Indians over Mariners 10-9 in season opener

By Jim Cour Associated Press Published:

SEATTLE _ Lou Piniella can only hope his assessment of the Seattle Mariners' bullpen is accurate. If it's not, it might be a long season for the Mariners _ even with Ken Griffey Jr. and the team's other big guns. On opening night Tuesday, Piniella's relievers failed to hold a lead for Randy Johnson in a 10-9 loss to the Cleveland Indians. "You people are unmerciful," the exasperated Mariners manager told reporters after being asked several times about the Mariners' bullpen, which blew 27 saves last season. "I'm telling you, give these guys a chance. They are going to pitch well. I've said it before and I'll say it again." Johnson took a 9-3 lead into the sixth inning, but had to leave the game after giving up three runs in the sixth. The Indians won with a four-run eighth off Bobby Ayala, loser Tony Fossas and Mike Timlin. Timlin, acquired last July 31 in a trade that sent highly regarded left fielder Jose Cruz Jr. to Toronto, allowed a two-run double to Manny Ramirez and then walked Travis Fryman on five pitches with the bases loaded for the winning run. "We have confidence and we know what we can do," Timlin said. "But I walked the guy in, and you never want to do that." The Indians got their runs in the eighth on two hits and five walks. Mike Jackson, who earned a save by getting Edgar Martinez to ground out, said the key for the Indians was scoring three runs in the sixth off Johnson. "I told the bullpen that we had a chance to come back if we could score a few more runs off Randy and get in their bullpen," Jackson said. Last season's AL champion Indians won although Charles Nagy allowed a career-worst four home runs _ to Griffey, Jay Buhner, Martinez and Russ Davis _ and nine runs. They won because their bullpen _ Paul Shuey, winner Jose Mesa, Paul Assenmacher and Jackson _ was perfect, retiring the final 13 Mariners in order. Ramirez had three RBIs, while Sandy Alomar, Omar Vizquel and rookie Enrique Wilson each had three hits for the team that came two outs away from winning the World Series last October. Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove was particularly impressed by Wilson, a 22-year-old second baseman who had two doubles and a single against Johnson. "He didn't seem intimidated at all by Randy Johnson, whereas a lot of 10-year veterans are intimidated," he said. "It was real nice seeing a young kid go about his business with a spring in his step and fire in his eyes." Hargrove said he decided late Monday afternoon during the Indians' workout in the Kingdome to not use Mesa as his closer _ at least to start the season. Mesa pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings for the victory as a setup man and Jackson got the save. Last October, Mesa failed to hold a ninth-inning lead in Game 7 of the World Series, and Florida wound up winning in the 11th. "I just never really saw Jose turn it up to where I felt like he was prepared to go back into the closer's role," Hargrove said. "But that doesn't mean in two weeks he's not going to be the closer again." In the ninth, Mesa struck out Alex Rodriguez, and Assenmacher got Griffey to foul out before Jackson got the final out. Johnson, Seattle's first 20-game winner last season, blamed himself for his team's loss on a night when Martinez had a 409-foot homer over the center-field fence in the first inning and Griffey hit a 404-foot shot into the Kingdome's right-field third deck in Seattle's six-run fifth. He allowed six runs, 11 hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings. "I didn't take anything out of this game at all that was positive," he said. Notes: The Mariners, who drew 3 million fans for the first time last season, set a regular-season record with a crowd of 57,822 for the opener. The previous mark was 57,806, at Seattle's home opener against Minnesota on April 11, 1994. ... This is the Mariners' last full season in the Kingdome. They will move into their new $417 million outdoor stadium in July 1999. ... Cleveland won its fourth opening-day game in five years. ... Griffey hit his sixth opening-day homer. Frank Robinson leads with eight opening-day homers. Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Carl Yastrzemski each had seven.

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