SEATTLE - Suddenly, the Seattle Mariners don't seem quite so invincible, do they?
The Cleveland Indians sure don't think so.
After winning 116 games during the regular season, the Mariners lost their first of the postseason yesterday as the Indians shut down Seattle 5-0 in Game 1 of their AL playoff series.
Bartolo Colon pitched eight shutout innings and Ellis Burks went 3-for-4 as the Indians outplayed the Mariners, who will now have to come from behind for the first time all year.
“This puts big pressure on them because they have to win,” said Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel. “I doubt that they want to go back to Cleveland 0-2.”
Colon dominated the Mariners, who led the league in batting average, runs and virtually every other offensive category. He gave up six hits, struck out 10 and allowed only one runner to reach third base - and that was on a throwing error.
“He told us on the flight, ‘Give me a couple runs and I'll do the job,'” Burks said. “He did.”
Last weekend, the Mariners tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs' record for the most wins in a season and came into this series as heavy favorites. And despite a lineup equal to Seattle's at every position and veterans with postseason experience, nobody gave the Indians much of a chance.
“We're a high-profile team, we just didn't have a high-profile season,” said Indians third baseman Travis Fryman. “Our talent stands up with anyone.”
Burks homered for the Indians, who won a playoff opener for just the third time in 11 series since 1995.
“We're here and we deserve to be here,” Burks said. “We didn't sneak in. We won our division by seven games.”
The Mariners didn't look like the same group that ran away from the rest of the league this season.
Rookie sensation Ichiro Suzuki had three hits, but got nailed stealing and left two on in the fifth when his shot to the gap in left-center was caught by Kenny Lofton.
“We've come back after losing the opening game of a series all year,” Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. “I have confidence we will come back. There's no sense of urgency. We lost a ballgame.”
Following an off-day today, the series resumes with Game 2 tomorrow at 4:20 p.m., Toledo time. Tribe lefty Chuck Finley, back in the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season in 1986, will start against Jamie Moyer.
Moyer was 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in two starts against the Indians this season.
“It's a true test for us,” said Mariners shortstop Mark McLemore. “I'll put it this way. We need to win on Thursday.”
Cleveland, sloppy and uninspired in the final week after clinching the AL Central, did everything better than Seattle. They hit in the clutch, played solid defense and most importantly, had Colon on the mound.
He lost twice to the Mariners during the regular season and looked horrible in a tune-up start against Kansas City last week, going just 11/3 innings. But he was in control from the outset, working the corners and blowing high heat past the Mariners.
In his previous playoff outing, Colon didn't get out of the second inning in Game 4 of the 1999 division series against Boston. He struggled during the regular season, going just 14-12, and the Indians began to wonder which Colon would show up yesterday.
“We want Bartolo to be the ace,” said Fryman. “And today he showed he wanted to be the ace, too.”
Bob Wickman pitched the ninth.
The Indians stole a page from the Mariners' how-to-win manual in the fourth, going base to base to score three runs off losing pitcher Freddy Garcia on a leadoff double, a walk and four singles.
Juan Gonzalez, who had 140 RBIs this season but none against the Mariners, drove in Cleveland's first run with a broken-bat single after Roberto Alomar's leadoff double. Jim Thome walked and Burks beat out an infield single to load the bases.
Fryman and Marty Cordova followed with RBI singles to center, and the Indians were on the verge of blowing Seattle out with the bases loaded and none out. But Garcia struck out two and retired Vizquel on a fly to left.
Garcia came back and struck out Alomar, Gonzalez and Thome in the fifth, but he was done an inning later when the Indians went up 4-0 Diaz's RBI single.
Burks, who batted .136 vs. Seattle this season, opened the eighth with his homer off Jose Paniagua.
The Indians wanted to keep Suzuki off base, but there he was on first after a leadoff single in the first. Colon, though, struck out McLemore and Bret Boone and retired Martinez on a grounder.
Ichiro singled again with one out in the third, but got tagged out in a rundown when Manuel called a pitchout.
“He's the engine of that team,” said Vizquel. “But if he's the only one on base we're in pretty good shape.”