Hold the champagne. The Orioles, who looked so impressive rolling up two lopsided road victories in the best-of-five American League Division Series, have come home to roast.
The Seattle Mariners turned up the heat in Game 3 with a 4-2 victory at Camden Yards yesterday that avoided an Orioles sweep and set up a rematch today (4: 07 p.m.) of the series-opening pitching duel between intimidating left-hander Randy Johnson and Orioles ace Mike Mussina.
"It's an opportunity to, in a sense, redeem myself," said Johnson, who was winless in three regular-season starts against the Orioles and went down hard in the playoff opener at the Kingdome on Wednesday. "I'm going to be up for the game tomorrow. There's no pressure on us. All the pressure is on Baltimore, I think."
There is plenty to go around. The Mariners still are one defeat away from the end of a promising season, but they can thank pitcher Jeff Fassero for stepping up at just the right time. The veteran left-hander held the Orioles to three hits over eight innings in his postseason debut and defeated Jimmy Key before sellout crowd of 49,137, the largest in the history of Camden Yards.
Key was not particularly sharp -- he gave up eight hits over 4 2/3 innings -- but he was not the reason that the Orioles will have to play at least one more game to get to the American League Championship Series. He gave up only two runs, or two more than the offense managed through the first eight innings against Fassero. The Mariners added two more on back-to-back home (( runs by Jay Buhner and Paul Sorrento in the ninth, and weathered a too-little, too-late, two-run Orioles rally at the end.
"I knew the way Fassero was throwing, it was going to be a low-scoring game," said Orioles manager Davey Johnson.
Maybe the problem is geographical. Key had lost eight of his last nine regular-season decisions at Camden Yards, and the Orioles have played below .500 in Baltimore since early June. They are 6-1 against the Mariners on the road this season, but 2-4 against them at home.
Mariners manager Lou Piniella has chosen to bring Johnson back on three days' rest, rather than gamble Game 4 on the inexperienced arm of Baltimore native Ken Cloude, who was moved out of the rotation earlier this week, then moved back in when veteran Jamie Moyer suffered an elbow injury on Thursday night.
"Our backs are still against the wall, so we've got to go with our ace," said Piniella. "He's been our horse all year. If we get fortunate enough to win tomorrow, then we have the youngster from Baltimore going against the team he idolized growing up."
Mussina, who pitched so well in the playoff opener, also will be coming back on short rest, but seemed unconcerned about fatigue or the pressure of pitching against Johnson again.
"It's basically the same situation as it was the first game," Mussina said. "I don't look at it any differently."
Pub Date: 10/05/97