The Yankees and Mariners are no strangers to each other. There’s been a high amount of players to have played for both teams in recent years, whether that be from free agency moves (Robinson Cano), or trades between the teams (Ichiro Suzuki, Dustin Ackley, Ben Gamel, etc).
Now in 2018, both teams appear to be good. Anyone reading this is probably aware of what the Yankees have done this season, but the Mariners are right there too. Seattle is solidly in a Wild Card spot, and is only two games behind an Astros team that is on a 12-game winning streak.
Both teams being good leads to memories of a pair of playoff series the teams played in the past couple decades.
The 1995 ALDS just evades my memory as a baseball fan. I was four then, and conveniently for me, the first games I remember watching are from 1996. For me that loss doesn’t hurt as much as some others, but it’s understandable if people ranked that even higher than 2001 or 2004.
After winning the first ever AL Wild Card, the Yankees hosted the opening two games of the ALDS in 1995. In game one, the Yankees scored seven runs over the course of the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings to take a commanding lead. The Mariners proceeded to score two runs and bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but the Yankees hung on for a 9-6 win.
The most famous moment from a Yankees’ perspective in this series happened in game two. After a Ruben Sierra home run that tied the game at two, Don Mattingly stepped into the plate. The 1995 ALDS was the first, and eventually last, postseason series that Mattingly ever played in. He put up good numbers in the series, but his overall numbers for that season, weren’t quite as good as his best. He was definitely nearer to the end of his career. However, when he stepped in the plate in the sixth inning, this happened.
The Mariners came back, and the game ended up going 15 innings, before Jim Leyritz hit a walk-off home run.
From there, the series shifted to Seattle, and things went downhill. The Yankees led game three 1-0, but the Mariners answered back with six unanswered runs and never looked back from there.
The Yankees led by even more in game four, going up 5-0. They eventually squandered that, before going into the bottom of the eighth tied at six. Closer John Wetteland came in to pitch the eighth, but he ended up allowing five runs, the big blow coming on an Edgar Martinez grand slam. The Mariners tied the series and forced a do-or-die game five.
Once again in game five, the Yankees had a lead. Going into the eighth, they were up 4-2. The Mariners rallied against David Cone in the eighth, and forced the game into extra innings. The Yankees took a lead in the 11th, but Jack McDowell allowed three straight hits to start the bottom of the inning, including a game-winning, two-run scoring double to Martinez to win the series for Seattle. That moment is one of the biggest in Mariners’ history, if not the single biggest.
Again, I was personally just barely too young to remember or be affected by it. However, it’s right up there for saddest endings to a Yankees’ season. (It should be noted that the fact that we can have a list of “saddest playoff endings” in a spot where so few teams have made the playoffs shows we’re a bit spoiled as a fanbase.) Although it wasn’t certain at the time, that ended Mattingly’s career. That is a huge thing for a large number of Yankee fans. However, in some ways, the Yankees got the last laugh.
In between the two series we’re looking back at, the two teams met in the 2000 ALCS. The Yankees ended up winning in six games, with David Justice providing the big blow in the clinching game.
However, we’re going to focus more on 2001. While 2000 probably sucked for Mariners’ fans, ‘01 was when the Yankees ripped their hearts out, like Seattle did to them in ‘95.
The teams were vastly different when they met again in the ALCS six years after 1995. Alex Rodrgiuez wasn’t that far away from being a Yankee. Ken Griffey Jr. was in Cincinnati. The Yankees wouldn’t face Randy Johnson until the next round. The Mariners’ first baseman from ‘95, Tino Martinez, was on the Yankees. Players like Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki weren’t playing in the ‘95 ALDS, but now had major roles for their teams.
The Yankees went into the 2001 players after a 95-win season and first in the AL East. In some years, that might be enough to squeak out the best record in the AL. It was not in ‘01. The Mariners won 116 games in the regular season, tying the record for most ever.
It took both teams five games to win their ALDS matchups. This series started in Seattle, where Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera combined to hold the Mariners, who led the league in scoring, to just two runs in game one.
In game two, the Yankees scored three runs on Mariners’ ace and future Yankee Freddy Garcia in the first inning. They managed to ride that out for another win, although Seattle managed to cut that deficit to one run after four innings. Rivera threw 1.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, and the Yankees took both games on the road against one of the best teams ever.
The Yankees had a two-run lead for much of game three, but the Mariners scored 14 runs from the fifth inning on. They cut the Yankees’ lead to 2-1 and set up a crucial game four.
Game four was a strange little pitcher’s duel. Both Roger Clemson and Paul Abbott had scoreless outings, but both only lasted five innings. The Yankees’ bullpen cracked first when Ramiro Medoza allowed a home run to Bret Boone in the top of the eighth. However, because the late 90s/early 00s Yankees were seemingly magical playoff wizards, they came back.
An inning later, Alfonso Soriano hit a walk-off home run, and the Yankees were now up 3-1.
Game five was not particularly dramatic. The Yankees scored four runs in the third and really never looked back. They clinched the series with a dominant 12-3 win. They were headed to the World Series for the fourth-straight year, and the co-record-holder for wins in a season was done.
The Yankees have more history with plenty of other teams. They’ve had far more memorable moments. However, with these two teams being good again, it’s a good time to look back to past times when these teams each wrecked a season for the other.
All historical game info courtesy of Baseball Reference.