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Heard it before? Yep
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
Game 1: Yankees 4, Mariners 2
Just go back to '96 and Jeffery Maier, or '98 and the turnaround in Cleveland after down 2 games to 1, or '99 and all the freak plays with the Red Sox, or 2000 and two David Justice at-bats against the Mariners.
Here we are again. Mike Mussina and Derek Jeter created unimaginable ways to beat Barry Zito -- OK, actually, Willie Randolph and Don Zimmer thought up that Jeter play and instituted it three years ago -- and now the Yankee folks are talking about running the table.
You can believe all you want that this is a bullpen series, but it may be a starters' series, because whoever is ahead into the seventh wins. And it's 1-0 Yankees with Mussina facing Freddy Garcia on three days' rest because of Andy Pettitte.
Pettitte has started 21 postseason games. The Yankees are 16-5 in those games. For some perspective, the Seattle Mariners have won three postseason series in six years and still have won 14 postseason games in their history. The Boston Red Sox have won 12 postseason games since the Ford Administration.
The Yankees are 16-5 in Andy Pettitte's postseason careeer.
"It's not an I thing, it's we," said Pettitte. "I've pitched some bad games. We are what we are ... a team. Why do you think Roger (Clemens) is so happy here? It's not about any one person, it's about the team."
Pettitte was brilliant. He shut down Ichiro thrice; first time up, he started off the Mariners star with a pitch dropped on his back foot, second time up he started Ichiro off with a looping curveball, and took the tempo of the game away from Seattle. Pettitte threw strikes and worked quickly, and because he ran that two-seamer so effectively, his infielders were alive and provided great plays from Derek Jeter (who can barely walk to dinner) and Alfonso Soriano. And when, in the seventh, Bret Boone led off with a single and Seattle's best, Edgar Martinez, came up, Pettitte broke two of Edgar's bats on consecutive pitches, struck out the great hitter and got Mike Cameron to hit into a 5-4-3 double play brilliantly executed by Scott Brosius and Soriano.
"We may never face a greater challenge than those three Oakland pitchers," says Tino. "But when we survived Barry Zito in Game 3, we truly believed we were going to win."
Yankee players yesterday were still talking about Miguel Tejada pretending to machine-gun Bernie Williams after an inning-ending double play in the first inning of Game 5, or the total confidence meltdown of Eric Chavez. The Yankee never act out of character, yet continue to rise. "Guys like Derek have grown up in this environment," says Randolph. "They're like great Broadway performers. They've done Man of La Mancha a thousand times. So what's the big deal on stage?"
Now, Chuck Knoblauch got on base three times and seems so cleared that he may be the great leadoff hitter he was in his youth, in time for the free-agent market. Paul O'Neill and David Justice have dialed up their October selves.
"There is a lot of reliability around here," said Torre. Indeed, players rely on one another on the Yankees. It helps that there is a Pettitte or a Mariano Rivera -- when Edgar broke his third and last game bat in the ninth inning, the N.Y. Times' great writer Buster Olney noted that it was the 45th bat Rivera has broken this season -- to establish reliability.
If you think you've heard all this before ...
The 1936-39 Yankees and 1949-53 Yankees are the only teams to win four straight World Series. These Yankees are seven wins away.
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