A Kingdome crowd of 57,180 witnessed the coronation of Seattle Mariner designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who may have gone from baseball's best-kept secret to its best all-around hitter with two sultan-like swings of the bat Saturday.
Martinez, basking in the postseason spotlight for the first time in his seven-year career, hit a three-run home run in the third inning and a dramatic grand slam in the eighth to lead the Mariners to an 11-8 victory over the New York Yankees, evening their first-round playoff series at two games apiece.
The fifth and decisive game, pitting Yankee ace David Cone against Mariner right-hander Andy Benes, is scheduled for 4 p.m. today, with the winner advancing to the American League championship series against the Cleveland Indians.
The Yankee-Mariner series is the only first-round playoff to go the distance, meaning folks outside the Pacific Northwest will have a chance to see during today's nationally televised game what everyone in the Seattle area has known for years.
"I think a lot of people are going to realize how awesome a hitter Edgar is," said Seattle right fielder Jay Buhner, who had three hits, including a homer, Saturday. "Everyone talks about him hitting .350 and his two batting titles, but look what he did tonight.
"Two home runs, seven RBIs. He hits for power to all fields, he has a great on-base percentage (.479), 52 doubles, 113 RBIs. This guy's the total package. It's incredible what he can do with a bat--he's magical with that wand in his hand."
With one wave of his wand in the third inning, Martinez cut deeply into a 5-0 Yankee lead, lofting a towering fly ball off Yankee starter Scott Kamieniecki into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer.
Then in the eighth, with the score tied, 6-6, and the bases loaded against closer John Wetteland, Martinez drilled a 2-2 pitch over the wall in dead center field, sparking an ear-splitting ovation that lasted for three minutes and was just beginning to die down when Buhner homered to center for an 11-6 lead.
The Mariners sweated out the top of the ninth, in which the Yankees scored two runs and had two on when Bernie Williams, who homered twice in Game 3 Friday, stepped to the plate, representing the tying run.
But Bill Risley, the fifth Seattle reliever of the game, got Williams to fly to deep center field, where Ken Griffey Jr. made the catch at the wall to complete the Mariners' 45th come-from-behind victory of the season.
"I held my breath on that last hit," Seattle Manager Lou Piniella said. "I couldn't tell if Junior was going to catch it or not."
Martinez had a similar feeling when he hit the third grand slam of his career. He had no idea where it was going to land.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play somewhere so we could get one run in," said Martinez, who is nine for 15 (.600) in the series. "I thought it had enough to be a double. I didn't think I hit it that hard."
Martinez has pounded the Yankees all season and now has a .443 average (27 for 61) against them with nine homers and 28 RBIs.
"These guys are finally getting the credit they deserve," said Griffey, whose solo homer in the sixth gave Seattle a 6-5 lead. "It used to be the 'Ken Griffey Show,' but now it's 'Come see the Mariners.' It's been fun. I just get on base and run."
Martinez, Buhner and Griffey provided the big blows Saturday, but two hits by second baseman Joey Cora that traveled a combined 120 feet were almost as important.
Cora's bunt single started the Mariners' four-run rally in the fourth, and he followed Vince Coleman's walk in the eighth with a bunt to first baseman Don Mattingly.
But Cora avoided Mattingly's tag by veering toward the outside of the baseline, putting runners on first and second, and when Griffey squared to bunt--on his own--and was hit in the foot by a pitch, the table was set for Edgar Martinez.
"He was definitely out of the baseline, but the first-base umpire [Jim Evans] said Mattingly never made an attempt to tag him, and if did, he would have called him out," Yankee Manager Buck Showalter said of Cora's eighth-inning bunt. "But you can't make an attempt if you can't reach him."
Mattingly had four hits and two RBIs to lead the Yankees' 14-hit attack, but he had a rough day in the field. In addition to misplaying Cora's bunt, Mattingly's throwing error in the fifth inning allowed Seattle to even the score, 5-5.
The Yankees tied the score, 6-6, in the eighth with an unorthodox run of their own, Velarde scoring on a Norm Charlton wild pitch that bounced about 10 feet in front of the plate and over Wilson, the catcher.
"This whole month has been tough," Buhner said of the Mariners, who trailed the Angels by 13 games on Aug. 3 but staged one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history to win the AL West title.
"It would be extra sweet to win [today], having been down 0-2 in this series and having to beat California in a one-game playoff Monday. We have our work cut out for us against Cone, but the thing in our favor is being at home."
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Most RBIs, Postseason Game
Seattle's Edgar Martinez set a record with seven runs batted in Saturday in Game 4 against the New York Yankees. A look at the single-game leaders: *--*
RBI Player Team Year 7 Edgar Martinez Seattle 1995 6 Bobby Richardson* N.Y. Yankees 1960 6 Will Clark San Francisco 1989 5 Paul Blair Baltimore 1969 5 Don Baylor Angels 1982