The New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners came into the 2000 ALCS with very different histories. The Yankees were the most decorated franchise in all of professional sports, and the two-time defending World Series champions to boots. The Mariners were a team whose very existence was still less than 25 years old. They had never even made the World Series, much less won it. And they had only reached the ALCS once before this. These two teams, coming from such different paths, played a good American League Championship Series in October of 2000, with the Yanks successfully continuing their march for a three-peat.
You can read more about the paths New York and Seattle took to reach the postseason, the key players who led the way, and their victories in the Division Series round, at the links below. This article will focus squarely on the games of the 2000 ALCS.
The ALCS opened on a Tuesday night in the Bronx. New York, their rotation off schedule after a grueling five-game Division Series with Oakland, gave the Game 1 start to Denny Neagle. Seattle, fresh off a sweep of Chicago, handed the ball to reliable Freddy Garcia.
Both pitchers performed well. Neagle pitched around a couple of first-inning walks by getting a double play ball. Garcia got his own double-play ball to escape a tight spot in the third inning. We were still scoreless when the game reached the fifth. That’s when the Mariners did some two-out damage.
Mark McLemore got the first hit of the game for Seattle, a double to left. Neagle’s no-hitter was gone, and his shutout went by the boards when Rickey Henderson delivered an RBI single. One inning later, Alex Rodriguez, then a rising star with the Mariners, homered.
Garcia pitched into the seventh inning, allowing just three hits. The game overall had only 11 hits and eight of them were singles. The 2-0 Seattle lead was still holding in the bottom of the ninth. Mariner closer Kazuhiro “Kaz” Sasaki came out of the bullpen. Bernie Williams hit a leadoff single, and Tino Martinez delivered a one-out base hit. The Yankees had a couple shots to win the game with one swing. But Kaz got Jorge Posada and Luis Sojo to fly out. Seattle had grabbed a road win.
Game 2 was a late afternoon start on Wednesday. New York would turn to the ever-reliable Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, who faced off with John Halama.
The Yankees quickly loaded up the bases on Halama in the first, thanks to two walks and an error. With nobody out, Williams had the chance to do some real damage. But he bounced into a home-to-first double play and the Mariners escaped the inning.
El Duque did some escape work of his own in the top of the second. With runners on second and third and one out, he snared a line drive hit back at him, and then doubled the runner off second. But in the top of the third inning, Seattle broke through. Just like last night, everything started with two outs. Mike Cameron walked, stole second and scored on a base hit by Stan Javier.
It was early, but there was definitely some pressure on New York. El Duque settled in and didn’t allow any more runs, as he worked eight strong innings. But Halama continued the Seattle pattern of putting up zeroes. We reached the bottom of the eighth with the score still 1-0 and the Yanks in danger of falling into a big series hole.
David Justice responded with a leadoff double in the eighth against Mariner reliever Arthur Rhodes. Williams promptly followed with a single that tied the game. Martinez and Posada both singled. The Yanks now had the lead and they had Mariano Rivera coming out of the bullpen for the ninth. But they kept adding on. Paul O’Neill picked up an RBI with a sac fly. Sojo singled. Jose Vizcaino doubled. Chuck Knoblauch singled. The lead was up to 5-1. Derek Jeter homered.
By the time the inning was over, it was 7-1. Rivera still came out of the pen, but now it just to get some work and stay sharp going into the travel day. New York had evened up this 2000 ALCS.
Friday night’s prime-time start on the East Coast meant a 5 PM local start in Seattle for Game 3. The pitchers were Andy Pettitte for the Yanks and Aaron Sele for the Mariners. The home crowd behind them, Seattle got after Pettitte right away in the first inning. Consecutive one-out singles from Cameron, A-Rod, and Edgar Martinez gave the home team a 1-0 lead.
But this time, the Yankee bats got cooking early. Williams and Tino Martinez hit back-to-back homers in the second inning, quickly putting New York back up 2-1. After Pettitte pitched around trouble in the second, the Yanks got another run in the third when Scott Brosius singled and then scored a two-out double from Justice.
In the bottom of the fifth, Seattle got one back. Henderson doubled with one out, Cameron picked him up with a single, and at 3-2, we had another good ballgame on our hands.
New York kept chipping away in the sixth. Williams singled. Tino Martinez beat out an infield hit. With two outs, O’Neill delivered an RBI single. 4-2 Yanks.
It was still 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth, when A-Rod singled and stole second. With one out, New York manager Joe Torre summoned Rivera. The great closer got the last two outs of the eighth. He retired the side in the ninth. In between the Yankees tacked on four insurance wins. With the 8-2 final, New York had won another otherwise close game by blowing it open late. And they led this ALCS 2-1.
Game 4 was another late afternoon start in the Pacific Northwest, aiming for the Saturday night audience in the Big Apple. And Roger Clemens was ready for prime-time. The Yankee starter was dominant and was working on a no-hitter by the fifth inning. But Paul Abbott was putting up zeroes of his own for Seattle. Abbott got the first two batters in the top of the fifth. Then New York struck.
In short order, Brosius singled, Knoblauch worked a walk and Jeter homered. It was 3-0. With Clemens pitching like he was, and Rivera waiting in the bullpen, the lead seemed ironclad. It was—and Mariano wasn’t even necessary. Clemens kept dealing. His no-hitter stayed intact until the seventh. Seattle got the tying run to the plate with two outs in that seventh inning, but Clemens struck out Cameron to end the threat.
Clemens went the distance, closing out the one-hitter and finishing with 15 strikeouts. Justice hit a two-run homer for unnecessary insurance in the eighth. New York had a 5-0 win and was one win from a third straight American League pennant.
What a day Sunday, October 15 was to be a sports fan in New York City. The pro football feast started with the Super Bowl-bound Giants beating the Cowboys. In the late afternoon time slot, a decent Jets team knocked off the Patriots. And baseball? Merely the Yankees going to make the World Series in a 4 PM ET start, and the Mets playing in prime-time, two wins from doing the same.
Game 5 was a Neagle-Garcia rematch. Neagle had been wild in the first inning of Game 1, but escaped. He was wild again to start this one, walking three batters. Neagle didn’t give up a hit, but a sac fly from John Olerud to put the Mariners on the board.
New York hadn’t scored off Garcia in the series opener, and it took the Yanks until the fourth inning to do anything here. Tino Martinez hit a leadoff double. Posada followed with a single, setting up runners on the corners with no one out. Then O’Neill worked a walk. Sojo doubled. The Yankees had a 2-1 lead, there were runners on the second and third and still none out. The chance to blow this game—and the 2000 ALCS—wide open was right there.
But it didn’t happen. Brosius popped up, Knoblauch struck out and Jeter grounded out. The Mariners still had life. And in the bottom of the fifth, they made New York pay for not driving the knife in.
McLemore bunted for a hit to start the rally. Henderson walked. Cameron bunted both runners up. Neagle was pulled for Jeff Nelson, but A-Rod got Nelson for a single that scored both runs. Seattle had the lead and they kept coming. Edgar Martinez homered. Olerud homered. The Mariners had a comfortable 6-2 lead.
Seattle fans still had reason to be nervous in the seventh when three walks loaded the bases with one out. But Rhodes struck out Posada, struck out Glenallen Hill and killed the threat. The game ended 6-2. The Mariners still had a steep hill to climb, trailing 3-2 in games and the series going to New York. But the Subway Series, which got the first half completed, when the Mets clinched the NLCS on Monday, wasn’t a done deal yet.
Tuesday night, we were back in the Bronx with a pitching rematch between El Duque and Halama. And the Yankee starter was not sharp. After a one-out walk in the top of the first, A-Rod and Edgar Martinez hit consecutive doubles down the left field line and Seattle had a 2-0 lead. That lead extended to 4-zip in the fourth when Olerud’s double was followed by a two-run blast from Carlos Guillen.
That 3-1 series lead that had looked so ironclad for the Yankees was starting to crack, but this veteran team wasted no time getting back in the game. With one out in the home half of the fourth, Justice and Williams each singled. Tino Martinez worked a walk. Posada ripped a double into the right-center gap to cut the lead to 4-2, with runners still on second and third and only one out. O’Neill grounded a single and it was 4-3 with runners on the corners.
Seattle skipper Lou Piniella went to his bullpen. Brett Tomko delivered, getting Sojo to pop up and then finishing the inning with the Mariner lead still intact.
Torre’s confidence in El Duque was underscored by leaving the starter in a game of this magnitude, even after the poor start. El Duque rewarded the confidence. He pitched around a leadoff double in the sixth, but otherwise kept the game at 4-3 until the bottom of the seventh.
Jose Paniagua was now on for Seattle. A simple infield hit from Vizcaino got the inning started. Knoblauch put down a sac bunt to get the tying run into scoring position. Jeter singled to left, but Vizcaino was held up at third. It was still 4-3, and Piniella summoned the lefthander Rhodes to face the lefthanded hitting Justice.
It was a by-the-book move, but it blew up. Justice ripped a home run to right. The crowd was in a frenzy. The Yankees led 6-4 and they didn’t stop. Williams singled. Tino Martinez doubled. Posada walked. With the bases loaded, O’Neill knocked in two runs with a base hit. Rhodes was gone and the score was 8-4. It went to 9-4 when Vizcaino, who started all of this, picked up a run with a sac fly.
A-Rod immediately led off the top of the eighth with a home run and Edgar Martinez walked. That was it for El Duque and Rivera came in. But the great closer was greeted by a double from Olerud. There were runners on second and third. Raul Ibanez and Guillen couldn’t pick up the runs. But with two outs, McLemore did. A double to right cut the lead to 9-7 and gave Jay Buhner—a good young power-hitter—a chance to come up as the tying run. Mariano struck him out.
With two outs in the ninth, A-Rod legged out an infield hit. The Mariners had another good shot with the tying run up, this time in the person of Edgar Martinez. But Rivera induced a groundball to short, Jeter made the play and there was another October celebration in Yankee Stadium.
David Justice was named the 2000 ALCS MVP. His 6-for-26 performance doesn’t jump off the page. But if it seems like, in reading this narrative account, that Justice was at the center of an awful lot, well…he was. That’s backed up by his 8 RBIs in the six games, including the big home run of Game 6. He was a worthy choice for the honor.
Other Yankee heroes included Tino Martinez, who went 8-for-25, and Williams, who delivered 10 hits. Jeter went 7-for-22 and drew six walks.
A-Rod would one day become renowned for October failures when he became a Yankee, but there were no signs of that in this series. He went 9-for-22 with two home runs. Olerud’s 7-for-20 performance was the other notable showing by a Mariner hitter. Seattle’s best individual performance came from Garcia, who got both of Seattle’s wins with a 1.54 ERA.
The Yankees went on to finish the three-peat, defeating the Mets in five games in the World Series. One year later, both the Yanks and Mariners would be right back in this very same place. Both teams had even better regular seasons—especially Seattle, who won 116 games. But that 2001 ALCS ended basically the same—with a New York triumph.