Shutting down the highest-scoring team in the majors for the third straight game, the wild card Mariners beat the Chicago White Sox 2-1 on pinch-hitter Carlos Guillen's bunt single in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday.
The Mariners, who didn't clinch their postseason spot until the final day of the regular season, won their AL playoff series with one out when pinch-runner Rickey Henderson scored on Guillen's safety-squeeze bunt.
"It's a storybook season so far," said Aaron Sele, who pitched 7 1-3 strong innings. "Hopefully, it will continue."
Guillen was one of the players Seattle received from the Houston Astros in the trade for ace Randy Johnson on July 31, 1998.
The 3-0 sweep in the opening round achieved in the year the Mariners traded Ken Griffey Jr. to Cincinnati sent the Mariners into the ALCS for the first time since 1995. They will play the winner of the Oakland-Yankees series.
The White Sox hit .286 and averaged just over six runs during the regulart season. Against the Mariners, they hit .185 and scored a total of seven runs on 17 hits.
"We feel like we let everyone down," said Frank Thomas, who was 0-for-9 with four walks i the series after hitting .328 with 43 homers and 143 RBIs during the regular season.
Guillen made the decision to bunt on his own. But he some good advice from manager Lou Piniella.
"I told him Rickey's on third," Piniella said. "Push it towards (first baseman) Thomas. It was a perfect, perfect bunt."
Guillen said he understood Piniella's meaning perfectly. On an 0-1 pitch from Keith Foulke, Guillen dragged a sharp bunt past a lunging Thomas.
"Lou told me to hit the ball to Frank Thomas," he said. "He doesn't play first base that much. I wanted to bring Rickey Henderson to home plate. I made the decision (to bunt). I did it myself."
Thomas played first base in 30 games and was the White Sox DH for 127 during the regular season. He was the DH in the first two games.
"It was a perfect bunt, a perfect spot," Thomas said. "He threaded the needle there," Thomas said. "The only thing you can do there is catch it in the air."
It was the second time in the series that Piniella gave the right advice.
In Game 1 in Chicago on Tuesday, he came out of the dugout and told Mike Cameron to steal second base in the 10th inning. Cameron did it, and Edgar Martinez and John Olerud followed with home runs on consecutive pitches to win the game.
"I was just waiting for a chance," said Guillen, who made his first appearance in the series.
In Friday's game, Olerud led off the ninth with a hard liner off the stomach of Kelly Wunsch. The reliever scrambled to pick up the ball, but threw it wildly past Thomas.
"I just wished he'd have held it, but he wanted to get him out," Thomas said.
Olerud reached second on a play scored as a single and an error. Henderson, baseball's career stolen base king and second on the all-time runs list, replaced Olerud, and Foulke relieved Wunsch.
Henderson moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Stan Javier and David Bell drew a four-pitch walk.
With Chicago's infield and outfield playing in, Guillen, batting for Joe Oliver, dragged a sharp bunt between the mound and first base. When the ball rolled past a lunging Thomas, Henderson easily scored.
"That was me," Guillen said. "I just wanted to try to hit the ball hard."
Seattle's bullpen again was the star of the game. For the series, the bullpen had 11 2-3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out 14.
Jose Paniagua got the victory by striking out Magglio Ordonez for the final out in the ninth. Arthur Rhodes pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings before Paniagua entered.
Wunsch, who was doubled over in pain in the dugout, took the loss.
The White Sox, who scored 978 runs this season, managed only three hits off Sele, Rhodes and Paniagua. Chicago also hit into three double plays.
In the first playoff game ever at Safeco Field, the AL's best road team could not win.
The White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the second when Harold Baines led off with a double and eventually scored on Herbert Perry's sacrifice fly. Baines barely slid under Oliver at the plate.
The Mariners tied it in the fourth on Javier's RBI single. Raul Ibanez opened with a single, Alex Rodriguez sacrificed and Javier singled with two outs off second baseman Ray Durham's glove.
Sele, a 17-game winner who was 4-0 in September, continued his strong pitching. He allowed three hits and three walks.
Chicago's James Baldwin, who pitched despite a case of painful tendinitis in his right shoulder, gave the White Sox a strong six innings, leaving after giving up three hits and three walks.
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