Fassero locates ball, mastery in giving Orioles the shake Groundout off foot in first kick-starts stellar effort

October 05, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

They overcame a shaky beginning by starting pitcher Jeff Fassero. They overcame some sparkling defense by the Orioles. And they overcame what had been their biggest obstacle all season -- having to go early to their beleaguered bullpen.

In doing so, the Seattle Mariners will see their season continue today with Game 4 of the American League Division Series.

Making the first postseason appearance of his seven-year major-league career, Fassero went from uneasy in the first three innings to unhittable during the next five, limiting the Orioles to three hits in all and helping the Mariners stave off elimination with a 4-2 victory yesterday at Camden Yards in Game 3.

They still have a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-five series but will have ace Randy Johnson on the mound in Game 4.

"The star today was Fassero with the way he pitched," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said. "We needed something like that, and we got it."

In changing their lineup a bit, the Mariners also changed their fortunes. Rich Amaral started in the leadoff spot in place of Joey Cora, who was dropped to ninth, and had two singles in his first three at-bats and scored Seattle's first two runs. But mostly Seattle followed a resilient performance by Fassero.

A 34-year-old left-hander, he twice got out trouble in the first three innings, in the first inning with the bases loaded by stopping B. J. Surhoff's line shot with his foot and again in the third by shutting down the heart of the order after Brady Anderson singled and Roberto Alomar doubled.

After throwing 70 pitches in the first three innings, Fassero threw only 66 more before being replaced by Heathcliff Slocumb after walking Geronimo Berroa on four pitches leading off the ninth. After Alomar's double, he retired 18 straight.

"I was a little nervous the first three innings, but I settled down," Fassero said. "I just started hitting my spots and getting ahead on the count."

Before that, Fassero helped himself with the no-look stop on Surhoff's liner. After the ball ricocheted off his foot, Fassero looked up and spun around before picking up the ball and throwing out Surhoff to end the inning.

Asked why he looked up, Fassero said, "After seeing ground balls go off the pitcher's foot so much, they usually bounce in the air. I ran out of places to look and finally looked down."

It looked as though Fassero would pitch the entire game, but Piniella pulled him after the walk to Berroa in the ninth.

"Jeff wanted to finish the game, but it was obvious after the four-pitch walk that that he was getting stiff," said Piniella, who added that he thought that Orioles manager Davey Johnson took out Arthur Rhodes before the top of the ninth to let Fassero get stiff on the bench, not because of mild tightness in Rhodes' left forearm.

Said Fassero: "I wasn't getting so stiff, but my whole body was getting tired. I hadn't thrown over 130 pitches in a game this year, and throwing in October is completely different."

It was a new feeling for Fassero. He thought he was going to the postseason with the Montreal Expos in 1994, but the strike took care of that. Now, after winning the first of a career-high 16 games this season on Opening Day, Fassero made sure that the Mariners will play again.

"It feels great," Fassero said. "This is the biggest game I've ever pitched in my life. I'm just glad I got that chance. This is the biggest day of my life."

Randy Johnson, too, was glad to get another chance to pitch this season.

"It was a must-win situation for us, and Jeff pitched great," Johnson said. "We need the same thing from me tomorrow."

18 in a row

Mariners left-hander Jeff Fassero retired 18 Orioles in a row after allowing hits to the first two batters in the third inning:

Orioles third: Anderson singled to left. Alomar doubled to deep left, Anderson to third. Berroa struck out swinging. Palmeiro grounded into fielder's choice to pitcher, Alomar to third, Anderson out at home. Palmeiro to second advancing on play. Ripken struck out swinging.

Orioles fourth: Surhoff flied to center. Hammonds grounded to shortstop. Hoiles flied to center.

Orioles fifth: Bordick flied to right. Anderson popped to shallow left. Alomar grounded to first.

Orioles sixth: Berroa grounded to shortstop. Palmeiro flied to deep left. Ripken struck out looking.

Orioles seventh: Surhoff flied to center. Hammonds flied to left-center. Hoiles flied to deep center.

Orioles eighth: Bordick grounded to first. Anderson grounded to shortstop. Alomar grounded to first.

Pub Date: 10/05/97

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