Mussina Masters Mariners, 9-3, as Orioles Measure Up to Big Unit
By Mark Maske
SEATTLE, Oct. 1 The Baltimore Orioles made it 4 for 4 against Randy Johnson in 1997 and began the playoffs on an overwhelmingly successful note. They roughed up baseball's most dominant pitcher once more. And they rode the handiwork of their own pitching ace, Mike Mussina, to a stunningly lopsided 9-3 victory over Johnson and the Seattle Mariners tonight at the Kingdome in Game 1 of their first-round postseason series.
"You know you're in for a big challenge when you face [Johnson], and throughout the year our team has pretty much risen to every challenge," Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick said.
The Orioles got home runs from Geronimo Berroa and Chris Hoiles. Bordick, Eric Davis and B.J. Surhoff had two RBI apiece as the Orioles opened this best-of-five series. The Mariners are scheduled to send former Oriole Jamie Moyer to the mound to face Scott Erickson in Game 2 here Thursday afternoon.
"I'm not someone to think of sending messages and how a series might turn on one game," Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken said. "These are two great teams. But the fear going in is that Randy is going to have a big influence on the series. For us to win the first game makes you feel a lot better. But you still have to win two more."
Manager Davey Johnson again went to his right-handed-hitting lineup minus Rafael Palmeiro, Surhoff and Roberto Alomar gainst the left-handed Randy Johnson. And again it worked.
Johnson surrendered five runs on seven hits and four walks in five innings, and Palmeiro, Alomar and Surhoff were in the game by the sixth. Johnson has gone 0-3 with a 6.38 earned run average in four starts against the Orioles this year, and the Mariners have lost all four games. He has a 20-2 record against everyone else in '97.
"Their hitters basically are not strikeout hitters," Mariners Manager Lou Piniella said. "They put the ball in play. ... He just didn't have his good stuff tonight. You come to expect the guy to be perfect every time he goes out there, but you have to give the other team's hitters credit. Certainly their club has to have a little more confidence against him. But when he's out there at his best, he can turn those tables very easily."
Mussina was, by far, the better pitcher tonight. He served up home runs to Edgar Martinez in the fourth and Jay Buhner in the seventh. But he limited the Mariners to five hits and two runs over seven innings for the biggest win of his career. He didn't issue a walk and struck out nine.
"Everybody was talking about the Big Unit like Mike is chopped liver," Davey Johnson said. "I said I'd never bet against Mike Mussina. I'd say that was about the best thing we had going for us."
Said Mussina, who has an 8-1 career regular season record against Seattle: "I don't really look at it as everyone talks about Randy and no one talks about me. ... Every time Randy pitches, you expect him to dominate. I'm not offended."
Bordick got the Orioles going with a run-scoring double in the third inning. The Orioles then had a four-run fifth against Johnson, and added four runs in the sixth against relievers Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric.
Brady Anderson provided a tie-breaking RBI single in the fifth after Seattle first baseman Paul Sorrento helped out with a throwing error. Davis had a two-run single in the inning and Berroa left the Kingdome's largest-ever baseball crowd 59,579 virtually silent with an opposite-field home run. Hoiles opened the sixth with a homer off Timlin. Bordick added an RBI single and Surhoff capped the inning with a two-run, pinch-hit double vs. Spoljaric to make it 9-1.
Ripken finished the night with three hits, and Anderson and Bordick had two each. Bordick and Jeffrey Hammonds scored two runs apiece. Alex Rodriguez hit a ninth-inning homer off reliever Armando Benitez for Seattle's third run.
Davey Johnson, as promised, had Jeff Reboulet at second base, Jerome Walton at first base and Hammonds in left field in tonight's starting lineup.
"I'll just sleep better tonight," the manager said. "A lot of times you have to take a gamble that's calculated. ... I felt like I had to put my neck on the chopping block. [But] it's not really a risk when you have great players."
The Orioles broke through in the third. Hammonds drew a one-out walk on four pitches. No. 9 hitter Bordick fouled off two pitches after the count reached 0-2, then doubled into the left field corner, scoring Hammonds.
Hammonds got the Orioles going in the fifth by drawing a leadoff walk. Randy Johnson had him picked off as Hammonds broke for second base. But Sorrento got his feet tangled and made an off-balance, low throw to second. The ball struck Hammonds and bounced into left field. Bordick drew a walk and Anderson squeezed a base hit through the middle to put the Orioles in front, 2-1. Reboulet fouled off two bunt attempts but got down a two-strike bunt to advance the runners. Davis had struck out in his previous two at-bats and fell behind in the count again, but on a 1-2 pitch he pulled a chopper over third baseman Mike Blowers to get both runners home. Davis was thrown out trying to steal second base, but Berroa sent a drive over the right field fence to make it 5-1.
Piniella went to Timlin in the sixth, and Hoiles deposited his third pitch beyond the wall in left-center field. Palmeiro, hitting for Walton, yanked a shot to right-center for a double, and scored one out later when Bordick grounded a single into center field. Alomar, batting for Reboulet, was walked intentionally with two outs, and Surhoff, hitting for Davis, greeted Spoljaric by pulling a ground ball between Sorrento and the bag to score Bordick and Alomar.
Mussina, meanwhile, was coasting along. The 28-year-old right-hander has a career regular season record of 105-49, giving him the highest winning percentage (.682) among active pitchers. He has bristled at questions about his lack of big-game victories. Mussina went winless in two postseason starts last year.
He was in command tonight, though. He survived a one-out double by Roberto Kelly in the first inning. He struck out Rodriguez, Buhner and Sorrento in the second, and Davis's leaping catch of Dan Wilson's drive to deep right field kept Mussina out of trouble in the third. With two outs in the fourth, Mussina hung a change-up on a 3-1 count and Martinez lined it well over the left field fence, and Rodriguez followed with a line drive to center field for a single. Mussina settled down, striking out Buhner to end the inning on his way to retiring nine consecutive batters before Buhner's long home run with two outs in the seventh.
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