SEATTLE—If first impressions are truly lasting, a survival kit may be necessary for White Sox fans to get through the 2002 season.
The Sox managed to live through a bumpy encounter in the season opener Monday when Keith Foulke escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning to preserve a 6-5 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field.
Foulke retired former Sox outfielder Mike Cameron on a fly ball to seal the victory for Mark Buehrle in his first Opening Day start, silencing a sellout crowd of 46,036.
"It's one of those deals that when it's all said and done, it's good for the team," Foulke said. "Everybody's happy. We battled to the end and it worked out in our favor. It's definitely a momentum-builder for us."
In his last appearance at Safeco Field, on Aug. 11, 2001, Foulke gave up three two-out runs in the ninth to blow a two-run lead in a 4-3 Sox loss. After the Sox bullpen gave up four runs in the eighth to conjure up the recurring nightmares of 2002, Foulke entered in the ninth with a one-run lead and promptly gave up back-to-back singles to Mark McLemore and Ichiro Suzuki.
Deja vu already?
"I never think like that," Foulke said.
Of course, many Sox fans with good memories were sitting in front of their TV sets in Chicago thinking exactly that. Manager Jerry Manuel knew it as well.
"We've had some tough, tough losses here," Manuel said. "And this definitely would have fit into that category."
But after a sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, Foulke induced Bret Boone to ground back to the mound for the second out. He walked Edgar Martinez intentionally to load the bases and set up his confrontation with Cameron.
Cameron's popup to right ended the game and gave the Sox their fifth Opening Day victory in the last six years.
Buehrle allowed one run on two hits in six innings, outpitching Mariners ace Freddy Garcia to notch the victory.
"It goes to show you that Buehrle can pitch with the No. 1 guy on the other team," catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. said. "Buehrle was outstanding today and gave us a chance for the offense to come around."
Cameron's homer leading off the second gave the Mariners a lead, but Buehrle soon put the hammer down. He didn't allow another hit in his six innings of work and retired 16 straight batters until walking Jeff Cirillo with one out in the sixth.
"It's a good challenge, beating a team that won 116 games last year," Buehrle said. "I did better than I expected. I knew Seattle would come out all pumped up and ready to go."
The Sox stranded six runners through the first five innings before finally breaking through against Garcia in the sixth.
With one out and a runner on first, Carlos Lee lifted a long fly to left and went into his home-run trot, only to watch the ball bounce off the left-field wall. Lee wound up on second and Jose Valentin advanced to third.
Alomar followed with a two-run double to put the Sox ahead 2-1. When right-hander Ryan Franklin replaced Garcia in the seventh, he put the Sox offense back into its Arizona mode.
Paul Konerko's two-run double and Valentin's RBI single gave the Sox a 5-1 lead and they were seemingly on cruise control. One batter later, after Valentin was caught stealing, Lee launched into his home-run trot again, only this time the ball actually went over the fence.
Antonio Osuna pitched a scoreless seventh before the bullpen imploded in the eighth, giving up four runs on two-run doubles from Martinez and Carlos Guillen to make it a 6-5 game. But Bob Howry got the last out of the inning and Foulke survived the scary ninth.
"It made for an exciting Opening Day," Foulke said.
Better get used to it.
Sox at Seattle
PITCHERS: Todd Ritchie (11-15, 4.47 ERA in 2001) vs. Jamie Moyer (20-6, 3.43 ERA).
TIME: 9:05 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports Net; WMVP-AM 1000.
QUICK LOOK: Ritchie, hoping to get off to a good start after beginning 0-8 with Pittsburgh last year, makes his White Sox debut against the soft-tossing Moyer, who is 4-6 vs. the Sox with a 4.78 ERA. Mark Johnson will start at catcher.