Johnson asked to carry Seattle

The Associated Press

SEATTLE At this rate, Randy Johnson might set yet another major league record this season most saves in the month of October.

Not the kind of saves Dennis Eckersley, Tug McGraw or Rollie Fingers recorded in postseasons past. No, these are even more meaningful, as in pitching performances that save the entire season.

For the fourth time in 16 days, Johnson will get the ball when a loss means elimination for the Seattle Mariners. He'll start Game 6 of the AL playoffs Tuesday night with the Cleveland Indians leading the series 3-2.

''Everybody relishes the opportunity to be out on the mound in a big game, as I do,'' Johnson said. ''But I don't think anybody relishes the idea that if we lose this game, the season is over for us.

''I've done it three times this year where I've had to rise to the occasion. I don't sense any pressure. I'll go out there and do the best I can, as I have, and just try to pitch these guys a little bit better than I did a couple of days ago.''

The Mariners are 30-3 when their Cy Young candidate pitches. His overall record is 20-2, including two wins in the postseason.

''He's a big game-type pitcher and if you have to put someone out there to win a game, it would be him,'' Cleveland third baseman Jim Thome said.

Johnson set a major league mark this year for strikeouts per nine innings (12.35). His .900 winning percentage would also have been a major league record for pitchers with at least 20 decisions except Atlanta's Greg Maddux went 19-2.

Johnson began his success in all-or-nothing situations on Oct. 2 when he beat California that Monday afternoon with a three-hitter in a one-game playoff for the AL West title. The following Friday night, he won again with the Mariners trailing New York 2-0 in the best-of-5 first round of the playoffs. Two days later, he won the decisive Game 5 with three innings of relief.

In his last outing, he worked eight strong innings on a night the Mariners won 5-2 in the 11th. The Indians won the next two to take a one-game edge into the Kingdome, where Dennis Martinez will start Tuesday night.

''We're still going into the mouth of a lion,'' Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. ''Everything about the Mariners team is good and they play so well at home.''

This will be the fifth time this month that the Mariners have played a game in which a loss meant the end of the season. The previous four games were all at their noisy Kingdome and, obviously, they won every one.

''Our backs have primarily been against the wall since the season started,'' Johnson said. ''I don't think anybody projected us to be where we are right now.''

Mariners manager Lou Piniella planned to save Johnson for a possible Game 7 had they won Sunday night. Instead, Piniella decided to bring back his ace on three days' rest, and said he would use either rookie Bob Wolcott or Tim Belcher if there was a Game 7.

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