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The 1995 season began in ominous fashion, with players and team owners still trying to iron out their differences after a players’ strike brought the previous campaign to a premature end.  Play didn’t resume until the end of April, resulting in an abbreviated 144-game schedule.  One change agreed upon during the negotiation process was an expanded playoff format that included two new teams.  With each league expanding to three divisions, an additional division-winner automatically entered the postseason tournament in each circuit.  Joining the third division champion would be the second-place club that compiled the best record during the regular season.

The New York Yankees became the American League’s first such “wild-card” entry, advancing to the postseason for the first time in 14 years despite finishing seven games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East, with a record of 79-65.  The Yankees made the playoffs even though they failed to place near the top of the league rankings in any major statistical category.  New York finished sixth in the junior circuit in runs scored (749), 12th in home runs (122), last in stolen bases (50), sixth in team batting average (.276), and seventh in team ERA (4.56).

Jack McDowell led New York’s pitching staff with 15 victories, eight complete games, and 218 innings pitched.  After being acquired via trade four months into the campaign, David Cone compiled a 9-2 record for the Yankees.  Meanwhile, John Wetteland placed among the league leaders with 31 saves.  Although he received a considerable amount of help from Wade Boggs, Bernie Williams, Don Mattingly, and Mike Stanley, Paul O’Neill was New York’s top offensive threat, leading the team with 22 home runs and 96 runs batted in, scoring 82 times, and batting .300.

Awaiting the Yankees in the American League’s inaugural ALDS were the Seattle Mariners, who needed a one-game playoff victory over the California Angels to claim their first A.L. West title, with a regular-season record of 79-66.  Although the Mariners clearly lacked the rich tradition and history of their playoff opponents, their powerful offense made them a slight favorite heading into their first-round matchup with the Yankees.

The Mariners finished third in the American League with 796 runs scored and 182 home runs, placed fourth in the circuit with 110 stolen bases, and compiled the same .276 team batting average the Yankees posted.  Jay Buhner led the club with 40 home runs and 121 runs batted in, en route to earning a fifth-place finish in the league MVP voting.  Edgar Martinez finished third in the balloting by hitting 29 homers, driving in 113 runs, and topping the circuit with 121 runs scored, 52 doubles, a .356 batting average, and a .479 on-base percentage.  Tino Martinez hit 31 home runs, knocked in 111 runs, scored 92 others, and batted .293.  Despite missing half the season, Ken Griffey Jr. contributed 17 homers and 42 runs batted in.      

Although the Mariners weren’t nearly as strong on the mound as they were on offense, finishing fifth in the league with a team ERA of 4.50, their starting rotation featured the circuit’s most dominant pitcher.  Randy Johnson captured A.L. Cy Young honors and earned a sixth-place finish in the MVP voting by finishing 18-2, with a league-leading 2.48 ERA and 294 strikeouts.  His presence alone made Seattle the favorite to prevail over New York in a short five-game series.

The first game in New York set the tone for the entire series, which very much resembled a heavyweight battle between two knockout artists.  Despite three hits each by Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr., and two homers by Griffey, the Yankees took Game One by a final score of 9-6.  New York scored early and often against Seattle starter Chris Bosio, who surrendered four runs on six hits in just under six innings of work.  The Yankees also pounded reliever Bobby Ayala, scoring three runs against him in just 1/3 of an inning.  Wade Boggs and Ruben Sierra homered for New York, Boggs and Bernie Williams each collected three hits, and starter David Cone persevered through eight innings, allowing the Mariners four runs on six hits, in picking up the win.

Game Two evolved into a 15-inning marathon that included no fewer than six lead changes.  Back-to-back homers by Ruben Sierra and Don Mattingly off Seattle starter Andy Benes in the bottom of the sixth inning erased a 2-1 Mariner lead.  After Seattle regained the lead with two runs in the top of the seventh inning against Andy Pettitte, New York tied the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the frame on a solo shot by Paul O’Neill.  The game remained tied at 4-4 until the top of the 12th inning, when Ken Griffey Jr. put the Mariners ahead by a run with his third homer of the series.  The Yankees came right back in the bottom of the inning, though, tying the score once more on an RBI double by Sierra.  With the score still deadlocked at 5-5, Jim Leyritz put an end to the five-hour, 12-minute marathon by delivering a two-run homer to the opposite field with one man out in the bottom of the 15th inning.  The victory gave New York a commanding 2-0 series lead heading back to Seattle.

A fourth-inning home run by Bernie Williams (his first of two on the day) enabled the Yankees to carry a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning of Game Three against Randy Johnson.  However, Tino Martinez put the Mariners in the lead to stay with a two-run blast against Jack McDowell.  Seattle scored four more times in the bottom of the sixth inning, en route to cruising to a 7-4 victory that cut New York’s lead in the series to 2-1.  Johnson allowed the Yankees just two runs on four hits in his seven innings of work, while striking out 10 batters.

After the Yankees tied Game Four at 6-6 with a run in the top of the eighth inning, the Mariners broke the contest wide open by scoring five times against New York’s bullpen in the bottom of the frame.  Another two runs by the Yankees in the top of the ninth made the final score a bit closer, but the Mariners tied the series at two games apiece with an 11-8 win.  Paul O’Neill homered for New York, while Jay Buhner, Ken Griffey Jr., and Edgar Martinez (twice) went deep for Seattle.

The Yankees collected only six hits in 11 innings in the decisive fifth contest.  Nevertheless, they took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the 11th inning, before Edgar Martinez brought home Ken Griffey Jr. with the winning run for Seattle on a two-run double down the left field line.  The 6-5 victory put the Mariners in the ALCS for the first time in their relatively brief history.

Jay Buhner, Tino Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Edgar Martinez were the hitting stars for Seattle.  Buhner homered once, drove in three runs, and collected 11 hits in 24 times at-bat, for a .458 batting average.  Tino Martinez hit a homer, knocked in five runs, and went 9-for-22, for a .409 batting average.  Griffey Jr. hit five home runs, drove in seven runs, scored nine others, and batted .391.  Edgar Martinez homered twice, led both teams with 10 runs batted in, and collected 12 hits in 21 official trips to the plate, for a batting average of .571.  Meanwhile, Randy Johnson starred on the mound for the Mariners, posting two of their three victories, compiling an ERA of 2.70, and striking out 16 batters in 10 innings of work.

Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, and Don Mattingly excelled in defeat for New York.  Williams homered twice, drove in five runs, scored eight times, and batted .429.  O’Neill hit three homers, drove in six runs, and batted .333.  In what turned out to be his only postseason appearance, Mattingly homered once, knocked in six runs, and collected 10 hits in 24 official at-bats, for a .417 batting average.

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
1995 ALDS1, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Bobby Ayala, Buck Showalter, Chris Bosio, David Cone, Don Mattingly, Edgar Martinez, Jack McDowell, Jamie Moyer, Jay Buhner, Jim Leyritz, John Wetteland, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mariano Rivera, Mike Stanley, New York Yankees, Randy Johnson, Ruben Sierra, Seattle Mariners, Tino Martinez, Wade Boggs

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