The 2000 ALDS Series had some new cast members. The Chicago White Sox were in the postseason for the first time in seven years. The Seattle Mariners were here after a five-year absence. And the Oakland A’s were in the playoffs for the first time since The Bash Brothers era came to an end eight years earlier. Surrounding these three new faces was one cast veteran—the two-time defending World Series champion New York Yankees.
Chicago had finished with the best record in the American League and was matched up with wild-card Seattle. Oakland was the 2-seed. New York might have been the battle-tested veteran, but a terrible September had almost cost them what was a weak AL East, and left them as the 3-seed.
You can read more about the season-long journeys of all four playoff teams, and about the individual players who lifted them to the postseason, at the links below. This post will focus squarely on the games of the 2000 American League Division Series.
Tuesday, October 3
The South Side of Chicago
The Mariners and White Sox got it going with a late afternoon start for Game 1. Seattle veteran Freddy Garcia took the ball against Chicago’s Jim Parque. And the Mariners wasted little time in getting after Parque.
The great veteran, Rickey Henderson, led the game off with a single to right. After a hit batsman, a young Alex Rodriguez, knocked a single the other way. Seattle was on the board and had runners on the corners. Edgar Martinez hit one on the screws, but it was a line drive out. John Olerud picked up the second run with a productive ground ball out. Then, in the top of the second, catcher Joe Oliver homered. The Mariners had an early 3-0 lead.
Chicago struck back quickly in the bottom of the second. Paul Konerko worked a walk. With two outs, Chris Singleton ripped an RBI triple, then scored on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 3-2 .
Seattle kept coming in their half of the third, with base hits by A-Rod and Martinez setting the table. But White Sox catcher Charles Johnson made a big play and picked A-Rod off of second base. Olerud grounded into a double play and the threat was killed. Chicago took that momentum into the bottom of the third when Ray Durham’s leadoff homer tied the game. Jose Valentine worked a walk and when Magglio Ordonez tripled, the White Sox had a 4-3 lead.
There was still just one out, and big hitters in Carlos Lee and Konerko were coming to the plate. But Garcia got a strikeout of Lee, retired Konerko and prevented further damage. This sequence, ending an otherwise good inning, would prove to be something of a premonition for how Chicago’s Division Series appearance would go.
Like in the bottom of the fourth. A couple singles and a walk set up the White Sox with the bases loaded and none out. But Brett Tomko came out of the Seattle bullpen and got Valentine on a short fly ball, then retired the great Frank Thomas. Or in the bottom of the sixth, when there were runners on the corners and one out. Durham grounded into a double play. Chicago went to the late innings with a 4-3 lead, but it could have been more comfortable.
Bob Howry came out of the White Sox bullpen to relieve Parque, who had admirably settled down after the shaky start. Howry promptly issued a walk. David Bell ripped a double to put runners on second and third. A groundball out failed to score the run. After a walk, Howry struck out Stan Javier. The Chicago reliever was on the verge of escaping with the lead intact. Until Mike Cameron singled to right.
The good news for Chicago was that Ordonez threw out the go-ahead run at the plate. The bad news was that all the missed opportunities for the White Sox in the middle innings now had them tied 4-4.
Both bullpens settled in and Game 1 went to extra innings. Keith Foulke was on for Chicago in the top of the 10th. Cameron again got a big hit, this time a rally-starter, as he led off with a single and then stole second with one out. The steal proved unnecessary. Martinez and Olerud hit back-to-back homers. Seattle was ahead 7-4 and closed out the bottom of the 10th without incident. The road team had grabbed the series opener.
The Yankees were, as per usual, in the prime-time spot and sent the great veteran, Roger Clemens, to open this series. The A’s answered with Gil Heredia. New York might have ended the season on a down note, but they looked to establish quick momentum against a young starter.
Chuck Knoblauch opened the game with a base hit, and Derek Jeter got plunked. This rally died when Paul O’Neill hit into a double play, but Heredia wasn’t as fortunate in the second inning. Jorge Posada’s two-out single was followed by consecutive doubles from Luis Sojo and Scott Brosius. The Yanks were up 2-0.
Heredia settled in after that and Clemens was cruising in the early going. The game stayed 2-zip until the bottom of the fifth. A Jeremy Giambi walk was sandwiched by singles from Eric Chavez and Ramon Hernandez. The A’s had cut the lead to 2-1 and had runners on first and second with none out.
A ground ball to the right side by Terrence Long moved both runners up. A base hit from Randy Velarde tied it up and a Clemens wild pitch put Oakland on top 3-2. Velarde was now on second base. Clemens limited further damage by intentionally walking the more potent Giambi in the A’s lineup—first baseman Jason—and then getting an inning-ending double play.
And the Yankees immediately struck back when Bernie Williams doubled to lead off the top of the sixth Productive outs from David Justice and Tino Martinez put us back in a 3-3 tie.
But having gotten to Clemens, Oakland kept coming. They did two-out damage in the sixth, with singles from Chavez and Jeremy Giambi, followed by an RBI double from Ramon Hernandez. Giambi was thrown out at the plate—oddly foreshadowing of a more famous play where he got clipped at the plate in this same playoff round a year later—but the A’s led 4-3.
Heredia handed the game over to the Oakland bullpen who dominated the late frames. Three A’s pitchers did not allow a hit. The A’s added an insurance run in the eighth. The upstarts had taken Game 1 from the veterans by a 5-3 count.
Wednesday, October 4
The South Side of Chicago
The White Sox turned to Mike Sirotka to get them back on track, while the Mariners handed the ball to Paul Abbott for Wednesday afternoon’s Game 2. Chicago got a quick run in the bottom of the first, when Durham and Valentin doubled in succession to start the frame. But it could have been more, especially after Valentin stole third base with no one out. But the big guns of the White Sox lineup—Thomas, Lee, and Konerko—all missed chances to bring the second run home.
And that missed opportunity immediately started to hurt. Martinez doubled to lead off the Seattle second. Olerud was hit by a pitch and Valentin booted one to load up the bases. With no one out, Bell singled to tie the game. Dan Wilson’s sac fly put the Mariners up 2-1.
Valentin stayed in the middle of the action in the bottom of the third when he led off by bunting for a hit. With one out, he stole another base, then took third on an errant throw. This time, he found someone to pick him up. Lee’s sac fly tied it up 2-2.
But Seattle had an immediate answer when Jay Buhner homered in the top of the fourth. The bottom of that same inning saw Chicago miss another good opportunity, when Durham grounded into a double play with runners on the corners and one out. The Mariners manufactured a run in the fifth when Henderson walked, stole second, was bunted to third, and came home on a base hit by A-Rod.
For the second straight day, the pitching settled in in the second part of the game. The White Sox made noise in the seventh, putting runners on first and second with one out. Thomas and Ordonez were coming to the plate. Seattle manager Lou Piniella went to the bullpen and called for Jose Mesa. Thomas and Ordonez were set down. The Mariners kept the lead, added an insurance run, got another save from closer Kaz Sasaki and, with the 5-2 win, took a 2-0 series lead.
The two-time defending champs called on lefty Andy Pettitte to avoid falling into the same hole Chicago found themselves in. Oakland had Kevin Appier on the hill for Game 2. And both pitchers were locked in early on. Each team missed a scoring opportunity in the first inning, but then zeroes started going up without incident until New York came to bat in the top of the sixth.
Williams one-out double got the Yankees going. With two outs, O’Neill was intentionally walked. It was an understandable move, with the lesser known Hill and Sojo up next. It was also a move that didn’t work out for the A’s. Hill singled to score the games’ first run, Sojo doubled in two more and Pettitte had a 3-0 lead.
Oakland made a little bit noise three more times. But a leadoff double from Chavez in the sixth went for naught. In the seventh, Grieve grounded into a double play with two on and one out. In the eighth, there were runners on the corners with two outs. Pettitte finally gave way to Mariano. The great closer finished off the last four outs, the Yanks tacked on a run in the ninth and their 4-0 win evened up this series.
Friday, October 6
Both series took a day off to travel, and the Mariners came home looking to close it out on early Friday afternoon local start. Aaron Sele was pitching for Seattle, while Chicago relied on James Baldwin to extend their season. Both pitchers would be terrific.
Sele put Chicago in position to score with a couple walks in the first, but escaped when Ordonez bounced one back to the pitcher, allowing Sele to start a 1-6-3 double play. The White Sox got the game’s first run in the second when Harold Baines doubled the other way to left field, then scored on a consecutive deep fly ball outs. Seattle answered in the fourth. Raul Ibanez singled, was bunted over by A-Rod and took third on a ground ball out. With two down, Javier legged out an infield hit that tied the game 1-1.
Sele and Baldwin both kept things quiet. Baldwin finished his afternoon after six innings, Sele went into the eighth, but there were no threats of any real substance.
In the bottom of the ninth, Kelly Wunsch was pitching for Chicago. Wunsch came off the mound to field a short grounder off the bat of Olerud…and threw it away. Olerud ended up in second base. Foulke was summoned.
With no one out, Piniella played small ball. Javier dropped a sac bunt down to get the runner to third. Carlos Guillen came to the plate. He bunted. It was a line drive bunt that could have blown up on Seattle, but it found a hole between the drawn-in Durham and Thomas on the right side of the infield and went all the way through. Rickey Henderson, running for Olerud, came racing in with the winning run.
The Mariners were going to the American League Championship Series. The White Sox magical season had ended with a hard thud.
The Yankees went to the reliable Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez for the pivotal Game 3, while Oakland turned to Tim Hudson, a talented young arm with a long and bright future ahead of him.
It was the second inning when both teams struck. El Duque walked a couple guys. With two outs, Jeremy Giambi made it hurt, with an RBI single. In the bottom of the second, Bernie Williams did what he always seemed to do—be ready with an immediate answer. A leadoff double, and an O’Neill infield hit set up runners on the corners with one out. Hill’s short grounder to the pitcher plated one run and moved O’Neill to second. And New York got some clutch two-out hitting of their own, as Derek Jeter’s base hit put them up 2-1.
Each pitcher worked around some trouble in the third. In the bottom of the fourth, a walk and an error put the Yanks in business. Jeter’s ground ball out picked up another run. Long hit a leadoff homer in the fifth to quickly answer back, but New York still had a 3-2 lead. El Duque got settled in and started to dominate. So did Hudson, but it was already too late. A late Yankee insurance run, combined with Rivera in the bullpen led to a 4-2 win. New York was on the brink of clinching.
Saturday, October 7
Another one of the rising stars in the A’s rotation, lefty Barry Zito, got the ball with the season on the line. Clemens would pitch for the Yankees. The legendary power pitcher was going on short rest, and it didn’t take long to show.
Clemens issued a couple walks in the top of the first, Olmedo Saenz went deep and Zito had a 3-zip lead before taking the mound. Oakland continued to get opportunities, putting runners on first and second with none out in both the second and third inning. But Clemens escaped each time. Would the missed chances come back to haunt the A’s?
Not with Zito dealing the way he was. And in the top of the sixth, the Oakland bats got back to work. Chavez singled, Tejada doubled and Grieve singled both runs in. It was 5-0 and Clemens was gone. Ramon Hernandez tacked on a subsequent RBI single to give Zito a 6-0 cushion.
New York got their first run in the bottom of the sixth, and put runners on second and third with two outs. Jim Mecir came out of the Oakland bullpen to face Tino Martinez. Mecir got Tino to pop up. That was the last time the game got close to becoming interesting. The A’s added a run in the eighth, unloaded for four more in the ninth and the final was 11-1.
Sunday, October 8
There was no travel day and Saturday’s game had been in prime-time, so both teams flew cross-country overnight back to the Bay Area. The only Game 5 in this year’s Division Series would get prime-time coverage on Sunday night. Heredia was back on the mound for the A’s. Pettitte was going for the Yankees, trying to do what Clemens could not, and that’s be effective on short rest.
But it was Heredia who had nothing out of the gate. Chuck Knoblauch started the game with a single. Jeter walked and O’Neill beat out an infield hit. The Yankees quickly had the bases loaded. A sac fly from Williams put New York on the board. Justice worked a walk. Tino Martinez came to the plate and crushed a bases-clearing double. The fans were barely in their seats and the home team trailed 4-0.
And the Yanks weren’t done. Posada legged out an infield hit. With runners on the corners, Heredia was gone after recording just one out. Sojo’s sac fly made it 5-0. Brosius singled to keep the inning alive. The lineup flipped over and Knoblauch got his second single of the first inning. It was 6-0. Jeter flew out to right and the top of the first was mercifully, at least for A’s fans, in the books.
It seemed like this would be an anticlimactic night. But Pettitte would not have his good stuff either. And in the bottom of the second, Oakland started to chip away. Adam Piatt singled with one out. Ramon Hernandez singled with two outs. Long worked a walk. Velarde came up with a clutch single that scored two runs. It was 6-2 and the A’s quickly added another run in the third when Tejada singled and then scored on a Chavez double.
Now, with the score 6-3, the six innings still remaining seemed like an eternity. Justice delivered for New York with a solo blast in the fourth to make it 7-3. But Oakland struck right back in the home half of the inning. Hernandez singled, Long walked and Velarde singled. The bases were loaded. Consecutive sac flies from Jason Giambi and Saenz cut the lead to 7-5. Tejada singled. Now it was Pettitte’s time to go, having allowed 10 hits in less than four innings. All the momentum was with the A’s.
But as for much action as had been jammed into the first four innings, that’s how little went into the final five. The bullpens for both teams completely took over. The A’s got just three hits over the final five frames. The Yankees had only two, but they were the ones with the lead. Oakland got noble work from Kevin Appier and Mecir, who kept the game close after the disastrous start. But the tag-team of Mike Stanton and Jeff Nelson for New York turned the game over to Rivera. Mariano slammed the door.
This was the toughest postseason test the Yankees had seen since starting their dynastic run in 1998. But it still ended with a seventh straight series victory for the men in Pinstripes.
DIVISION SERIES MVPS
Baseball hasn’t gotten around to officially awarding a MVP for the Division Series. But they should, so we’ll do what we can to fill in those historical gaps.
The Yankees-A’s series had a number of notable performers. Chavez and Tejada had seven hits apiece for Oakland. For New York, Sojo has to have set some kind of record for the loudest .188 series batting average in history. He went 3-for-16, but all of those hits were consequential and he drove in five runs.
The best contenders for MVP though, are Tino Martinez and Mariano Rivera. Tino went 8-for-19, and his bases-loaded double in Game 5 was monumental. But I have to give the edge to Mariano. He saved all three Yankee games and the biggest story of the decisive fifth game was the dominance of New York’s bullpen. Let’s send Rivera an ex post facto Division Series MVP trophy. As though his trophy case isn’t big enough.
The three-game sweep in the White Sox-Mariners makes it a little tougher for individuals to stand out, especially because the defining feature of that series was Chicago’s inability to get big hits (or Seattle’s ability to get big outs, whichever way you want to view it). On the White Sox side, the only player who had a good series with the bat was Herbert Perry, who went 4-for-9.
The Mariners got good performances from Bell (4-for-11), Edgar Martinez (4-for-11) and A-Rod (4-for-13). Sele’s brilliant Game 3 could make him a viable choice in a series with no standouts. And Arthur Rhodes worked relief in all three games, and pitched hitless ball for 2 2/3 innings.
I lean Bell. He was involved in key rallies and you can make the case that his crucial double late in Game 1 was the biggest hit in a series where the games were decided on the margins.
So let’s go with David Bell and Mariano Rivera as your 2000 ALDS MVPs.
AFTERMATH FOR THE VANQUISHED
Chicago completely disappeared from the landscape for the next five years. The White Sox’ 2000 season has the look of a strange outlier, sort of nestled in between their good teams of the early 1990s and the one that would bring the ultimate prize to the South Side in 2005.
Oakland did not disappear. This run to the playoffs started a string of four straight postseason appearances. It also started a string of crushing Game 5 losses in the Division Series all four of those years. And one of those seasons, the 2002 campaign, became the inspiration for the Brad Pitt film Moneyball.
AFTERMATH FOR THE VICTORS
New York and Seattle were getting started on a little mini-rivalry. This was the first of two consecutive years they would meet in the ALCS. And the Yankees won both times in six games. New York’s victory in the 2000 ALCS set them up for a Subway Series against the crosstown Mets, and the 2000 World Series saw the Yanks win their third straight championship.