Mariners 3, Indians 1

Tuesday, October 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SEATTLE (AP) _ Two giant ALCS logos were being spray painted along the base lines inside Safeco Field as red-white-and-blue bunting was straightened on the upper deck.

Moments earlier, the Seattle Mariners finished off the Cleveland Indians in five pressure-packed games in the AL division series, and already plans were underway for the next round.

Things change very quickly this time of October.

Just ask the Mariners.

Less than 48 hours since being nine outs from an early postseason exit, the Mariners moved one step closer to the World Series on Monday with a 3-1 victory over the Indians in a decisive Game 5.

Jamie Moyer tamed Cleveland's bats for six innings, Ichiro Suzuki got three more hits and Mark McLemore drove in two runs as the Mariners advanced to the ALCS for the third time in franchise history.

After the Mariners won 116 games during the regular season, there were questions about how they might do when faced with an elimination game.

Apparently, pretty well.

``This year had gone so well we never really had our back to the wall, in a desperate situation,'' said Moyer, who confounded the Indians with his slow, breaking pitches for the second time in the series. ``Now we've had that, the last two games. And I think it was good for us. I think we were fortunate to experience it and show we can handle it.''

Shut out at home. Blown out on the road. Down to their final nine outs. Twice in danger of having their record-setting regular season end in failure.

The Mariners endured it all before ending the Indians' year.

``We were down 1-0, and we had to win Game 2,'' reliever Jeff Nelson said. ``We had to win Game 4, and we had to win today. It shows what kind of players we have and what kind of team we are. We tied history, but it wouldn't have looked very good if we got knocked out in the first round.''

There was no wild celebration after third baseman David Bell threw out Juan Gonzalez at first for the final out. The Mariners know they still have a lot of work ahead.

As 47,867 stood and cheered, the players exchanged hugs and high-fives near second base before heading to a clubhouse celebration.

And now, the Mariners advance to their third ALCS _ they also appeared in '95 and '00 _ but for the first time, they'll have home-field advantage when they get there.

``We've been in this situation before,'' Edgar Martinez said. ``We've been behind. We've bounced back and won. It's amazing the way this team is able to bounce back.''

Seattle will play host to the best-of-seven series beginning Wednesday against the New York Yankees, who beat the Oakland Athletics 5-3 in their Game 5 Monday night.

Suzuki, the speedy Japanese sensation whose legion of fans grows with every infield single, gave Cleveland headaches all series long. He went 12-for-20 (.600), scored four runs and set the table for nearly every Mariners' rally.

The Indians managed just four hits and will have the winter to think about what might have been.

Cleveland was in command of the series following a 17-2 blowout in Game 3, but the Indians couldn't put away the Mariners, who after running away from the AL all year, showed they're not bad at comebacks, either.

``It showed what we're made of,'' Moyer said. ``The last two games have been win or go home.''

It could be a while before the Indians are back in the postseason. The AL Central champs are expected to slash payroll during the offseason, and Monday's game could be the last for center fielder Kenny Lofton, pitcher Dave Burba and Gonzalez.

GM John Hart, who built the Indians into a winner, is also stepping down and there's speculation that manager Charlie Manuel may not have his contract renewed.

``This hurts,'' said rookie pitcher C.C. Sabathia. ``I feel like it's all for nothing. My team didn't win and that's tough to take.''

Moyer beat the Indians for the second time in the series and fourth time this season, allowing one run and three hits in six innings.

The 38-year-old, pitching on three days' rest, walked one, struck out seven and got just enough help from plate umpire Mark Hirschbeck's low strike zone to make it tough on the Indians.

It's not like Cleveland could hit Moyer's off-speed stuff, anyway.

The Indians' Nos. 3-through-6 hitters _ Roberto Alomar, Gonzalez, Ellis Burks and Jim Thome _ went a combined 0-for-14 with six strikeouts. Alomar hit into two inning-ending double plays.

``We just couldn't get to that changeup,'' Omar Vizquel said. ``He just paints the corners.''

Chuck Finley, who fell behind 4-0 after 14 pitches in Game 2, was in trouble this time in the second, loading the bases with walks to Martinez and John Olerud before hitting Mike Cameron.

Finley got two strikeouts, but McLemore, who batted .164 right-handed this season, dropped a two-run single in front of diving left fielder Marty Cordova.