CLEVELAND, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Omar Visquel ignited Cleveland's offense with three hits and three RBI in the first three innings alone Saturday, sending the Indians to a 17-2 smashing of the Seattle Mariners and to within one step of the American League Championship Series.
After equaling the major league record for most victories in a single season, the Mariners will face elimination Sunday when Game 4 of the division series is played on Cleveland's home field with the Indians owning a 2-1 advantage.
Bartolo Colon, who virtually shut down Seattle in the first game of the series, will be on the mound for the Indians Sunday.
Cleveland pounded out 19 hits, nine of them coming off reliever Paul Abbott. He was left in to absorb the punishment as Seattle manager Lou Piniella appeared to surrender early in the contest. Vizquel led the way with six RBI
Indians starter C.C. Sabathia, meanwhile, worked his way out of a first-inning jam to go innings. He gave up two runs, but after the first two Mariners had hits in the opening inning, they managed just one more hit until the seventh.
Sabathia, the winningest Cleveland rookie in 54 years, threw 34 pitches in the first, but gave up only one run, getting out of the inning with the bases loaded when both Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson popped out to first base.
"The closest thing I can put this to is when I was a little kid and my mom would take me to the toy store" Sabathia said. "When you get that anxious feeling going into toy store and you can pick out anything you want. That was what the feeling was like. I was like a little kid in a candy store."
After the Indians escaped the top of the first relatively unscathed, they promptly took the lead for good in the bottom half and blasted away for the rest of the contest.
Vizquel singled with one out and came all the way around to score on Roberto Alomar's double into the right-field corner. Alomar, who was on base five times in the game, took third when the throw by Ichiro Suzuki got away from the cutoff man and Alomar scored on a bloop single by Juan Gonzalez.
Cleveland built the lead to 4-1 in the second when Travis Fryman reached on a throwing error by second baseman Bret Boone, Einar Diaz singled and Vizquel brought both runners in with a triple.
The Indians broke the game open in the third by sending 10 men to the plate against Abbott, who replaced starter Aaron Sele to start the inning. Gonzalez homered to lead off the inning and, after Jim Thome struck out, Ellis Burks reached on a single.
Fryman fanned for the second out of the inning, after which six straight batters reached base. Russell Branyan singled and Diaz delivered a run-scoring base hit. Kenny Lofton walked to load the bases, Vizquel singled off the glove of third baseman David Bell to bring in the third run of the inning and Alomar forced in a run by walking.
With the bases still loaded, Gonzalez flew out to left to end the inning.
Lofton homered in the fifth inning to make it 9-1 and Thome opened a three-run sixth with a home run of his own.
Cleveland then added to the humiliation of the Mariners by scoring five runs in the eighth inning, three of them coming in when Vizquel doubled with the bases loaded.
The game was so one sided that the Indians found the perfect place to use controversial reliever John Rocker.
Rocker came in to pitch a scoreless ninth.
"In the postseason, you never know how it's going to be day-to-day," Thome said. "They might come out and shut us out. You want to carry the momentum over but the postseason is weird -- you never know what is going to happen."
"When a team wins 116 games, you expect that team to go all the way," Vizquel said. "But every time you step into a playoff, it is a completely different story."