The Mariners might have won more games in the regular season than any team in American League history, but the Yankees still have the recipe for winning when it counts.
The Yankees took advantage of third baseman David Bell's error on Scott Brosius' grounder leading off the third inning to score four unearned runs, then went on to eliminate the Mariners with a 12-3 win in Game 5 of the American League championship series with solid pitching and a few good plays of their own.
"It gave us a crack and we took advantage," Brosius said of Bell's error.
The Yankees have won three consecutive World Series championships with good pitching and timely fielding.
Andy Pettitte, the championship series' most valuable player, pitched 6 1-3 innings and allowed eight hits but just three runs with help from his fielders.
"You have to make plays behind them (pitchers)," Derek Jeter said.
It started with Chuck Knoblauch's shoestring catch in the first that prevented a run and ended with a sliding catch by Shane Spencer in the ninth inning.
Brosius made two fine plays at third base, a diving grab of a line drive by Edgar Martinez in the fifth and a leaping stab on a hit by Jay Buhner in the eighth.
While the Yankees made the plays and got the pitching, the Mariners didn't look like a team that won 116 games in the regular season.
"We took advantage of some of their mistakes and scored some runs," said Jeter.
The sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium spent the final innings of the game taunting the Mariners with chants of "Over-rated."
Signs around Yankee Stadium took hard shots. One said "116 Wins. So What" and another read "Winless in Seattle."
The Mariners sat back and took the punishment. They felt like they had it coming.
Aaron Sele, tagged with two of the four losses to New York in the five-game AL championship series, was asked what the record 116 wins meant now.
"Today," he said, "they mean nothing, period. It doesn't matter if you won 85 to get in the playoffs or 185 to get in the playoffs. It's how you finish."
And the Mariners didn't finish very well.
They nearly bailed out in the division series, shut out in the opener against Cleveland and forced to win the last two games to survive in five.
In the ALCS against the Yankees, they dropped the first two games at home and never recovered. Even in their one victory, a 14-3 rout in Game 3, they scored all their runs in the last four innings.
Catcher Tom Lampkin wondered in the season's last week if the chase for the record number of wins might have damaged the Mariners' focus. After they were eliminated, he seemed puzzled about how that happened.
"This is a special club that could have won it," he said. "It had all the pieces together. For some reason, it didn't work out for us. When you get this close, set the records we set, you just wonder."
It was a season full of records for Seattle.
The Mariners' .716 winning percentage was second-best ever in thAL and fifth-best ever in the majors. They won 20 games in April and 20 more in May, the first team to put consecutive 20-win months together. They also won 20 in August.
Seattle led the American League in batting, fielding and pitching, a lethal combination that led to all those wins.
And when it counted most, the Mariners lost.
Reliever Norm Charlton said losing the ALCS took nothing away from the Mariners' regular season accomplishment.
"I think we can still be very proud of the fact we won 116 games and the way that we carried ourselves," he said. "They weren't better than us all year. Nobody was better than us all year. They came up and beat us in a seven-game series. We didn't fall apart. We didn't kick the ball around. We just got beat."
Manager Lou Piniella preferred to remember a remarkable season.
"I'm proud of our guys," he said. "I talked to the team. I told them that we had a fantastic season. One-hundred-sixteen wins is something that's only been done once ever in the history of baseball. I congratulated them on a great season and I thanked them for the way they played for us, for me and for the organization and told them I was proud of them."
Piniella said the Mariners' task became more difficult in the postseason because of the nature of the playoffs, where only the best teams are still in action.
"It becomes harder," he said. "It's a tougher task as you move down the process. You know the amazing thing about baseball is that no matter how many games you win, unless you win the World Series, you're going to feel disappointment. Unless you win it all, you're going to face disappointment."
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