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For 1: Mariners, Braves // ALCS

The kid was all right. So are his Mariners.

Bob Wolcott, a 22-year-old rookie just added to the post-season roster, shut down the mighty Cleveland Indians and the magical Mariners took a 3-2 victory Tuesday night in the opening game of the American League Championship Series.

Mike Blowers hit a two-run home run in the second inning and shortstop Luis Sojo knocked in the decisive run with a seventh-inning double as a Kingdome crowd of 57,065 cheered wildly.

On Monday, Wolcott found out he had been added to the Mariners' post-season roster and would be starting the opener.

On Tuesday, 13 pitches into what was his seventh major-league start, Wolcott found himself in a mound of trouble. He had walked the bases loaded and had Albert Belle, who led the majors with 50 home runs, at the plate.

So all the 22-year-old rookie did was strike out Belle, then work his way out of the inning by retiring Eddie Murray and Jim Thome, and settled down from there. He pitched seven strong innings, constantly wriggling out of trouble, and held the powerful Indians to two runs and eight hits.

"It was fun," Wolcott said. "Definitely fun."

"I told you all before the game that this kid was pretty calm and he knew how to pitch," Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. "He started a little shakily, but he gathered himself and got out of the inning, and he responded by pitching a tremendous ballgame against a potent lineup."

Game 2 is tonight at 8. Cleveland's Orel Hershiser and Seattle's Tim Belcher, teammates on the Dodgers' 1988 championship team, are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Their pitching staff tattered by the five-game division series with New York, the Mariners turned to Wolcott, who spent most of the season in the minor leagues and was not on their roster for the games against the Yankees.

He only got on the roster through some manipulation of the post-season eligibility rules, as the M's first put injured pitcher Greg Hibbard on the roster in place of outfielder Warren Newson, then replaced Hibbard with Wolcott.

"You cannot expect him to throw the kind of game he did," said Seattle reliever Norm Charlton, who recorded the final four outs. "You can only hope."

At the start, Wolcott looked like, well, a 22-year-old rookie.

His first six pitches were balls and he walked the first three batters he faced. But, returning to the full windup, he found his composure and set down the heart of the Indians order. He struck out Belle on a 2-2 pitch, then got Murray on a first-pitch pop-up and Thome on a first-pitch grounder that second baseman Joey Cora made a tough diving play on.

"As much as anything, we got a little impatient," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. "We left the bases loaded twice, the first time with no outs. That kind of set the tone."

Wolcott, who last pitched in a game Sept. 30, said he was a little rusty. "It seemed like things weren't clicking right. I couldn't get into a good rhythm," he said.

Once he did, he had the Indians beat. He allowed a run in the third, but got out of a bases-loaded jam when Paul Sorrento hit into a double play.

Wolcott went 13-6 in the minors, splitting time between Class AA Port City and Class AAA Tacoma. He was called up Aug. 18 and beat Boston that night. He made six starts for the M's, beating the Red Sox twice and Yankees once in a two-week span, and had a 3-2 record and a 4.42 ERA.

"My goal was just to get to the big leagues," Wolcott said. "I never would have dreamed this in a million years."

On the night, the Indians left 12 men on base. And suddenly, the team that dominated all season is down 0-1 in a best-of-seven series. A win tonight is rather important.

"It's something we need to do," Hargrove said. "We don't want to come out here down 2-0, especially with Randy Johnson coming up (on Friday in Game 3)."

Cleveland starter Dennis Martinez, who started his big-league career when Wolcott was 3, held the M's to six hits and three runs.

The M's took a 2-0 lead in the second. Jay Buhner drew a two-out walk and Blowers, 3-for-18 in the division series, homered.

The Indians halved the lead in the third when Thome drove in Carlos Baerga, who led off with a single. And they tied it in the seventh when Belle crushed the first pitch he saw into the centerfield seats.

The Mariners went ahead 3-2 in the seventh. Buhner hit a ground-rule double and Blowers reached when third baseman Thome bounced a throw that pulled Paul Sorrento off first. Sojo then doubled off the leftfield wall.

"Everyone thought they were going to kick our butts because we were sending some rookie out there," Buhner said. "But we've really got a crystal ball in here, and we know what's going on."

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