and-1 counts against five of the first seven batters. Home plate umpire Ed Montague appeared to squeeze the strike zone at times, especially on the outside corner, but Sele didn't pass the blame.

"My fastball was running off the plate a little bit," Sele said. "You know, I just didn't put the ball on the plate as much as I needed to early in the game."

*

Seattle shortstop Carlos Guillen, sidelined since Sept. 28 because of pulmonary tuberculosis, looked good defensively in his return Wednesday, fielding all four of his chances cleanly, but he was hitless in three at-bats. Mariner Manager Lou Piniella said reserve Mark McLemore would start in Game 2 tonight. ... After batting .444 in the division series and making two spectacular defensive plays, Jeter was strangely quiet Wednesday, going 0 for 5, and the Yankees' two through five batters were a combined one for 16.

TODAY

MARINERS'

FREDDY GARCIA

(1-1, 3.86 ERA)

vs.

YANKEES'

MIKE MUSSINA

(1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Safeco Field, 5:15 p.m.

TV--Channel 11

Update--Garcia, who pitched Game 4 of the division series against Cleveland Sunday, will start on three days' rest for the first time this season. Mussina, who came within one out of a perfect game against Boston on Sept. 2, has not given up an earned run in his last 15 playoff innings.

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