Groz Remembers 2001 Mariners: The magic runs out in the ALCS

Oct 13, 2021, 10:57 AM | Updated: 12:39 pm

Mariners Yankees Alfonso Soriano...

Alfonso Soriano of the New York Yankees hits a two-run home run to win Game 4 of the 2001 ALCS against the Seattle Mariners on Oct. 21, 2001. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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

The Playoffs: American League Chapionship Series

Just five weeks removed from the horror of planes collapsing the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Mariners were ready to do battle with the New York Yankees in an ALCS rematch from the year before, which the Yankees had won on their way to their third straight World Series victory.

The critical game in the 2000 ALCS was Game 4 in Seattle when the Yanks had ridden the right arm of Roger Clemens, who pitched a complete-game 1-hitter, striking out 15 and giving New York a commanding 3-1 series lead.

The Mariners had the far better record in 2001, but the Yankees had the support of the whole world it seemed, and there was a nameless dread among Mariners fans that all was not right with their heroes. Sure enough, they dropped Game 1 at Safeco Field against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, and to make matters worse Mike Mussina brought back bad memories of 1997 and shut down the Mariners in Game 2.

With their backs against the wall, the Mariners headed to New York for Game 3, and for one evening they unleashed all that they had been in this amazing season. Jamie Moyer dealed, John Olerud homered in the sixth to put the M’s in the lead, Bret Boone went 3 for 5 with five RBIs, and even Jay Buhner hit a long ball as the Mariners crunched the Yanks 14-3.

For the second year in a row, the series would come down to a critical Game 4. And once again it was Clemens on the mound for NY in a game that was one for the ages.

Paul Abbott started for Seattle and held the Yankees hitless through five innings, but he walked eight while throwing nearly 100 pitches and was pulled. Clemens again allowed just one hit through five but walked four with two wild pitches, and he was pulled as well. So it was to be a battle of the bullpens, and the game remained a scoreless duel into the eighth when Boone delivered a homer off of Ramiro Mendoza to give Seattle the lead.

Now it was up to Arthur Rhodes and Kaz Sasaki to do what they had done so well all year. Just six more outs and the series is tied.

Alas, it was not to be.

On a full count, Yankees All-Star Bernie Williams homered off Rhodes in the eighth to tie it, and after a single by Scott Brosius in the ninth, rookie Alfonso Soriano hit the walk-off homer to win it 3-1.

The fight was gone as the M’s succumbed 13-2 in Game 5. No trip to the World Series as a huge, empty feeling permeated the team and the town. For a week you could just resign yourself to this being the Yankees’ year after 9/11, but then Arizona won the World Series behind co-MVP Randy Johnson in seven games and that was gone. What remains is an empty feeling about a year that should have been but instead stands as the Mariners’ last playoff appearance on this the 20th anniversary. A terrific ride that didn’t end the way it was supposed to, but still a Seattle summer like no other.

More 2001 Mariners memories from Groz

116-win M’s survive Cleveland in ALDS
“The Bone” Jay Buhner sends out his last HRs
Carlos Guillén takes over at SS after ARod leaves
Seattle’s special moment after baseball’s post-9/11 return
On Sept. 10, M’s were still doing what they did best
Hometown hero John Olerud’s big year
Solid and steady David Bell
• Mike Cameron pulls off the impossible
• Kazuhiro Sasaki, Mariners’ man of mystery
• The infamous Cleveland comeback
• 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 2001 Mariners: The magic runs out in the ALCS