SEATTLE -- Did someone say drama?
What was supposed to be the most compelling, most suspense-filled of the Division Series took another giant step toward becoming a blowout yesterday when the Orioles dismantled the Seattle Mariners, 9-3, in Game 2 of a dying matchup.
It was the same score as Wednesday's Game 1. Much the same cast of Orioles heroes. Much the same cast of fall guys.
Dealing before a Kingdome crowd of 59,309, starting pitcher Scott Erickson provided the Orioles enough pitching while a rejuvenated lineup took apart the Mariners' bullpen after starter Jamie Moyer left the fifth inning with a strained left elbow. Even if the Orioles hedged, history says this series is cooked.
No team has won a best-of-five series after losing the first two games at home. Never. Not a League Championship Series. Not a Division Series.
"My mind-set is on having some crab cakes tomorrow night in Baltimore and a little chardonnay to go with it," said Mariners manager Lou Piniella.
It sounded like an order for a last meal.
Not only are the Orioles playing superbly at a most critical time, they are receiving good fortune.
For 4 2/3 innings, Moyer confused them enough to protect a 2-1 lead. Then, on a pitch to Brady Anderson, he strained his elbow and was done for the game and probably the series. Piniella rushed to his bullpen and witnessed complete chaos.
After struggling against Moyer, a former teammate, the Orioles hacked away at the Mariners' leftovers. Roberto Alomar enhanced his reputation as a big-game player by greeting reliever Paul Spoljaric with a two-run double off the heel of center fielder Ken Griffey's glove to put the Orioles ahead.
The Orioles turned a 3-2 game into a three-run lead when Anderson homered against Bobby Ayala in the seventh inning, then removed all doubt with a four-run outburst in the eighth.
Once again Orioles manager Davey Johnson pulled the right strings. He loaded his lineup with left-handed bats against left-hander Moyer, who is more effective against right-handers. When Piniella summoned right-hander Ayala to pitch the seventh, the Orioles were ready, pummeling him for six runs.
Johnson replaced Geronimo Berroa with Harold Baines as designated hitter and was rewarded with a second-inning home run that pulled the Orioles within 2-1.
Johnson wasn't done with Berroa. He entered the game after right fielder Eric Davis suffered a slight quadriceps pull and responded with two singles.
Johnson's plan to preserve his clubhouse even at the expense of short-term goals such as 100 wins or an early division clinch has been vindicated by identical 9-3 wins. It had been 56 games since they had scored this many runs in back-to-back games.
Cal Ripken contributed two doubles, making him 5-for-9 in the series. Ripken finished the season with 15 hits in his last 96 at-bats.
Shortstop Mike Bordick continued to involve himself in every rally, coming up with two hits and two RBIs.
Anderson added his third and fourth hits of the series while piling on for three RBIs in the last three innings yesterday.
Everything came together in the eighth. Perhaps the Mariners' best reliever in September, Ayala returned and yielded a leadoff single to Berroa. Pinch runner Jeffrey Hammonds took third on Ripken's double. Following an intentional walk to Baines (2-for-4), Ayala doled out an unintentional one to Lenny Webster, forcing in Hammonds for a 6-2 lead.
Bordick, 4-for-6 in the series, scored two runs with a line single before Anderson resurfaced with an RBI double.
"To me, the way [Moyer] was pitching, that was the turning point," Alomar said of the left-hander's injury. "He was keeping everybody off-balance with his changeup and breaking pitches."
Supposedly, the Mariners' bullpen improved with the trade of super rookie Jose Cruz Jr. for Toronto Blue Jays relievers Mike Timlin and Spoljaric. Nice try.
When done, 13 of the 24 hitters who faced Spoljaric, Ayala, Norm Charlton and Heathcliff Slocumb reached base.
"Our bullpen threw the ball very well in September," Piniella said. "We have a good mixture out there. Right now we're not getting the job done, but that could change over the weekend."
The Orioles show no signs of allowing it. Even if the Mariners win Game 3 tomorrow, Piniella said he will send rookie and Baltimore native Ken Cloude against them in Game 4. Johnson can counter with Mike Mussina or Scott Kamieniecki.
"We've got three games. We've got to win one. It's that simple," closer Randy Myers said after striking out the side in order to end the game. "Of course, you'd like to win the first one back home, but you only have to win one of three. If you look at it any other way, you only put pressure on yourself."
"Pressure" appears to fit better within the Mariners' vocabulary. So far the Orioles have made the big pitch, driven the big hit and made the big play. The Mariners are feeling the big chill.
The Orioles spent the last two days in Seattle dieting on a bullpen left out too long. Piniella again watched his staff implode when a starting pitcher couldn't get past the fifth inning. The Mariners travel to Baltimore carrying a 9.00 ERA, a .235 average and a bullpen in chaos. Eight of the Orioles' 18 runs have begun as walks -- four in each game. Only one of the Mariners' six runs began with a walk.
"We're doing the little things that maybe we didn't always do the last few weeks," Alomar said. "Every time they make a mistake, every time they walk somebody or make an error, we're taking advantage of it. We're moving runners and making the most of situations."
The Orioles have rediscovered the offensive formula that made them the best team in baseball through the season's first half. They no longer play offense for one swing.
Johnson called his a "money" team. Yesterday the checks cashed.
"For the first four months it was a very driven ballclub. We got to almost 40 games over .500 and then we seemed to let down a bit or relax a little bit," recalled Johnson, who nervously watched his team finish 15-20 to capture its division by two skinny games. "Some guys were banged up during that stretch and I think we just tried to coast on in. We've had challenges along the way and risen to them.
"I really wasn't concerned because I knew we'd play very well here. But I didn't know we'd play this well."
"The last month of the season, that wasn't us," said reliever Jesse Orosco, who ended the eighth inning with a strikeout of Rich Amaral. "Everybody in here knew we were better than that. We're a veteran team. We've responded."
While Johnson was performing backflips, the Mariners must resort to mental gymnastics to keep hope alive. The Orioles have now won nine of 13 games between the two and found an answer for every question in the last two games.
"They came into our house and dominated us for two days. That hasn't happened very often. But it has happened before," said shortstop Alex Rodriguez. "We just have to go out and take it one day at a time. The pressure falls back on them. They have to go home and win. They have to put the final nail in the coffin, and sometimes that's hard to do."
Not even the Orioles thought it would be like this. They hoped for a split before returning home but instead took control of the series.
"Their pitching has just done a tremendous job," conceded right fielder Jay Buhner. "I don't know what kind of scouting reports they have on us, but I take my hat off to them. They held us down. They kept the crowd out of it. We've got to find a way to come back.
"Obviously, we're against the wall and there's a little bit of pressure against us. We've played just as well on the road as we have at home. We just have to find a way to do it."
The win was a breakthrough experience for Erickson. He hadn't won in six postseason starts, including a Game 5 loss in last year's American League Championship Series. While the Mariners' Randy Johnson and Moyer survived only 9 2/3 combined innings, allowing 12 hits and eight earned runs, Mike Mussina and Erickson went 13 2/3 innings, surrendering 12 hits and five earned runs.
Erickson also continued his run as resident Plastic Man, raising his record to 5-0 in six starts on artificial turf while winning for the third time in four starts this season against the Mariners.
Erickson's worst problems came early. Second baseman Joey Cora led off the game with an infield single near second base. Roberto Kelly followed with a double off the right-field wall that moved Cora to third. Consecutive ground balls by Griffey and Edgar Martinez against a relaxed infield gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead.
For four innings the Kingdome rocked with a lead. Then the Orioles crashed the party.
The Orioles lead 2-0 and are returning home in the Division Series, which bodes well for their chances of reaching the American League Championship Series. Twenty-six of 30 teams before this season that took 2-0 leads in a five-game series went on to win. All four teams that blew 2-0 leads did so on the road. A look:
Team .. .. .. ..Series .. .. .. .Winner
Yankees .. .. .'95 ALDS .. .. .Mariners
Cubs .. .. .. .'84 NLCS .. .. ...Padres
Angels .. .. ..'82 ALCS .. .. ..Brewers
Astros .. .. ..'81 NL West .. ..Dodgers
Note: Includes ALCS and NLCS from 1969-84, a division series in strike-shortened 1981 and the AL and NL Division Series since 1995.
A look at how the Orioles left-handed batters combined to hit .348 yesterday, including home runs by Harold Baines and Brady Anderson:
.. .. .. .. ..AB .. ..R .. ..H .. ..BI .. ..BB .. ..SO
Anderson .. ...4 .. ..2 .. ..2 .. ...3 .. ...1 .. ...0
Alomar .. .. ..5 .. ..0 .. ..1 .. ...2 .. ...0 .. ...1
Surhoff .. .. .5 .. ..0 .. ..2 .. ...0 .. ...0 .. ...2
Palmeiro .. ...5 .. ..0 .. ..1 .. ...0 .. ...0 .. ...2
Baines .. .. ..4 .. ..2 .. ..2 .. ...1 .. ...1 .. ...0
Totals .. .. .23 .. ..4 .. ..8 .. ...6 .. ...2 .. ...5
Pub Date: 10/03/97