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  Fassero Throws a Curve at O's Plans

Orioles Logo By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 5, 1997; Page D1

BALTIMORE, Oct. 4 — The Seattle Mariners refused to succumb meekly. The Baltimore Orioles certainly had their chances to complete a sweep of the teams' first-round playoff series today at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But the Mariners used the resilient pitching of starter Jeff Fassero to keep their season going with a 4-2 victory in front of 49,137, the largest crowd in the six-year history of Camden Yards.

Seattle pulled to 2-1 in this best-of-five series and is scheduled to send Randy Johnson to the mound here Sunday to face the Orioles' Mike Mussina in a Game 1 rematch. The Mariners are attempting to become the fifth club to overcome a 2-0 deficit to capture a best-of-five postseason series. No team, however, ever has done so with three road wins. Seattle overcame a 2-0 deficit in a first-round series against the New York Yankees in 1995, but all three of those wins came at the Kingdome.

"I think we're fine," Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said. "I like our chances still."

The Mariners have Fassero to thank that they still are alive. The left-hander limited the Orioles to three hits over eight-plus innings and was charged with one run in a laborious, 136-pitch effort. He retired 18 straight hitters before issuing a leadoff walk to Geronimo Berroa in the ninth inning and being pulled by Mariners Manager Lou Piniella.

The only hits Fassero surrendered were singles by Brady Anderson in innings one and three, and Roberto Alomar's third-inning double. The closest the Orioles came to a hit off him thereafter came on Anderson's long ball that hooked foul in the eighth. Fassero walked four, two in the first inning and one in the second, and had three strikeouts.

"It was just an outstanding, gutsy performance," Piniella said.

Closer Heathcliff Slocumb got the final three outs for Seattle but allowed a single by Palmeiro and a two-out, two-run double by Jeffrey Hammonds.

The Orioles managed only one hit in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position and lost their fourth straight postseason game at home. They went 0-3 against the Yankees at Camden Yards during last year's American League Championship Series.

They left the bases loaded in the first inning today when Fassero made an excellent kick-save defensive play on B.J. Surhoff's ground ball. And they squandered a second-and-third, no-out chance in the third after Anderson's single and Alomar's double. Fassero struck out Berroa, got Palmeiro on a grounder that resulted in Anderson being caught in a rundown and then struck out Cal Ripken.

"I thought that was kind of deflating there," Orioles Manager Davey Johnson said. Fassero "pitched tough when he had to. . . . I thought he pitched about as good a game as you can under the circumstances."

Said Palmeiro: "We let him off the hook early. We could have scored early, but he did a good job of coming back."

Seattle got Roberto Kelly's run-scoring double in the third inning and Ken Griffey Jr.'s RBI single in the fifth against Orioles starter Jimmy Key. And this time, it was the usually reliable Baltimore bullpen that faltered. Jay Buhner and Paul Sorrento added consecutive ninth-inning home runs off reliever Terry Mathews, who was booed by the Camden Yards fans.

Rich Amaral scored two runs for the Mariners and he, Kelly and Alex Rodriguez had two hits apiece. Entering the postseason, Key was an object of concern for the Orioles after he struggled during the second half of the regular season and won only once at Camden Yards after May 7. The veteran left-hander was decent today. He allowed eight hits over 4 2/3 innings but limited the Mariners to two runs, although he needed a pair of terrific defensive plays by shortstop Mike Bordick and another by right fielder Hammonds to do it.

"They got some hits but I was able to keep the damage to a minimum," said Key, whose career postseason record dropped to 5-3. ". . . I think we pitched well enough as a team to win today."

Amaral got the Mariners going in the third with a one-out infield single on a roller up the middle. Kelly yanked a line drive into the left field corner, scoring Amaral from first to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead. Key avoided further damage when he struck out Griffey with a curveball in the dirt and Bordick made a superb play to deny Edgar Martinez an RBI single. Rodriguez led off the fourth with a line drive to right field for a hit, but was thrown out at second base by Hammonds trying for a double. Bordick followed with another diving play on Buhner's ground ball.

Key wasn't as fortunate in the fifth. Amaral lined a single to center field with one out and moved to second base on a wild pitch. He stayed there on Kelly's flyout to Hammonds, but scored when Griffey picked on a 2-0 pitch and slammed a shot past diving second baseman Alomar for a base hit to center field.

By then Fassero was settling into a groove, but he struggled through the game's early stages. Anderson led off the bottom of the first inning with a ground ball through the middle for a base hit. Alomar bunted Anderson to second base, and Berroa drew a walk.

Palmeiro followed with a grounder to second baseman Joey Cora for what should have been an inning-ending double play. But Cora made an off-target throw to shortstop Rodriguez, and the Mariners got only the forceout. Ripken walked to load the bases.

Surhoff, a .448 career hitter with the bases loaded, smacked a grounder that looked for a moment like it might be headed into center field for a two-run single. But Fassero knocked down the ball with his right foot. He couldn't find it immediately, but picked it up in time to throw out Surhoff at first base.

"That was a big break for them," Bordick said. "That would have been big for us to make a mark in the first inning."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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