For starters, Orioles pound Mariners' ace Lineup moves pay off

Mussina tops Johnson

AL PLAYOFFS, Game 1, Orioles 9, Mariners 3

October 02, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- Mariners superstar Randy Johnson is bigger than the Space Needle around here, but once again last night, the "Big Unit" found himself looking up at a downsized Orioles lineup.

It was right-hander Mike Mussina who cast the giant shadow, overpowering the Mariners on the way to a 9-3 victory that turned the Kingdome eerily quiet and turned the American League Division Series decidedly in the Orioles' favor.

"I was happy that the Big Unit got all the press before the game," Orioles manager Davey Johnson said. "It was like Mike Mussina was chopped liver. I thought that was the greatest thing we had going for us."

Of course, it was only the opener of a best-of-five series, but it was a critical game for the Mariners, who have just one more home game today (4: 07 p.m. EDT) to build some momentum before the series shifts to Camden Yards for Game 3 on Saturday and -- if necessary -- Games 4 and 5.

Former Orioles left-hander Jamie Moyer suddenly finds himself in a must-win situation against right-hander Scott Erickson in Game 2, thanks to Mussina's first postseason victory and a punchy performance by a pint-sized lineup that started the game without left-handed hitting stars Rafael Palmeiro, B. J. Surhoff and Roberto Alomar.

Talk about a feel-good first night. Mussina gave up just five hits, walked none and struck out nine over seven innings, and right fielder Eric Davis delivered a two-run single off Randy Johnson in a four-run fifth inning that toppled the first major obstacle on the road to the World Series.

The sellout crowd of 59,579, the largest ever at the Kingdome, had come to see a Mariners mismatch, and to relive the excitement of the club's string of heart-stopping home victories over the New York Yankees in the 1995 AL Division Series. Instead, the Orioles got middle-inning home runs from Geronimo Berroa and Chris Hoiles to turn it into a Baltimore blowout.

The Mariners were waiting for the law of averages to kick in, but it didn't happen. Johnson went 20-4 this year but failed to win any of the three games he pitched against the Orioles.

They had accounted for two of his four losses and had waited him out to win another game in the late innings, but who would have figured that they would be able to handle him so easily last night?

"Maybe I've got a phobia or something about the Orioles," Johnson said. "Tell all the Orioles to go and put on another jersey."

Davey Johnson stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters, the same way he did in each of the regular-season games against the Mariners' ace, and the Orioles chipped away in the early innings until Davis' two-run single and Berroa's bases-empty home run broke the game open in the fifth.

Davis had struck out in his first two at-bats, but he added another upbeat chapter to the inspiration- al story of his return from cancer with a huge hit that scored Mike Bordick and Brady Anderson. When Randy Johnson surrendered Berroa's first career postseason home run, reliever Mike Timlin already was warming up in the Mariners' bullpen.

Davey Johnson didn't seem particularly surprised that his makeshift lineup again found a way to beat the most intimidating pitcher in baseball.

"That's the character of this club," he said. "It doesn't matter who I put out there, they're going to perform well."

Seattle manager Lou Piniella pulled Randy Johnson after five innings, perhaps to preserve him for a possible Game 4 start at Camden Yards on Sunday. Baltimore native Ken Cloude is scheduled to make that start, but he probably will be replaced if the Mariners are in danger of being eliminated.

It was a watershed game for Mussina, who overcame the notion that he is not a big-game pitcher by holding the mighty Mariners lineup to one hit through three innings and two runs through seven. The oddsmakers had made the Mariners a heavy favorite to win Game 1, but they apparently had not factored in Mussina's 8-1 career record against Seattle.

"Mussina didn't even have to pitch out of any jams," Piniella said. "It was a ho-hum game for him. He just threw strikes and did his job."

Pub Date: 10/02/97

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