At the Risk of Repeating Themselves: O's, 9-3
By Mark Maske
SEATTLE, Oct. 2 The Baltimore Orioles all but wrapped up their first-round playoff series today by following precisely the blueprint to beat the dangerous but flawed Seattle Mariners.
They outlasted starter Jamie Moyer and clobbered the Mariners' pitiable relief-pitching corps. They got good pitching of their own, beginning with starter Scott Erickson, and held Seattle's explosive offense in check on their way to a 9-3 victory over the Mariners before 59,309 at the Kingdome.
Matching the score of their Game 1 victory Wednesday night, the Orioles took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-five series. The Orioles can close out the series and advance to the American League Championship Series for a second year in a row Saturday, when they're scheduled to send Jimmy Key to the mound against fellow left-hander Jeff Fassero at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"Usually on the road you want to split, so taking two on the road is a big advantage," Erickson said. "But our work isn't done yet."
The sweep in Seattle left even Orioles Manager Davey Johnson a little surprised as the series shifts to Baltimore for the remaining games.
"I knew we'd play well here," he said. "I didn't know we'd play this well.".
Moyer and Erickson were locked in a pitchers' duel until Moyer strained his left elbow and left the game with two outs and two runners on in the fifth inning. Manager Lou Piniella said Moyer will not pitch again in the series.
"I don't like to see that, but it seemed like it was the turning point of the game," Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said of Moyer's departure.
Paul Spoljaric replaced Moyer and promptly gave up a two-run double by Roberto Alomar that gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead. It got ugly from there for a Mariners bullpen that posted a 5.33 earned run average and squandered 27 save opportunities during the regular season.
Bobby Ayala served up a two-run home run by Brady Anderson in the seventh inning, and he and Norm Charlton permitted four runs in the eighth. Lenny Webster drew a bases-loaded walk. Mike Bordick delivered a two-run single and Anderson added an RBI double. Seattle relievers have surrendered 15 hits and 10 runs over 8 1/3 innings in this series.
"We just haven't held the games in check the last couple days," Piniella said. "... All the guys we have out there are basically capable of doing the job. It hasn't worked out the last couple days, but things can change."
The Mariners overcame an 0-2 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in a first-round playoff series in 1995. But that time, the final three games were at the Kingdome.
"There's no quit here," Piniella said. "Nobody's down. We'll come out Saturday and play hard. We're not giving up, believe me."
The Mariners had reason to hope when Erickson allowed a pair of first-inning runs on RBI groundouts by Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez. But Erickson steadied himself to get the victory, allowing three runs on seven hits, striking out six and walking two in 6 2/3 innings.
While the Seattle relievers struggled, the Orioles' bullpen did its job. Armando Benitez struck out Roberto Kelly to get the Orioles out of a seventh-inning jam. Jesse Orosco struck out pinch hitter Rich Amaral to strand two base runners in the eighth, and Randy Myers finished with three strikeouts in the ninth.
"Everything starts with the pitching," Orioles right fielder Eric Davis said. "Any time you're in a series like this, the best pitching is going to win. You're not going to constantly outslug teams during the postseason. ... Sometimes when you get the first game [on the road], you have to be greedy."
Anderson had two hits and three RBI. Harold Baines had a second-inning home run off Moyer, and he, Bordick, Cal Ripken, B.J. Surhoff and Geronimo Berroa had two hits each. Ripken contributed a pair of excellent defensive plays at third base, and Surhoff threw out Rob Ducey from left field in the seventh as Ducey attempted to stretch his pinch-hit, RBI single.
Seattle had the early lead. Joey Cora led off the bottom of the first inning with an infield hit, and moved to third base when Kelly hit a hanging curveball from Erickson to right-center field for a double. Ground balls by Griffey and Martinez scored runs.
The Orioles got to 2-1 in the second when Baines sent a two-out, opposite-field shot over the left field wall.
Baines was part of another interesting set of lineup decisions for Johnson. After leaving Palmeiro, Alomar and Surhoff on the bench to start Game 1 to stack the batting order with right-handed hitters against left-handed Randy Johnson, the Orioles today had five left-handed batters against Moyer, another lefty.
Davey Johnson pointed out that Moyer's best pitch is a change-up, which breaks away from right-handed hitters, but toward left-handed batters. Again, the strategy worked. The Orioles' left-handed hitters went 4 for 10 against Moyer, while their right-handed hitters went 1 for 8.
Still, Moyer had a 2-1 lead with two outs in the fifth when No. 9 hitter Bordick blooped a single into center field. Moyer walked Anderson on four pitches and winced after throwing ball one to Alomar. That was enough for Piniella, who waved in Spoljaric. The left-handed reliever almost struck out Alomar
Griffey almost made a spectacular leaping grab as he crashed into the fence. But the ball eluded him, Bordick and Anderson scored (pictured) and Alomar pulled into second base.
The Orioles extended their lead to 5-2 in the seventh against Ayala. The right-hander walked Bordick with one out, and Anderson pulled a shot that just cleared the tall wall in right field.
Seattle got to 5-3 in the bottom of the inning. Erickson issued a leadoff walk to Paul Sorrento, who moved to second base on a passed ball by Webster. Erickson struck out Wilson for the third time in the game, but Ducey, batting for No. 9 hitter Andy Sheets, slashed a hit to left field. Surhoff got to the ball quickly, however, and threw out Ducey trying for second base. Cora followed with a single, but Benitez struck out Kelly on three pitches to end the inning with Griffey on deck.
"When you're behind like we were, you don't want to take chances," Piniella said.
In the eighth, the Orioles loaded the bases with one out on a single by Berroa, Ripken's double and an intentional walk to Baines. Webster walked to score pinch runner Jeffrey Hammonds. Bordick ended Ayala's evening with a line-drive single that got Ripken and Baines home, and Anderson greeted Charlton with a blast off the right field fence to score Webster.
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