Turn Back The Clock: October 17th, 2000-And Justice For All…
By Billy Brost
The 2000 American League Championship Series were a match-up of the two-time defending World Series champion New York Yankees, versus the upstart Seattle Mariners. For the Mariners, this would be the last run with one of their biggest stars in Alex Rodriguez, because Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey, Jr. had already been dealt in cost-saving measures. For the Yankees, it was business as usual, and the title winning machine was in full effect.
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After opening the ALCS with a victory in New York to steal home field advantage, the Yankees and their power offense came roaring back to put up 20 total runs over the next three games to take a decisive 3 games to 1 lead on the Mariners. The Bombers had won two of the first three games in Seattle behind the pitching of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens. New York could’ve finished off the series in Game Five, but the Yankees’ Achilles heel, Denny Neagle, once again pitched poorly, as Freddy Garcia and Seattle staved off elimination for another night, and bringing the series back to New York, with the Yankees up 3 games to 2.
The Mariners appeared to have the momentum, and were hoping for a repeat of their classic 5-game series against the Yankees back in 1995, when the Yankees were firmly in control, only to have choked it away in extra innings of Game Five, five years prior. The M’s jumped on Orlando Hernandez early, taking a 2-0 lead. A-Rod and Edgar Martinez hit back-to-back doubles, and Carlos Guillen doubled the lead for the Mariners with a 2-run blast in the fourth inning, making it 4-0 Mariners.
In typical Yankees 90s dynasty fashion, they weren’t going away without a fight. After David Justice and Bernie Williams both reached base in the bottom of the fourth against John Halama, catcher Jorge Posada roped a 2-run double, scoring both baserunners, and cutting the lead in half. Paul O’Neill drove home Posada with a single, making it 4-3, Mariners at the end of 4. Brett Tomko relieved Halama to finish the inning.
The scored remained the same until the seventh inning, when the Yankees put their stamp on both the game and the series. Jose Paniagua relieved Tomko, and gave up a single to pinch hitter Jose Vizcaino, who was hitting for Scott Brosius. Chuck Knoblauch moved Vizcaino up to second on a sac bunt. The Yankees then had runners at the corners when Derek Jeter singled, with only one out. Arthur Rhodes, a tough lefty, was brought in to relieve Paniagua. Sweet Lou Piniella made the by the book move, and it failed…miserably. David Justice sent a Rhodes pitch into the stands, giving the Yankees a two-run lead, and the momentum to clinch their 37th pennant.
Bernie Williams followed Justice’s bomb up with a single, Tino Martinez doubled, pushing Bernie to third, and Posada was issued a free pass to load the bases for Paul O’Neill. The Warrior ripped a single to right, which scored both Bernie and Tino, and extending the Yankees’ lead to 8-4. Jose Mesa relieved Rhodes, and issued a walk to Luis Sojo, loading the bases again. Posada came home on a Vizcaino sac fly, and when the inning ended, the Yankees were up 9-4.
The Mariners, with the fiery spirit of their field boss, didn’t go away. A-Rod went yard off of El Duque, followed by a walk to Edgar Martinez, ending Hernandez’s night. Joe Torre went to the Sandman, who allowed El Duque’s sixth earned run of the night to cross the plate, as John Olerud doubled, moving Edgar to third. Rivera retired the next two hitters, but gave up a two-run double to Mark McLemore, scoring both Edgar and Olerud. What is interesting about that double, was that it ended Mariano Rivera‘s 34-consecutive innings scoreless streak in the postseason. Rivera struck out Jay Buhner, ending the threat, with the score being Yankees 9, Mariners 7.
With only A-Rod reaching base in the ninth against Rivera, the Sandman closed out the Mariners in the final frame, saving the game, and clinching the Yankees’ 37th American League pennant. Justice’s big blast clinched series MVP honors, and propelled the Bombers into the Subway Series against the cross-town New York Mets. The Yankees won the series in six games, and in the process, becoming the first team since the Oakland A’s of the early 1970s, to win three straight World Series titles. It was possible because of David Justice’s clutch blast on this day, October 17th, 2000.