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First blow to M's

Mariners' mind games help set up winning rally in 7-4 triumph in 10.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 4, 2000


CHICAGO -- It likely was not, as Seattle manager Lou Piniella said with a sly smile, a discussion about stock tips. And it likely was not, as outfielder Mike Cameron said with a big grin, an invitation for post-game refreshments.

Whatever it was, it was the most unusual, and perhaps most pivotal, moment in Seattle's 7-4 10-inning victory over Chicago in Tuesday's playoff opener at Comiskey Park.

With Cameron on first, one out in the 10th and a 1-and-0 count on Edgar Martinez, Piniella made the most unusual move of running onto the field to talk directly with his speedy outfielder, who represented the go-ahead run.

"I really hadn't seen that since Little League," Cameron said. "But I really can't tell you guys (what he said). It's a baseball secret we have to keep under the sheets."

Whether it was strategy or small talk, and it sounds as if it may have been a little of both, Piniella got a point across -- to Cameron and the White Sox.

On the next pitch, the White Sox pitched out, putting reliever Keith Foulke in a hole. On the next pitch, Cameron stole second, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position. And on the next pitch, Martinez delivered a two-run home run, putting the Mariners in command of the best-of-five series.

"Basically," Cameron said, "it worked."

Whether Piniella had some inside information, whether he merely wanted to rattle Foulke, whether he was trying to confuse Chicago bench coach and noted sign-stealer Joe Nossek, whether there was some even deeper and more significant meaning to their conversation may never be known.

Piniella, at his post-game news conference, cracked, "I told him the Nasdaq was down 113 points today and Cisco was a hell of a buy."

On his way out of the interview room, Piniella whispered briefly in Cameron's ear. And when Cameron was asked what was discussed, he said, "He told me after you steal this bag, we're gonna have a couple drinks."

Going into the series, the biggest question was the health of Chicago's battered starting rotation. That proved to be the least of its problems as Jim Parque made a few mistakes that led to a 3-0 Seattle lead but settled down and retired his last 10 batters.

His turnaround started after a huge defensive play in the third. The Mariners were poised to add to a 3-2 lead when they had men on first and second with none out and John Olerud, who had 103 RBI, at the plate.

Olerud pulled back after showing bunt, and Sox catcher Charles Johnson alertly caught Alex Rodriguez straying too far off second. Olerud then hit into a double play.

"That was a huge momentum swing, one that almost cost us the game," Rodriguez said.

The Sox, up 4-3, pulled Parque after six because he had thrown 97 pitches and was working on short rest in the patched-up rotation, and they believed their bullpen was a strength.

The Mariners promptly tied it, with Cameron singling in the tying run off submarine-style right-hander Chad Bradford, though David Bell was thrown out at the plate.

With their starter, Freddie Garcia, lasting just 31/3 innings, the Mariners got a tremendous effort from their relievers, who strung together 62/3 shutout innings against the league's top-scoring team. "The story of the game," Piniella said.

They were most impressive in the ninth, when the Sox had the winning run on second with one out and the middle of their order coming up. Arthur Rhodes got Jose Valentin to fly out, then Jose Mesa unintentionally intentionally walked Frank Thomas and got Magglio Ordonez on a fly ball.

Chicago manager Jerry Manuel said his team, in the post-season for the first time since 1993, showed its inexperience and youth several times by getting overanxious in key scoring situations.

The Mariners, meanwhile, showed their experience in the 10th, as Martinez, who at age 37 had a career-best season with 37 home runs and a league-high 145 RBI, again delivered the clutch hit, with a little help from his manager.

"With (Cameron) being on second," Martinez said, "I was able to wait more for the pitch and take a better swing."

"Edgar's been clutch for us all year," Piniella said. "You want your big people up there in situations like that."

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