It’s been a long time since the Mariners have made the playoffs. It’s hard not to know that, even if you aren’t a fan. What I want to do today is take a look back to when times were better and the Mariners were actually in the playoffs. I’m talking about 2000 this time around, and the incredibly underrated ALDS against the White Sox.
The Mariners were in the midst of some strong years of play, and would actually make the playoffs in 2000 for the third time in the last six seasons. Griffey and the Big Unit were gone, and it would be Alex Rodriguez’s last year on the team. The Mariners would barely lose the division to Oakland, which earned them a divisional series against the best team in the American League, the Chicago White Sox.
Despite being the underdog, the Mariners would play incredibly well against the White Sox
The first game would actually go to extra innings, with Edgar Martinez hitting a two-run homer, and John Olreud following that up with a blast of his own. The Mariners would go on to win 7-4, and take the opening game.
They took game two as well, this time scoring early, and would earn a 5-2 win to go up 2-0. I’m scooting through these first two games, as even though they were big games and impressive wins, it’s the third game that I wanted to focus on in the series.
The White Sox would throw James Baldwin, who made his lone all-star appearance of his career that year. He threw a great game, giving up just three hits and three walks over six innings, with one run and two strikeouts.
Thankfully, Aaron Sele was on the mound for the Mariners. He would actually outduel Baldwin, going 7.1 innings, also giving up three hits, three walks, and one run. Baldwin actually struck out more hitters than Sele, as he would only retire one hitter via strikeout. Arthur Rhodes and his earrings would come in for the next 1.1, and Jose Paniagua would get the last out of the ninth. Thanks to them, the Mariners would head to the bottom of the 9th tied at 1-1.
On the mound for the White Sox was Keith Foulke. He was in the midst on an incredible stretch of pitching. Check out these stats from 1999-2004.
321 appearances, 171 saves, 521.2 innings, .945 WHIP, 2.43 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and a 195 ERA+
Yeah, he was a stud. That was the guy who took the mound for the White Sox, meaning that the Mariners definitely had their work cut out for them.
John Olerud would come through when it mattered once again. He led the inning off with a single (advancing to 2nd on the throw), and oft-forgotten about Mariners short-timer Rickey Henderson would pinch run. Even at age-41, Rickey could still run.
Stan Javier would bunt him over to third, and Foulke would follow that up by walking David Bell. This put the douple play possibility in play for the Sox to potentially get out of the inning and into extras.
For those who remember, the upcoming play is likely burned into your memory banks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can remember where I was, watching this as it happened.
Up to the plate stepped Carlos Guillen, who was actually pinch-hitting in this spot. The youngster had come over in the Randy Johnson trade, and 2000 was his first real taste of major league play. He had just 63 at-bats combined in 98 and 99, and would play 90 games in 2000 for the Mariners. He had compiled a pretty good season up to that point, hitting .257. Nothing special, but still impressive for a 24-year-old.
Going up against Foulke is a whole other animal though. Especially in the playoffs, in the bottom of the 9th, with a chance to win the game. All he had to do was hit a soft grounder somewhere and avoid the double play, or hit it far enough in the air to get the speedy Henderson to home plate.
Instead… this happened.
The Mariners, with coach Sweet Lou Pinella at the helm, pulled out one of the gutsier calls that you will ever see. Guillen would hit a hard pull bunt, finding a tiny little window past the first baseman, and Henderson would race home. You can argue that it wasn’t a great bunt, as he hit it pretty high in the air and it was nearly caught.
It wasn’t a great bunt. It was a perfect bunt. Sometimes that’s what happens. You do something on accident, and it ends up working out amazingly. Carlos Guillen laid down a game-winning bunt, and the Mariners would sweep the White Sox, moving on to play the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. I’ll leave it on a happy and high note, so we can all go on about our day with a smile on our faces.