NEW YORK -- The American League Championship Series was billed as the battle of the bullpens.
Yankees closer John Wetteland vs. Orioles closer Randy Myers.
Yankees setup specialist Mariano Rivera vs. Armando Benitez, Terry Mathews or whomever else the Orioles might march to the mound in the late innings.
Round 1, or Game 1, went to the Yankees.
The Orioles lost, 5-4, in 11 innings when Bernie Williams planted a Myers pitch in the left-field seats. Yesterday, the Orioles were unable to hold a lead, tomorrow it may go the other way.
"This series is going to come down to the bullpens," said reliever Jesse Orosco, who has appeared in every Orioles postseason game in '96. "These are two very good bullpens. We're going to decide the outcome. In a short series like this, you can't afford to make one mistake."
Myers made that mistake yesterday. "I made a bad pitch and he hit it out," he said.
Myers pitched 1 2/3 innings, more work than usual for him, but pitching coach Pat Dobson said fatigue was not an issue for Myers, or any reliever for that matter.
Dobson said Myers and everyone else will be available to pitch today.
"He only threw 16 pitches," Dobson said. "We figured we could probably get 25 [pitches] out of him and still use him tomorrow. They had some left-handed bats coming up, so we thought we'd stay with him."
The Orioles' relievers were outstanding in the Division Series. Benitez established himself, pitching out of jams and striking out Indians slugger Albert Belle in the clutch. Mathews didn't allow a run in 2 2/3 innings
That changed in Game 1 of the ALCS. Benitez allowed the Yankees to close to within 4-3 with a bases-loaded walk to Darryl Strawberry and yielded Derek Jeter's controversial eighth-inning home run, that tied the game at 4. Arthur Rhodes and Mathews each pitched one-third of an inning, keeping things close until Myers entered in the bottom of the ninth.
Despite the loss, Dobson said he was impressed by his relievers.
"Our bullpen did a good job, again," Dobson said. "We should've won that game 4-3 [if Jeter's home run was ruled fan interference, as it showed on a replay]. They've got good guys in their pen and we've got good guys in ours. It's just who can score a run in the late innings."
The Yankees may have the best bullpen in baseball.
Rivera was virtually unhittable in the regular season and Wetteland led the AL with 43 saves. The Yankees were 86-1 when leading after eight innings.
In the postseason, Yankees relievers have yielded one run in 23 2/3 innings.
"We don't have too much run support, but the bullpen continues to do the job," second baseman Mariano Duncan said.
The Orioles' bullpen has allowed eight runs in 14 1/3 postseason pTC innings, an ERA of 5.02. However, those statistics don't do the relievers' justice. Repeatedly, they have kept games close.
Yesterday, it was Orosco to the rescue in the seventh inning, striking out Tino Martinez in the seventh inning with runners on second and third and one out.
Benitez eventually walked in the Yankees' third run, cutting the Orioles' lead to 4-3, but even then, Benitez struck out Joe Girardi with the bases loaded to preserve the lead -- temporarily.
"Every time we've kept the team in the game," Mathews said. "We're very confident we can win games if we can keep pitching like this."
Pub Date: 10/10/96