October 3, 1997 in Sports

Moyer’s Exit Sinks Mariners Seattle’s Mound Woes Have The M’S On The Brink Of Playoff Elimination

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Jamie Moyer is slight as pitchers go, maybe 170 pounds, and the entire weight of Seattle’s baseball expectations was on him Thursday afternoon.

But it wasn’t his shoulders that couldn’t take the strain.

It was his elbow.

It had held up through 192 indispensable innings this season, but it gave out at the least opportune time - Game 2 of the Mariners’ American League Division Series with the Baltimore Orioles at the Kingdome.

And because it did, the M’s head to Baltimore on the brink of elimination, a second straight 9-3 loss at home putting them down 0-2 in the best-of-5 playoff.

“We knew this was going to be a challenge,” said third baseman Mike Blowers, “but we’ve turned it into Mount Everest.”

Or baseball’s equivalent.

The Orioles, the American League’s winningest team of 1997, are just one step from the next vista - the ALCS - because they’ve beaten Seattle in every aspect of the game, but most especially in starting pitching.

Wednesday’s lesson - from O’s starter Mike Mussina to M’s ace Randy Johnson - was about command. Thursday’s lesson, if there was one, was about durability.

Oh, Scott Erickson was almost as sharp as Mussina had been - only three times in 6-2/3 innings did he not throw a first-pitch strike. But he wasn’t in control of this game until Moyer was out of it.

And that came in the fifth inning - when Moyer could no longer pitch because of a recurring strain of the flexor tendon in his left elbow that had sidelined him for two weeks in April.

“I couldn’t finish pitches off,” explained Moyer, who with two out gave up a single to Mike Bordick and a walk to Brady Anderson but still led 2-1. “That’s why I was up in the (strike) zone to Brady.”

Moyer then threw one pitch - high - to Roberto Alomar that got manager Lou Piniella’s attention. And just that quickly, Moyer was gone.

“You work your whole life to get to a certain point and it just doesn’t work out,” said Moyer, a journeyman who has been traded or released by a half-dozen teams but who is 23-7 in a year and a half with the M’s. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”

Nor, it seems, was it meant for the M’s to satisfy another full house of 59,000-plus.

Paul Spoljaric worked Alomar to a 3-2 count - losing a strikeout when catcher Dan Wilson couldn’t glove a foul tip - before surrendering a rocket to the center-field wall that Ken Griffey Jr. made a leap at but couldn’t handle.

“I was surprised he got to it,” said Spoljaric, “and when he got leather on it, it was like ‘Wow.”’

That put the O’s ahead 3-2. Spoljaric somehow survived a shaky sixth thanks to a Jay Buhner-to-Joey Cora-to-Wilson relay that cut down Geronimo Berroa at the plate. But Piniella’s next choice, Bobby Ayala, gave up a two-run homer to Anderson in the seventh and then fainted in the eighth, allowing four more runs.

“It just got away from us,” said third baseman Mike Blowers, “once Jamie left the game.”

It got away for good in the seventh - Seattle’s only late-game threat. Paul Sorrento scored to cut the gap to 5-3 when pinch-hitter Rob Ducey sliced a single down the third-base line. But Ducey, trying to take a second base, was thrown out by B.J. Surhoff, making the single Cora followed with meaningless.

“I was trying to be aggressive - what can I say?” offered Ducey. “When the ball went past Cal (Ripken Jr.), I was thinking double all the way. About two steps from the bag, I saw Robbie had the ball and I knew I was in trouble.”

And the M’s knew they were in trouble when they saw Baltimore’s bullpen - Armando Benitez, Jesse Orosco and Randy Myers finishing it off for Erickson with 2-1/3 scoreless innings.

“No doubt their pitchers made pitches when they had to,” said Buhner. “They’ve shut us down and we couldn’t stop them.”

That didn’t look to be the case in the first inning, when Cora chopped a leadoff single over the mound and Roberto Kelly ripped a double off the scoreboard in right center. But a potential big inning became small when Erickson coaxed Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez into infield outs.

“Junior did his job,” said Piniella, “and Edgar hit a ball up the middle that Bordick made a nice play on and we got our two runs. That’s how you win ballgames.”

Harold Baines lined a homer over the fence in left to cut Seattle’s lead to 2-1 in the second. But neither team got much of anything going until Moyer had to bow out.

Moyer’s injury thrusts Ken Cloude - originally penciled in to start Game 4 - back in the starting picture. Johnson will pitch a Game 4, if there is one, and Cloude Game 5.

But first the M’s have to win Game 3 on Saturday, when the burden falls to Jeff Fassero to beat the O’s Jimmy Key.

“We’ve played with our backs against the wall before,” said Moyer. “But the simple math is that we know we have to win three and they know they have to win one.”

Of the 38 best-of-5 postseason series in baseball history before this year, not one featured a team that went home with a lead of two games to none and lost three in a row in its own house. And the Orioles were swept in only one three-game series at Camden Yards all season.

Orioles 9, Mariners 3

Baltimore AB R H BI BB SO Avg. ByAnderson cf 4 2 2 3 1 0 .444 RAlomar 2b 5 0 1 2 0 1 .167 Surhoff lf 5 0 2 0 0 2 .429 EDavis rf 2 0 0 0 0 1 .200 Berroa rf 2 0 2 0 0 0 .429 1-Hammonds rf 1 1 0 0 0 0 .000 RPalmeiro 1b 5 0 1 0 0 2 .286 CRipken 3b 4 1 2 0 1 0 .556 Baines dh 4 2 2 1 1 0 .500 Webster c 3 1 0 1 1 0 .200 Bordick ss 3 2 2 2 1 0 .667 Totals 38 9 14 9 5 6 Seattle AB R H BI BB SO Avg. Cora 2b 5 1 2 0 0 1 .333 RKelly lf 4 1 1 0 0 1 .250 Griffey Jr cf 3 0 1 1 1 0 .143 EMartinez dh 4 0 0 1 0 0 .125 ARodriguez ss 4 0 1 0 0 1 .375 Buhner rf 4 0 1 0 0 1 .286 Sorrento 1b 2 1 1 0 1 0 .333 b-Amaral 1b 1 0 0 0 0 1 .000 DaWilson c 4 0 0 0 0 4 .000 Sheets 3b 2 0 1 0 0 1 .500 a-Ducey ph 1 0 1 1 0 0 1.000 Blowers 3b 1 0 0 0 0 1 .000 Totals 35 3 9 3 2 11 Baltimore 010 020 240 9 Seattle 200 000 100 3 a-singled for Sheets in the 7th. b-struck out for Sorrento in the 8th. 1-ran for Berroa in the 8th.

LOB-Baltimore 7, Seattle 7. 2B-ByAnderson (1), RAlomar (1), RPalmeiro (2), CRipken 2 (2), RKelly (2). HR-ByAnderson (1) off Ayala; Baines (1) off Moyer. RBIs-ByAnderson 3 (4), RAlomar 2 (2), Baines (1), Webster (1), Bordick 2 (4), Griffey Jr (1), EMartinez (2), Ducey (1). SB-Griffey Jr 2 (2). GIDP- Webster.

Runners left in scoring position-Baltimore 5 (RAlomar, Surhoff, CRipken, Baines 2); Seattle 3 (EMartinez, Buhner, Amaral).

Runners moved up-EDavis, RPalmeiro, Griffey Jr, EMartinez.

DP-Seattle 1 (ARodriguez, Cora and Sorrento).

Baltimore IP H R ER BB SO NP ERA Erickson W,1-0 6-2/3 7 3 3 2 6 90 4.05 ABenitez 1 2 0 0 0 1 20 4.50 Orosco 1/3 0 0 0 0 1 4 0.00 RaMyers 1 0 0 0 0 3 14 0.00 Seattle IP H R ER BB SO NP ERA Moyer L,0-1 4-2/3 5 3 3 1 2 70 5.79 Spoljaric 1-1/3 3 0 0 0 1 28 0.00 Ayala 1-1/3 4 6 6 3 2 43 40.50 Charlton 2/3 1 0 0 0 1 6 0.00 Slocumb 1 1 0 0 1 0 18 0.00 Inherited runners-scored-ABenitez 1-0, Orosco 2-0, Spoljaric 2-2, Charlton 2-1.

IBB-off Ayala (Baines) 1. PB-Webster.

T-3:25. A-59,309 (59,084).

PLAYOFF GLANCE

All Times Pacific

American League

Baltimore vs. Seattle

Baltimore leads series 2-0

Saturday: Seattle (Fassero 16-9) at Baltimore (Key 16-10), 1:30 (Fox)

Sunday: Seattle at Baltimore, 1:07 (ESPN), if necessary

Monday: Seattle at Baltimore, 1:07 (ESPN), if necessary

Cleveland vs. New York

Series tied 1-1

Saturday: New York (Wells 16-10 or Gooden 9-5) at Cleveland (Nagy 15-10), 4:37 (NBC)

Sunday: New York at Cleveland, 4:30 (Fox)

Monday: New York at Cleveland, 5:11 (Fox), if necessary

National League

Atlanta vs. Houston

Atlanta leads series 2-0

Today: Atlanta (Smoltz 15-12) at Houston (Reynolds 9-10), 1:07 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday: Atlanta at Houston, 10:07 a.m. (ESPN), if necessary

Sunday: Atlanta at Houston, 10:07 a.m. (ESPN), if necessary

San Francisco vs. Florida

Florida leads series 2-0

Today: Florida (Fernandez 17-12) at San Francisco (Alvarez 4-3), 5:07 p.m. (NBC)

Saturday: Florida (Saunders 4-6) at San Francisco, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN), if necessary

Sunday: Florida at San Francisco, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN), if necessary

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Photos (2 Color)

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