ALCS Game 2: Yankees 7, Mariners 1

Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Pressure was building in Yankee Stadium. In the home team's dugout, tension increased with each zero put next to ``New York'' on the scoreboard.

``There's nothing worse than struggling, and they're booing you,'' Paul O'Neill said.

Players sniped at umpires.

Fans jeered.

Another shutout loss appeared to be in the offing.

And then it all came pouring out, like water bursting through a broken dam.

Seven runs, eight hits, all in a half inning that took 41 minutes. And with a 7-1 win Wednesday over the Mariners, the Yankees tied the AL Championship Series at one game apiece.

``Down 2-0 going into Seattle would've been devastating,'' Chuck Knoblauch said. ``And right now, we're riding a high.''

Orlando Hernandez was brilliant on his birthday, allowing one run and six hits in eight innings and improving to 7-0 with a 1.22 ERA in postseason play.

But for the first seven innings, the Yankees sputtered once again, like they have so often in recent weeks.

New York hadn't scored in 21 innings, matching the franchise postseason record, set in the 1921 and '22 World Series.

The Yankees were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, dropping to 0-for-13 in the series. Their team batting average had sunk like the Nasdaq, dropping to .207 in the ALCS (12-for-58).

John Halama, born in Brooklyn, pitched six shutout innings against the Bronx Bombers, and Jose Paniagua went the seventh, extending the scoreless streak of Seattle's bullpen to 15 innings in the playoffs.

It seemed as if Stan Javier's RBI single in the third would be the difference.

Then David Justice started the eighth by sending a pitch from Arthur Rhodes high off the fence in left-center.

Up came Williams, who with the bases loaded and no outs in the first hit the ball 6 inches in front of the plate, with catcher Dan Wilson turning it into a 2-3 double play.

Williams fouled off a 3-1 pitch, then fouled off two more, just hanging on. Finally, he slapped a single to center that drove in Justice.

``I was struggling through the whole game,'' Williams said. ``This guy was throwing it 94, 95 miles an hour. There was no way I could be thinking too much in that at-bat.''

Tino Martinez followed with a sinking liner to left that bounced off the glove of a diving Al Martin for a single that allowed Williams to take second.

Jorge Posada then hit a smash that rolled off the glove of a diving Mark McLemore in the hole between first and second, bounding into left field as Williams scored. It was the first time in 15 games since Sept. 23 at Detroit that four straight Yankees got hits.

``I just sense we relieved a lot of pressure,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. `We understand there's pressure involved. As I say, we were very uptight.''

O'Neill's sacrifice fly made it 3-1, and Jose Mesa allowed a single to Luis Sojo, an RBI double to Jose Vizcaino, a run-scoring single to Chuck Knoblauch and a two-run homer to Derek Jeter, just the second homer for the Yankees in their last 88 innings.

``We didn't make very good pitches and they swung the bats,'' Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. ``We accomplished what we wanted here, we split with them in New York, and now we go to our home ballpark. It's a shame, because we had seven good innings of baseball, and in the eighth they exploded on us.''

After so many misfires, the Yankees went 8-for-8 to start the inning, setting an ALCS record for hits in an inning.

El Duque, who says he turned 31 but whose birth certificate shows he's 35, made it possible. The Yankees are 9-0 when he pitches in the postseason.

``He threw the best game I ever caught today,'' said Posada, who also was behind the plate for David Wells' perfect game two years ago.

The series resumes Friday at Safeco Field, with Andy Pettitte pitching for New York against Aaron Sele.

``If we played the way we played yesterday and today,'' Posada said, ``we're going to be all right.''

Notes: Halama, like Game 1 winner Freddy Garcia, was acquired two years ago from Houston in the Randy Johnson trade. ... O'Neill was dropped to seventh in the batting order for the first time since April 15, 1997.