Somehow, the Orioles did it again. They beat the biggest, baddest pitcher in the game for the second time in five days and won a return trip to the American League Championship Series.
Right-hander Mike Mussina out-dueled Seattle Mariners superstar Randy Johnson again yesterday, and the Orioles scored a dramatic, 3-1 victory over the Mariners to take the best-of-five Division Series in four games.
The champagne had been on ice ever since the club returned from Seattle with a pair of lopsided victories at the Kingdome, but local fans have been waiting to take part in a postseason celebration for a lot longer than that. It was the first time since 1970 that the Orioles have celebrated a postseason series victory in Baltimore.
That was back in the days of Brooks and Frank and Boog and a second baseman who was too old even then to be called Davey. That was back when the Orioles were the dominant team in baseball. That was when the pitching staff featured a young guy by the name of Jim Palmer, who would go on to the Hall of Fame.
Now, the ace of the staff is a similar pitcher who completely trashed the notion that hecould not win the big ones.
Mussina thrilled the sellout crowd of 48,766 with a seven-inning, two-hit performance that elevated his national reputation and carried the club a giant step closer to the World Series.
"Mike is such a great pitcher, I knew he'd give me a quality start," manager Davey Johnson said. "Mike rose to the occasion. He just pitched a great game. I've never seen him pitch bad in a big game."
The Orioles were the sixth team in major-league history to go wire-to-wire in first place during the regular season, but it was the AL West champion Mariners -- with their overpowering pitching ace and their power-packed offense -- who entered the best-of-five Division Series as a slight favorite.
No matter. Randy Johnson, who was 20-2 against the rest of the league this year, could not find a way to beat the Orioles in five regular-season and postseason starts, thanks both to the performance of Mussina in three of those games -- including Wednesday's Division Series opener -- and a hybrid offensive lineup that did not include three of the Orioles' top left-handed hitters.
Once more, the manager looked like a genius when slap-hitting Jeff Reboulet got the offense off the ground with a first-inning home run. Once again, Davey Johnson is one step away from his first American League pennant.
"I'd like to congratulate Baltimore for a great year," said Mariners manager Lou Piniella. "The Orioles have been the dominant team in the league all year, and that was reflected in this series."
Inside the Orioles clubhouse, the smell of cheap champagne filled the air. Outside in the stands, the fans smelled revenge. Many broke into a derogatory chant -- the sanitized version would be "Yankees stink" -- that left no doubt whom they wanted to face in the next round of the playoffs.
Pub Date: 10/06/97