How often did Tino Martinez upstage Ken Griffey Jr. when they were Seattle Mariners teammates?
Well, there was the time he went 5 for 5 and homered twice against the Tigers in 1995, and the opening night homers in 1992 and 1993 and … oh, let’s face it.
On the M’s, you don’t upstage Junior. Even if he goes 0 for 4.
But Martinez managed it Wednesday night in a New York Yankees uniform, homering three times off Scott Sanders in a 16-2 rout that gave the defending World Champions a split of their two-game season-opening series with the Mariners.
So much for the tingle-and-tension hangover from Opening Night.
The Mariners couldn’t pitch, couldn’t catch and couldn’t hit much - although Griffey did follow Tuesday’s two-homer effort with two hits and both Seattle runs.
But otherwise, ugh.
Hoping for something resembling the bulldoggish effort they’d received from starter Jeff Fassero on Tuesday, the M’s saw Sanders - acquired from San Diego in a December swap for Sterling Hitchcock - struggle in all but one of his five innings of work.
The relief didn’t fare much better.
Edwin Hurtado, who made the club as a long man with an outstanding spring, walked the bases loaded in the sixth before M’s manager Lou Piniella had enough.
Greg McCarthy muddled through an inning and a third. Josias Manzanillo, the out-of-nowhere spring surprise, faced seven batters and gave up two hits and two walks. And Salomon Torres may have done a Kevorkian on his Seattle career in the ninth, giving up seven runs and getting just one batter out.
That’s a 189.00 earned run average, if you’re scoring at home.
Hardly the bullpen of champions.
By the time the Yankees batted around in the ninth inning, maybe a few hundred of the second-night crowd of 30,951 remained - devotees of theater of the absurd, no doubt., Or maybe they just knew that Martinez would have one more shot at baseball history.
Of the 12 men in major league history who hit four home runs in a game, none ever “homered for the cycle” - that is, hit solo, two-run, three-run and grand slam homers.
Martinez had not one, not two, but three chances to do it.
Sanders, a power pitcher with great walks-to-strikeout numbers in San Diego, struggled with his control immediately. After getting Derek Jeter on a ground ball to open the game, Sanders walked Wade Boggs and Bernie Williams and Martinez made him pay for the mistake by blasting a 1-1 pitch over the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.
It was deja vu all over again in the third, minus one of the walks. Williams coaxed another pass to open the inning and Martinez launched another one - on a 2-0 pitch - into the bleachers in right.
And in the fifth, he crashed a solo shot - a feat Mariners fans and transplanted New Yorkers in the crowd rewarded with a standing ovation.
At that point, Martinez had become the 16th Yankee in history to homer three times in a game - and the first player to do it against the Mariners since Cal Ripken last May 28.
Martinez came to the plate with the bases loaded in the sixth, but managed just a weak ground ball to first off McCarthy.
And the former Mariner had two different shots at it in the ninth - but he looked at ball four against Torres and at strike three against Bob Wells to end a seven-run Yankee inning.
In all, six Mariners pitchers combined to allow 14 hits and walk 14 Yankees - one short of the Seattle club record set in 1991 against Milwaukee.
The pitchers had company in their misery.
Mike Blowers looked as if he was breaking in a new glove at first, dropping an easy throw from Alex Rodriguez for an error and muffing a tougher one that wound up being charged to third baseman Russ Davis. Davis had another error in the seventh, when catcher Dan Wilson had New York’s Paul O’Neill dead by 10 feet on an attempted steal - only to have Davis let O’Neill kick the ball out of his glove.
County passes ballpark issues
Financing for a new ballpark for the Seattle Mariners was approved Wednesday by the King County Council, and members said they hoped it would be their final vote on the project.
The tally was 8 to 5 on four stadium measures, including terms of the $336 million bond sale, appropriation of the bond proceeds and land transfers, following little debate.
Yankees 16, Mariners 2
New York Seattle ab r h bi ab r h bi Jeter ss 5 1 1 1 Amaral lf 4 0 2 0 Boggs 3b 3 3 0 0 Espinza ph 1 0 0 0 BeWms cf 3 3 0 1 ARdrgz ss 5 0 1 0 TMrtnz 1b 6 5 4 7 Grfy jr cf 4 2 2 0 Fielder dh 5 1 1 2 Tinsley ph 1 0 0 0 O’Neill rf 6 0 3 1 EMrtnz dh 3 0 0 0 Strwbr lf 3 0 0 0 Buhner rf 3 0 1 1 Whiten lf 3 1 3 3 Blwers 1b 3 0 0 0 Duncan 2b 2 0 0 0 DaWlsn c 3 0 1 1 PKelly 2b 2 2 1 0 RDavis 3b 4 0 1 0 Posada c 6 0 1 1 Gates 2b 4 0 0 0 Totals 44 16 14 16 Totals 35 2 8 2
New York 302 011 027 - 16
Seattle 101 000 000 - 2
E-Blowers (1), RDavis 2 (2). LOBNew York 15, Seattle 10. 2B-Fielder (1), PKelly (1), ARodriguez (1), Griffey jr (1). HR-TMartinez 3 (3). CS-Whiten (1).
New York IP H R ER BB SO Petttte W,1-0 6 7 2 2 4 4 Weathers 2 0 0 0 0 2 MRivera 1 1 0 0 0 1 Seattle IP H R ER BB SO SSndrs L,0-1 5 5 6 6 3 1 Hurtado 1/3 0 1 1 3 0 McCarthy 1-2/3 2 1 1 2 2 Manzanillo 1 2 1 1 2 1 Torres 1/3 3 7 7 2 0 BWells 2/3 2 0 0 1 1 McCarthy pitched to 1 batter in the 8th.
HBPby Torres (Jeter).
T-3:53. A-30,951 (59,084).
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo