Yankees withstand Griffey, Seattle, take 1-0 lead in series

The Associated Press

NEW YORK Don Mattingly had waited his whole career, his whole life, for this game. Nothing was going to ruin it, not even Ken Griffey Jr.

The New York Yankees became baseball's first wild-card team to win a playoff game, overcoming Griffey's two home runs to beat the Seattle Mariners 9-6 Tuesday night in their AL playoff opener.

A standing, stomping crowd of 57,178, the largest at Yankee Stadium since it was remodeled for the 1976 season, saw Mattingly, David Cone and the Yankees take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-5 series.

Mattingly, playing in the postseason for the first time in his 14-year career, delivered an RBI single and a double. Playoff veterans Wade Boggs and Ruben Sierra both homered and Bernie Williams doubled home the go-ahead run during a four-run seventh inning that made it 8-4.

''It was everything I had supposed it would be,'' Mattingly said. ''It was wild. It was a great place to be tonight. I'm sure some people might not agree, but I can't think of any place I'd rather be.''

Griffey did his best to spoil it, going 3-for-5, driving in three runs and scoring three times for the Mariners, who arrived at their New York hotel shortly before 4 a.m. EDT Tuesday. They were delayed because of Monday's playoff win over California at the Kingdome, a victory that meant ace Randy Johnson will not be able to face the Yankees until Game 3 at the earliest.

''It's just one game,'' Griffey said. ''I've got to do something to help the ballclub tomorrow.''

Griffey helped Seattle score twice in the ninth off John Wetteland before the reliever retired Jay Buhner and Mike Blowers with two runners on base to end the Yankees' first postseason game since 1981.

The crowd let loose with one last resounding cheer when Wetteland fanned Blowers to finish the victory. Attendance and enthusiasm was down at Yankee Stadium this season, as it was in most baseball cities, but it was hard to tell this night, from the moment Mattingly got an ovation when he stepped on the field to the final out.

''I thought there was such a passion and energy,'' said Yankees manager Buck Showalter, who displayed rare emotion when he pumped his fist during pregame introductions.

''I've talked with Willie (Randolph) and Reggie (Jackson) about what it's like to play a playoff game here, and tonight I really got a feel for it,'' he said. ''There was such an electricity in the air.''

Griffey highlighted Seattle's first postseason game with a solo homer off the upper-deck facade in the fourth inning and a long, two-run homer in seventh that tied it at 4. His performance was reminiscent of George Brett's three home runs at Yankee Stadium for Kansas City in a 6-5 loss to New York in Game 3 of the 1978 AL playoffs.

Still, it was not enough to stop the Yankees in their 35th year of postseason play, the most in the majors. New York broke the 4-4 tie in the seventh against loser Jeff Nelson and two other relievers, keyed by Williams' RBI double and Sierra's two-run homer. Williams singled home another run in the eighth with his third hit.

Cone, 3-2 in seven career poostseason starts, pitched eight innings and allowed four runs and six hits. He had not pitched since Wednesday, when he won despite a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

''I'd like to blame those home runs to Griffey on the blister, but that's just a great hitter,'' Cone said.

Rookie Andy Pettitte will pitch for the Yankees against Andy Benes in Game 2 Wednesday night in New York.

Randy Velarde was hit by a pitch from Nelson to start the seventh and Boggs, out of action since leaving last Wednesday's game with a sore left hamstring, singled off Bobby Ayala for his third hit.

Williams followed with a drive that turned around Griffey in center field and hopped off the wall for a double that made it 5-4. After Paul O'Neill had a sacrifice fly, Sierra homered to deep right-center.

Mattingly hit an RBI single with two outs in the sixth that put New York ahead 3-2. After Chris Bosio allowed another hit, Nelson relieved and Mike Stanley singled home another run. Griffey tied it at 4 in the next half-inning.

Boggs showed no ill effects from his injured hamstring when he gave New York a 2-0 lead with his first home run since Aug. 9.

Dan Wilson drew a bases-loaded walk on a full-count pitch from Cone with two outs in the sixth, tying it at 2.

Notes: Joe DiMaggio threw out the ceremonial first ball. ... Mariners reliever Bill Risley was hit in the left ear by a ball while shagging flies before the game. He was down for about five minutes, was helped off the field and then taken on a stretcher in the clubhouse. He was OK, and wound up pitching. ... Pettitte was 1-1 against the Mariners this season. Benes got a no-decision in one start against the Yankees. ... Blowers was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. The former Yankee is 0-for-12 lifetime against Cone, including a strikeout with the bases loaded with one out in the sixth.

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