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Yankees blast back to life to tie M's

Facing a second shutout loss, New York explodes in the eighth for a 7-1 ALCS victory.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 12, 2000


NEW YORK -- Trust us, the Yankees kept saying. Trust us. Through the horrid final three weeks of the regular season, through the inconsistent division series, through their shutout loss in Tuesday's opener of the AL Championship Series, they kept insisting they were going to start hitting.

And in the eighth inning Wednesday, they did.

And did and did and did.

Eight hits.

Seven runs.

And a 7-1 victory over Seattle that put them mathematically even, and psychologically ahead, in the best-of-seven series, with Game 3 on Friday at Safeco Field.

"We needed that," New York's Tino Martinez said. "We needed that to get us going."

Shut out for seven innings by Brooklyn native John Halama and middle reliever Jose Paniagua, the Yankees were growing restless on the bench and anxious at the plate, trying too hard to do too much. "Guys were trying to hit home runs every time," Martinez said.

They somehow got nothing after loading the bases with none out in the first. Scott Brosius was picked off first in the third. David Justice grounded out with two on in the fifth. Paul O'Neill did the same, because of a controversial call, with the tying run on second in the sixth.

The peril intensified as the game went on. Down a game in the series and down a run Wednesday, they were six outs from disaster, going to Seattle trailing 2-0.

But these are Yankees. They've been there, done that. They may not be as dominating as they once were, nor as young, nor as explosive, but they see no need to panic.

"We've been down before," Derek Jeter said. "We know we're capable of coming back."

They had confidence, they had faith, they had hope. And they had something else. They had Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, now 7-0 with a 1.22 ERA in eight post-season starts, on the mound. "He always comes up big," Jeter said. "It's ridiculous."

The Yankees breakout started with a bang, Justice ripping a 2-and-2 pitch from Seattle lefty Arthur Rhodes for a double high off the left-centerfield wall. "Huge," Martinez said.

Bernie Williams, who tapped into a double play with the bases loaded in the first, worked Rhodes for eight pitches and singled to center, tying the score and snapping their 0-for-13 skid with men in scoring position.

Martinez followed with a slicing liner to left that bounced off the glove of diving leftfielder Al Martin, who is not to be confused with a smooth outfielder. "That was a big play, no doubt about it," Williams said. "It kept men on first and second and gave Jorge (Posada) the opportunity to get the base hit, and that was key."

That would be the sharp grounder that ticked off the glove of second baseman Mark McLemore, allowing Williams to score the go-ahead run.

"That inning it just seemed like everyone wanted to hit," Jeter said.

The Yankees added another run when slumping O'Neill delivered a sacrifice fly, then survived Posada getting picked off third to score four more. Luis Sojo singled, Jose Vizcaino doubled, Chuck Knoblauch singled, and Jeter hit a two-run homer. The eight hits set an ALCS record, and the seven runs matched a 19-year-old mark, but the most amazing stat of the inning may have been this: The Mariners threw 52 pitches.

Having not scored in 21 innings, and having averaged 3.3 runs for nearly a month, the Yankees were just a wee bit relieved as they packed to go west. If that wasn't a sigh of relief whistling through the Bronx, it was the steam escaping from the radiator.

"I just sense that we relieved a lot of pressure today," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We understand there's pressure involved. We were very uptight, but we've played that way before and we've been successful.

"We know we're better. I think that's what frustrates everybody. We obviously know that we're better than the way we've been putting runs on the board."

As important as it was to win, and it was much more vital than they wanted to admit, the Yankees will be more pleased if they can continue racking up the runs through the rest of the series.

"Hopefully," Martinez said, "this gets our offense back on track."

"Let's hope not," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said. "They're very capable."

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