Big Unit hopes to stand tall this time vs. Orioles Johnson glad to have chance to 'redeem myself'

October 05, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Randy Johnson will get one more opportunity to conquer the Orioles in 1997.

His fellow starter, Jeff Fassero, handed the Big Unit that chance yesterday by silencing the Orioles offense in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, and Johnson welcomes the challenge.

"I'll be up for the game tomorrow," said Johnson. "It's an opportunity to redeem myself. A lot of things can be thrown out. This is the postseason."

The most intimidating pitcher in the American League has made four starts against Baltimore this season -- and Seattle has lost them all, three of the defeats being charged to Johnson.

He will be opposed again by the Orioles' ace -- Mike Mussina -- who got the best of Johnson in the series opener, won by Baltimore, 9-3.

Seattle manager Lou Piniella said there was nothing psychological involved in his decision to shift Johnson from a scheduled Game 5 appearance to today.

"I'm not a psychologist," said Piniella. "We're playing them one at a time now. If we're fortunate enough to get to Game 5, we have confidence in [Baltimore-born Ken] Cloude.

"This way we're able to pitch everybody. Our job is to get as far along as we can and we feel Randy is going to get us there."

In their first meeting, Johnson labored with his control -- a hallmark of the early portion of his career -- and walked four in a troublesome five innings. He also surrendered a home run to Geronimo Berroa.

Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller says the key to trying to beat Johnson is to "make him get to 100 pitches quickly."

Meanwhile, Mussina was calm and collected in the face of the din at the Kingdome, mixing his pitches, changing speeds and keeping the Mariners off balance. In short, pitching a pitcher's game.

"I don't look at this one any differently than I did Game 1," said Mussina. "But it is an interesting situation, trying to beat Randy four times. I don't know if any team has ever done that."

Both are coming back on three days' rest, but pitch count should not be a factor for either. Their totals were almost identical (100 for Johnson, 93 for Mussina, who went two innings longer).

Plus, Mussina has the luxury of an outstanding bullpen behind him, although Arthur Rhodes had to leave yesterday with tightness in his arm, so that could shorten the relief.

Johnson said the key for him is to "get ahead of the hitters. But, actually, there is no pressure on us. It's on Baltimore now."

The big question is: Will Davey Johnson manipulate his starting lineup again to confront his namesake?

In Game 1, the Orioles manager left himself open to considerable second-guessing by benching Roberto Alomar (for Jeff Reboulet), B.J. Surhoff (for Eric Davis or Jeffrey Hammonds) and Rafael Palmiero (for Jerome Walton).

He looked like a genius when the Orioles knocked out Johnson and locked up a victory by the sixth inning.

The results being what they were, no criticism was forthcoming from his players, but Palmeiro said he was looking forward to playing against the Mariners' ace.

Pub Date: 10/05/97

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