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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS | AMERICAN LEAGUE : BALTIMORE vs.
SEATTLE

September 30, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

SCHEDULE

* Wednesday--Baltimore (Mike Mussina, 15-8) at Seattle (Randy Johnson (20-4), 5 p.m.

* Thursday--Baltimore (Scott Erickson, 16-7) at Seattle (Jamie Moyer, 17-5), 1 p.m.

* Saturday--Seattle (Jeff Fassero, 16-9) at Baltimore (Jimmy Key, 16-10), 1:30 p.m.

* Sunday--(If necessary) Seattle at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

* Monday--(If necessary) Seattle at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

RECORDS

Baltimore 98-64, Seattle 90-72.

HEAD TO HEAD

Baltimore won season series, 7-4.

ORIOLES AT A GLANCE

STARTING LINEUP

*--*

Pos. Player Avg. CF Brady Anderson .288 2B Roberto Alomar .333 RF Eric Davis .304 1B Rafael Palmeiro .254 DH Geronimo Berroa .283 3B Cal Ripken Jr. .270 LF B.J. Surhoff .284 C Chris Hoiles .259 SS Mike Bordick .236

*--*

* ANALYSIS: The Orioles became only the sixth team in baseball to spend every day of the season in first place, but, Baltimore struggled for much of September, and several regulars, including Jeffrey Hammonds with a strained Achilles' tendon, Alomar with a groin problem and Ripken with lower back soreness, are battling nagging injuries. It's uncertain how much Davis, who is undergoing chemotherapy to prevent the recurrence of colon cancer, will be able to contribute. Key was inconsistent in the second half. But the Orioles have one of baseball's best bullpens, anchored by closer Randy Myers and full of options for Manager Davey Johnson.

* KEY RESERVES: Aaron Ledesma filled in admirably for Alomar, hitting .352 during the injured second baseman's absence in July and August. Veteran left-hander Harold Baines (.301) won't start against Seattle's left-handed pitchers but gives Johnson a late-inning threat against the Mariner bullpen, and outfielder Tony Tarasco (.205) is a fine defensive replacement.

* TEAM BATTING: .268 with 196 home runs, 264 doubles and 812 runs scored.

* TEAM PITCHING: 3.91 ERA, eight complete games, 1,139 strikeouts, 563 walks and 59 saves. The Orioles led the league in saves and ranked second in team ERA.

MARINERS AT A GLANCE

STARTING LINEUP

*--*

Pos. Player Avg. 2B Joey Cora .300 LF Roberto Kelly .291 CF Ken Griffey Jr. .304 DH Edgar Martinez .330 SS Alex Rodriguez .300 RF Jay Buhner .243 1B Paul Sorrento .269 C Dan Wilson .270 3B Mike Blowers .293

*--*

* ANALYSIS: The Mariners don't steal many bases and they don't use the hit-and-run too often. Mostly, they sit back and wait for baseball's most prolific lineup to belt home runs and hope they get enough pitching to hang on. Griffey, led the league in homers with 56, and RBIs with 147 and it's almost impossible to pitch around him with Martinez, Rodriguez and Buhner following him in the lineup. Buhner's average was subpar, but he became only the 10th player to hit 40 home runs in three consecutive seasons. Cora and Kelly don't have blazing speed at the top of the lineup but are fast enough to distract opposing pitchers. Seattle has three very good starters in Johnson, Moyer and Fassero. Seattle's weakness is the bullpen.

* KEY RESERVES: Third baseman Russ Davis (.271) is still recovering from a sprained right ankle and could be ready to start Wednesday night. Rich Amaral (.284) can fill in at numerous positions, and outfielder Rob Ducey (.287) provides speed off the bench.

* TEAM BATTING: .280 with 264 home runs, 312 doubles and 890 RBIs. The Mariners set a major league record for home runs.

* TEAM PITCHING: 4.78 ERA, nine complete games, 1,207 strikeouts, 598 walks and 38 saves. The bullpen had a 5.48 ERA and 27 blown saves.

KEY TO THE SERIES

Mariner relievers Heathcliff Slocumb, Bobby Ayala, Norm Charlton and Mike Timlin must come through in clutch situations, Randy Johnson needs to win Wednesday night. Johnson started three times against the Orioles this season and Seattle lost all three games. If the teams are tied in late innings and the game becomes a battle of bullpens, the Orioles have a decided advantage with Myers, Jesse Orosco, Armando Benitez, Alan Mills and Arthur Rhodes. Key must regain the postseason form that helped him win the deciding Game 6 of the World Series for the Yankees last season, and Oriole pitchers need to keep the ball in the park.

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