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AL Championship


The matchup

Cleveland Indians

How they got here: The Indians blitzed through the regular season, winning 100 games, then swept the Boston Red Sox in three games in the divisional series.

Why they're here: Their lineup scores lots of runs, their starting pitching is experienced and their bullpen is strong and effectively protects their leads.

What they've overcome: In 1993, two Cleveland pitchers, Steve Olin and Tim Crews, were killed in a boating accident and a third, Bob Ojeda, was severely injured. After an emotional '93 season, the Indians became a serious contender in 1994 and a juggernaut in 1995.

What must go right: Cleveland's three primary starters -- Dennis Martinez, Orel Hershiser and Charles Nagy -- pitched to Boston's weaknesses. They need to do the same against a Seattle lineup that is much deeper than the Red Sox's.

What an advance scout might say: Don't bother pitching around Ken Griffey to get to Edgar Martinez. Griffey is more explosive, but Martinez is a better hitter right now.

Who's hurting: Dennis Martinez has been bothered most of the season by a sore knee. First baseman Paul Sorrento also is suffering from some knee trouble. Middle reliever Eric Plunk is coming back from arm trouble, and may not be able to throw on consecutive days.

X-factor: Albert Belle has been in one of those grooves when a hitter is dying to go to the park every day just so he can get in his hacks. The Indians have not played four of the past five days, which cannot be good for Belle.

Seattle Mariners

How they got here: The Mariners, far out of the AL West race, surged in the final month of the season. They stumbled on the final weekend, but won a one-game playoff against the California Angels last week. The Mariners then lost the first two games of the division series against the New York Yankees, but returned to the Kingdome and swept the final three.

Why they're here: They have one great starting pitcher (Randy Johnson), a couple of good ones (Chris Bosio and Andy Benes), one hot reliever (Norm Charlton), all backed by an extraordinary lineup that includes MVP candidates Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner and superstar Griffey.

What they've overcome: Griffey broke his wrist making a running, crashing catch against the Orioles in May, and the rest of the Mariners -- most notably, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez and Mike Blowers -- raised their level of play and hung in the playoff race until Griffey returned.

What must go right: Somehow, someway, they must remain competitive in the first games of this series. The Mariners come out of their series with the Yankees exhausted. Manager Lou Piniella is unsure who will pitch when. The starters must throw seven to eight innings, thereby reducing the workload on a bullpen that was ineffective against the Yankees.

What an advance scout might say: The Mariners cannot allow Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel to beat them. If Vizquel, a mediocre offensive player, reaches base, he sparks the entire attack.

Who's hurting: Seattle second baseman Joey Cora's left shoulder was bothering him in the playoffs, and Griffey still doesn't have a full range of motion in his wrist, but those two still can be effective. Of more concern is the well-being of left-handed closer Charlton, clearly exhausted into ineffectiveness by the end of the New York series.

X-factor: Johnson pitched the one-game playoff against California on three days' rest, and he pitched Game 3 of the Yankees series on three days' rest and came back to throw three innings of relief Sunday night. Johnson will be hard-pressed to continue at his current pace.

Prediction: The Indians are an awesome team, and anybody facing a series against Cleveland would want the starting pitching properly aligned, the bullpen rested, everything in order. The Mariners, after their wild and crazy series, have nothing in order. Cleveland wins in five games.

Seattle Mariners vs. Cleveland Indians

/# (Best of seven; all times p.m.)

Day .. .. .. .. ..Site .. .. .. .. .. ..Time

Tonight .. .. .. .at Seattle .. .. .. ..8:07

Tomorrow .. .. Seattle .. .. .. ..8:07

Friday .. .. .. Cleveland .. .. ...8:07

Saturday .. .. Cleveland .. .. ...7:07

Sunday* .. .. .. .at Cleveland .. .. ...7:07

Oct. 17* .. .. Seattle .. .. .. ..8:07

Oct. 18* .. .. Seattle .. .. .. ..8:07

* -- If necessary

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