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Groz Remembers the 2001 Mariners: The infamous Cleveland comeback

Aug 4, 2021, 12:39 PM
Mariners Cleveland 2001 Piniella...
The most memorable of the 2001 M's 46 losses was Aug. 5. (Getty - Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT)
(Getty - Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT)

2001: A Baseball Odyssey – a weekly look back at the record-setting 2001 Mariners and the players who got them there.

As the season swung into August, the wins kept piling up for the Seattle Mariners as they continued their assault on one of baseball’s oldest records, the 1906 Cubs’ 116 wins. But some surprising things happened as well, none more so then Aug. 5.

Servais: Mariners’ lineup is deepest, most complete it’s been all year

The M’s were in Cleveland facing an Indians team that was in a tight battle for first in the American League Central. The M’s did them no favors, winning the first two games before trying to win the series in front of a national TV audience on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. “The Jake” was packed with nearly 43,000 fans to watch as former Mariners pitcher Dave Burba, riding a five-game winning streak, dueled Aaron Sele, who was looking to improve his record to 13-3.

After a scoreless first inning, the Mariners went to work posting four runs, then doubled that total with eight more in the third to take a 12-0 lead. Cleveland’s Jim Thome hit his 35th homer to make it 12-2, but the M’s put up two more in the top of the fifth to extend their lead back to 12 runs.

It stayed that way through the top of the seventh, and Indians manager Charlie Manuel waved the white flag at that point, pulling stars Travis Fryman, Roberto Alomar, Ellis Burks and Juan Gonzales. The Indians rallied for three runs in the bottom the seventh, however, chasing Sele.

It got a little more interesting in the eighth when the Tribe added four more runs, but Mariners catcher Tom Lampkin made a play to stop the rally and the M’s carried a five-run lead into the ninth with of course baseball’s best bullpen.

Norm Charlton gave up a single then got two quick outs, but that’s when the wheels fell off.

After back-to-back Cleveland hits, manager Lou Piniella brought in Jeff Nelson, who immediately walked the bases loaded then gave up a two-run single to make it 14-11. Then it was time for Kaz Sasaki to wrap up his 36th save. Nope – a single by Kenny Lofton loaded the bases again and Omar Vizquel delivered a triple to tie the game at 14.

Nothing happened in the 10th and Cleveland’s John Rocker struck out the side in the 11th before the Indians mounted a rally against Jose Paniagua to win it, 15-14.

It was the third time in baseball history a team had come from 12 runs down and the first in 76 years, but to do it to a team that was 50 games over .500? It was one of the oddest nights to be sure of the 2001 Mariners season.

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More 2001 Mariners memories from Groz

When Ichiro became Ichiro
The curious case of Al Martin
• Freddy García replaces the ace he was traded for
• Kaz Sasaki and Seattle’s incredible bullpen
• Seattle hosts an All-Star Game for the ages
• The bounceback year of M’s Hall of Famer Dan Wilson
• Mark McLemore, the all-important 10th man
• Edgar Martinez cements his legacy with his last great season
• Aaron Sele, the pitcher who ‘fell from the sky’
• Bret Boone gave Seattle a huge, surprising boost
• Paul Abbott, the forgotten hero of the historic ’01 M’s
• Introduction: Celebrating the 2001 Mariners, 20 years later

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Groz Remembers the 2001 Mariners: The infamous Cleveland comeback