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PINIELLA FIRES UP THE MARINERS

Lou Piniella was clear and unequivocal: His Mariners will send the American League Championship Series back to Seattle.

Now all they have to do is win at least two of three in Yankee Stadium starting today.

"I like that fire," Jamie Moyer, Seattle's Game Three starter, said Friday after the overnight cross-country flight. "We're here to play. We're here to compete. I hope we can fulfill that."

Following Thursday night's 3-2 loss at Safeco Field, which gave New York a 2-0 series lead, Piniella didn't even wait for a question to make his public pledge.

"We will back here for Game Six -- just print it," the manager said, his voice filled with emotion.

After going 116-46 and tying the regular-season record for wins, Seattle needs to win four of five to get to the World Series.

"It fired me up," Mark McLemore said. "I wanted to go out and play right there again."

Piniella was making a point -- to his players, to Seattle's fans, to the Yankees, to anyone willing to listen. Seattle lost three in a row only once all year, dropping four straight from Sept. 20-23 against Anaheim and Oakland.

"Last night when I talked, I talked out of my heart, I talked out of pride and passion, but at the same time of a little frustration," Piniella said Friday. "We need to get to this next level, and this year here we've got a chance. Let's go for it and whatever happens, happens."

The Yankees are becoming the first baseball team to benefit from a hat trick -- courtesy of Yogi Berra.

They were one loss away from postseason elimination last week when manager Joe Torre started wearing a cap with the Hall of Fame catcher's famous phrase, "It ain't over till it's over," scripted across the front.

The Yankees haven't lost since.

Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki arrived in New York with a .519 postseason batting average, enough charisma to bridge cultures and generations, and a press contingent befitting a head of state.

Japanese reporters received 75 of the 600 media credentials issued for Games Three through Five.

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