Jamie Moyer was brilliant over six innings, Kazuhiro Sasaki was dominant in the ninth and Ichiro Suzuki and Mark McLemore keyed the offense as the Mariners posted a 3-1 triumph over the Cleveland Indians in Game Five of their Division Series.
Seattle won a major league record-tying 116 games in the regular season but trailed two games to one in the series and were losing in the seventh inning of Game Four on Sunday. But behind Suzuki, the Mariners rallied to win that game, and in Monday's decisive contest, baseball's best team took an early lead and was never headed.
"Well, when you win 116 ballgames in the course of the year, you can play under any type of situation, basically," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said. "We rely on pitching and solid defense. That's a constant, almost every day. And it's a good formula."
Seattle advances to face the winner of the other ALDS between the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees. The Mariners will host Game One on Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. EDT.
Moyer (2-0) allowed a run and three hits en route to his second victory of the series. The 38-year-old lefthander continued his mastery of the Indians. In four outings against Cleveland this season, he was 4-0 with 1.03 ERA.
"I really tried not to put any more pressure on myself," Moyer said. "Again, you're in the playoffs, it's icing on the cake and it should be fun. That's really the way I try to look at things and try to approach things."
"(Moyer) pitched a sold game again," Indians first baseman Jim Thome said. "He really knows how to pitch. He threw a few more fastballs. ... He got some calls, borderline to away and it really helped him out. When you are getting those calls, you have to consistently stay out there, and he did that. He's smart enough to stay there and that's what happened."
Seattle broke on top, 2-0, in the second inning as McLemore, who had just three hits in the series, stroked a two-out, two-run single. The veteran utility player also filled in admirably for ailing shortstop Carlos Guillen in the series.
"I've been feeling comfortable the whole series," McLemore said. "It is that I haven't had a whole lot of success. It happens throughout the course of the year. You don't want this to be the time it happens, but fortunately my teammates were there and picked us up, or picked everybody up. The one thing we've done extremely well all year long is not depend on one guy. We've had 25 guys and we've pretty much spread it around to everybody."
Suzuki went 3-for-4 with a run scored and was the dominant offensive force in the series. The Japanese rookie sensation tied teammate Edgar Martinez's Division Series record with 12 hits and batted .600 over the five games.
"I don't know if I had a good swing in the series," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "I do know I prepared well in the series."
"He excels in baseball," Seattle center fielder Mike Cameron said. "A doctor, a lawyer, whatever it may be, I'm not going to say he's perfected it, but he's pretty (darn) close. He's pretty close to getting his Ph.D in baseball."
Cleveland's Chuck Finley (0-2) pitched much better than he did in Game Two but suffered his second loss of the series. The veteran lefthander allowed two runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings.
"I felt good," Finley said. "I was changing speeds a lot and trying to keep the ball down. It was a grind. It was one of those games where you throw a lot of pitches every at-bat."
The Indians were looking to advance to the LCS for the fourth time in seven years.
"Seattle has a great ballclub," Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. "They won 116 games. And the last two days, especially, their pitching really shut us down, and we've got a pretty good offense. ... I felt like, the last few days, that was definitely the turning point of the series."
Omar Vizquel reached on an error by McLemore at shortstop in the opening inning, but Alomar bounced into a double play.
Seattle tried to build a run in the bottom of the inning as Suzuki beat out an infield hit and was bunted over. But Suzuki was caught trying to steal third and Bret Boone struck out.
Martinez and John Olerud walked on 3-2 pitches and Cameron was hit by a pitch attempting to sacrifice. Finley came up with a series of clutch pitches, striking out Dan Wilson and David Bell.
McLemore then lined the first pitch he saw from Finley into left field. Marty Cordova made a diving attempt but trapped the ball, and Martinez and Olerud scored. McLemore was picked off first base and Cameron was tagged out trying to score during the rundown.
Moyer gave back a run in the top of the third, but the Indians missed out on a chance to get more. Travis Fryman doubled and took third on a flyout by Cordova. Einar Diaz walked and Kenny Lofton halved Cleveland's defict with an RBI single up the middle.
Vizquel dropped down a bunt and beat it out to load the bases. But Alomar, who grounded into only nine double plays in 575 regular seaason at-bats, bounced into his second twin-killing in three innings.
Moyer struck out Juan Gonzalez, Ellis Burks and Thome in the fourth, and Finley breezed through the bottom of the inning.
"For some reason I felt like, in the fourth inning, I got a second wind," Moyer said. "I really don't know why or how that happened. But I went out to the mound and I almost felt like we had scored a couple of runs in the bottom half of the inning, that was kind of the energy I had."
Seattle threatened in the fifth, putting runners at second and third with one out. Manuel turned to rookie David Riske, who struck out Boone and retired Martinez on a grounder to shortstop.
Riske allowed two-out singles to Wilson and Bell, and Manuel called on Ricardo Rincon. The lefthander immediately uncorked a wild pitch, moving both runners into scoring position, but struck out McLemore looking to end the inning.
Nelson took over for Moyer to start the seventh and struck out Gonzalez and Burks before retiring Thome on a weak grounder to second.
Suzuki then got Seattle going in the bottom of the inning. He beat out an infield hit to tie Martinez's record and Stan Javier sacrificed. Danys Baez relieved Rincon and struck out Boone but surrendered a single to center to Martinez that scored Suzuki for a 3-1 lead.
Nelson struck out the first two batters in the eighth but surrendered a two-out single to Diaz. Piniella called on Rhodes who retired Lofton on a long fly ball to center field.
Sasaki did not allow a ball out of the infield in the ninth, retiring Vizquel and Gonzalez on groundouts around a strikeout of Alomar.
Alomar went 0-for-4 on Monday and was just 4-for-21 in the series. Alomar and Lofton (2-for-19) did not provide many RBI opportunities for the heart of the Indians' lineup.
Seattle advanced despite a dreadful series from McLemore, Boone (2-for-21 with 11 strikeouts) and Olerud (3-for-17).
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