SEATTLE -- Did someone say drama?
What was supposed to be the most compelling, most suspense-filled of the Division Series took another giant step toward becoming a blowout yesterday when the Orioles dismantled the Seattle Mariners, 9-3, in Game 2 of a dying matchup.
It was the same score as Wednesday's Game 1. Much the same cast of Orioles heroes. Much the same cast of fall guys.
Dealing before a Kingdome crowd of 59,309, starting pitcher Scott Erickson provided the Orioles enough pitching while a rejuvenated lineup took apart the Mariners' bullpen after starter Jamie Moyer left the fifth inning with a strained left elbow. Even if the Orioles hedged, history says this series is cooked.
No team has won a best-of-five series after losing the first two games at home. Never. Not a League Championship Series. Not a Division Series.
"My mind-set is on having some crab cakes tomorrow night in Baltimore and a little chardonnay to go with it," said Mariners manager Lou Piniella.
It sounded like an order for a last meal.
Not only are the Orioles playing superbly at a most critical time, they are receiving good fortune.
For 4 2/3 innings, Moyer confused them enough to protect a 2-1 lead. Then, on a pitch to Brady Anderson, he strained his elbow and was done for the game and probably the series. Piniella rushed to his bullpen and witnessed complete chaos.
After struggling against Moyer, a former teammate, the Orioles hacked away at the Mariners' leftovers. Roberto Alomar enhanced his reputation as a big-game player by greeting reliever Paul Spoljaric with a two-run double off the heel of center fielder Ken Griffey's glove to put the Orioles ahead.
The Orioles turned a 3-2 game into a three-run lead when Anderson homered against Bobby Ayala in the seventh inning, then removed all doubt with a four-run outburst in the eighth.
Once again Orioles manager Davey Johnson pulled the right strings. He loaded his lineup with left-handed bats against left-hander Moyer, who is more effective against right-handers. When Piniella summoned right-hander Ayala to pitch the seventh, the Orioles were ready, pummeling him for six runs.
Johnson replaced Geronimo Berroa with Harold Baines as designated hitter and was rewarded with a second-inning home run that pulled the Orioles within 2-1.
Johnson wasn't done with Berroa. He entered the game after right fielder Eric Davis suffered a slight quadriceps pull and responded with two singles.
Johnson's plan to preserve his clubhouse even at the expense of short-term goals such as 100 wins or an early division clinch has been vindicated by identical 9-3 wins. It had been 56 games since they had scored this many runs in back-to-back games.
Cal Ripken contributed two doubles, making him 5-for-9 in the series. Ripken finished the season with 15 hits in his last 96 at-bats.
Shortstop Mike Bordick continued to involve himself in every rally, coming up with two hits and two RBIs.
Anderson added his third and fourth hits of the series while piling on for three RBIs in the last three innings yesterday.
Everything came together in the eighth. Perhaps the Mariners' best reliever in September, Ayala returned and yielded a leadoff single to Berroa. Pinch runner Jeffrey Hammonds took third on Ripken's double. Following an intentional walk to Baines (2-for-4), Ayala doled out an unintentional one to Lenny Webster, forcing in Hammonds for a 6-2 lead.
Bordick, 4-for-6 in the series, scored two runs with a line single before Anderson resurfaced with an RBI double.
"To me, the way [Moyer] was pitching, that was the turning point," Alomar said of the left-hander's injury. "He was keeping everybody off-balance with his changeup and breaking pitches."
Supposedly, the Mariners' bullpen improved with the trade of super rookie Jose Cruz Jr. for Toronto Blue Jays relievers Mike Timlin and Spoljaric. Nice try.
When done, 13 of the 24 hitters who faced Spoljaric, Ayala, Norm Charlton and Heathcliff Slocumb reached base.
"Our bullpen threw the ball very well in September," Piniella said. "We have a good mixture out there. Right now we're not getting the job done, but that could change over the weekend."
The Orioles show no signs of allowing it. Even if the Mariners win Game 3 tomorrow, Piniella said he will send rookie and Baltimore native Ken Cloude against them in Game 4. Johnson can counter with Mike Mussina or Scott Kamieniecki.
"We've got three games. We've got to win one. It's that simple," closer Randy Myers said after striking out the side in order to end the game. "Of course, you'd like to win the first one back home, but you only have to win one of three. If you look at it any other way, you only put pressure on yourself."
"Pressure" appears to fit better within the Mariners' vocabulary. So far the Orioles have made the big pitch, driven the big hit and made the big play. The Mariners are feeling the big chill.