SEATTLE -- This was the way it originally was supposed to go down. Randy Johnson was supposed to be on the mound in the final inning of the fifth game for the Seattle Mariners, blowing away the New York Yankees and chasing 18 years of frustration right out of the Kingdome.
This was the way everyone in Seattle envisioned it. Johnson knocking them down and Edgar Martinez knocking in the winning run.
This was the perfect ending. Ken Griffey circling the bases to score from first on a close play at the plate to finally -- 4 1/2 hours after the first pitch -- eliminate the Yankees from the divisional series with an 11-inning, 6-5 victory that sent the sellout crowd of 57,411 into a state of frenzy.
"I thought that last night [Game 4] was the greatest game I ever played in," said Martinez, who batted .571 in the series and had an amazing 30 RBIs this year against the Yankees, "but this was the best one I ever played in."
Martinez lined a double down the left-field line off Yankees starter-turned-reliever Jack McDowell that scored Joey Cora and Griffey to overcome a one-run deficit and send the Mariners, who had lost the first two games of the best-of-five series, into the American League Championship Series for the first time in franchise history. They'll play host to the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 tomorrow, if manager Lou Piniella can find a pitcher to start the game.
Johnson already has done it all. He won a sudden-death regular-season playoff game Monday. He turned in a gutsy performance to win Game 3. And he pitched two scoreless innings of relief on less than two days' rest before the Yankees finally got a ball out of the infield for a run in the 11th. So, for all the talk about the effect of the Angels playoff, he ended up beating the Yankees twice anyway.
"He's carried us on his shoulders all year," Piniella said.
"I talked to him today and he said: 'I'm ready. I can go one inning or two innings if you need me.' We ended up stretching him to three."
Piniella was tempting fate. The last time a manager brought his staff ace into a short-relief situation in a playoff game was 1981, when Montreal Expos manager Dick Williams brought veteran Steve Rogers in for the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rogers gave up a home run to Rick Monday that cost the Expos their only chance to reach the World Series.
Before it was over, Yankees manager Buck Showalter would bring one of his best starting pitchers into the game, and McDowell would pull his club out of a two-on, one-out jam in the ninth. He just couldn't keep that lineup under wraps forever.
"That's the way it should have been," Showalter said. "Two warriors out there with everything on the line. It's tough to lose, but you can put your head on the pillow knowing you had a warrior out there."
Martinez did the Yankees in two nights in a row. He drove in a postseason-record seven runs to keep the Mariners alive in Game 4 and delivered his ninth and 10th RBIs of the series last night, which tied postseason mark.
The Mariners' late-inning magic appeared to run out when Johnson proved human in the 11th and Randy Velarde scraped a run-scoring single through the right side of the infield.
"I thought all the hard work this team had done had gone down the drain," Johnson said. "I thought I had let the team down."
It also had looked that grim a few innings earlier.
Yankees starter David Cone was terrific for seven innings and he looked as if he might last long enough to validate team captain Don Mattingly's tie-breaking two-run double in the sixth inning.
But the Mariners, who won the last three of the series at home, weren't ready to go on vacation just yet.
Griffey homered into the upper deck with one out in the eighth -- his record fifth of the series -- and Seattle staged a two-out rally to tie the score. Cone, running out of gas as he approached 150 pitches, loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then TTC walked pinch hitter Doug Strange to tie the game. The crowd went bananas, but reliever Mariano Rivera struck out Mike Blowers looking to send the game into the ninth.
Game 5 bore little resemblance to the four-hour homerthon that evened the series on Saturday night.
Cone and Mariners starter Andy Benes engaged in a tense pitching matchup that featured only a few momentum swings in the early innings.
Cone was the first to blink, and he probably was rubbing his eyes after tiny Joey Cora put the Mariners on top with a two-out line drive into the right-field seats in the bottom of the third.
Cora, who played a pivotal -- but largely unheralded -- role in Saturday night's game with a pair of bunt singles, has just seven career home runs in 2,028 regular-season at-bats, but he may have caught Cone in a just-make-him-swing-the-bat mode with a 1-0 count and Griffey on deck.
It would be Cora again coming up big with a little hit in the 11th. He beat out a bunt for a leadoff single, again diving around Mattingly the way he did when he bunted for a hit in the game-winning rally in Game 4.
"It was a phenomenal series -- great baseball every game," Piniella said.
"It was just a shame there had to be a loser, because it was so competitive. Every game had ups and downs, highs and lows."
Now the Mariners must collect themselves for another, perhaps tougher, series against the Indians, who won 100 games during the regular season and made short work of the Boston Red Sox in the divisional playoff.
Piniella will have to piece a pitching staff together after using almost everyone on his staff in games 4 and 5.
He said last night that Johnson probably would go in Game 3 at Cleveland, but did not announce a starter for tomorrow night's ALCS opener at the Kingdome.
It probably will be veteran Tim Belcher, who was used in relief in Game 4 and warmed up in the bullpen during last night's game.
He worked a total of 4 1/3 innings during the series and presumably would be strong enough to go five or six in Game 1.
Right-hander Chris Bosio also is a possibility after going just two-plus innings in Game 4, but it still might be tough for him to come back on two days' rest.