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Alomar suffered through an injury-riddled regular season, missing

Associated Press Published: October 9, 1997 12:00 AM

Alomar suffered through an injury-riddled regular season, missing nearly a month with a groin pull. He's been hampered by a sprained ankle and hasn't batted right-handed since May 31 after straining his right shoulder.

Although he's only at about 90 percent, Alomar is producing some big hits in the playoffs _ as usual.

Alomar hit a two-run homer Wednesday night to help the Baltimore Orioles to a 3-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the AL championship series. He went 1-for-3 with a walk, keeping his lifetime batting average in the postseason at .342.

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"I think so far I have done good under pressure," he said. "If it's a situation where I can drive in some runs, I want to be out there. I like the challenge, and so far it's been good to me."

Alomar also played a big part in the Orioles' division series win over Cleveland last season, hitting .294 and sending Baltimore the AL championship series with a stellar performance in the finale. Playing one week after spitting at umpire John Hirschbeck, Alomar was booed by Indians fans during every at-bat.

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But he shrugged off the distraction in Game 4, singling in the tying run off Jose Mesa with two outs in the ninth before winning the deciding game with a 12th-inning homer.

Alomar hit .333 in 112 games this season. His batting average would have been recognized as the best in franchise history, but he fell short by 30 at-bats of qualifying.

"Whatever happened in the past, I cannot think about it," Alomar said. "I've been having a rough time with my injuries, but now we are at another level. We are in the postseason, and I just want to go out there and play the game of baseball."

That he did, driving a 3-1 pitch from Chad Ogea into the right-field seats for a 3-0 third-inning lead.

"I was just looking for a ball up in the zone, and he threw me a high curveball," Alomar said. "I was lucky enough to hit it out of the ballpark."

And lucky enough so that he could take a casual stroll around the bases, thereby avoiding the risk of pushing his tender groin and taped ankle to the limit.

"I don't want to rush anything. I don't want to get hurt," he said. "These are some big games for us and hopefully I can continue to help the team in other ways."

Like Alomar, Brady Anderson seems to be at his best in crucial situations. Anderson got the Orioles going Wednesday, making a leaping catch at the wall to end the top of the first inning and then hitting the first pitch in the bottom of the inning out of the park.

"That catch set the tone, and his homer on the first pitch put an exclamation point on it," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. "To make a fine defensive play and then come up and hit a first-pitch homer is a nice piece of hitting."

Just another October day for Anderson, who also hit a leadoff homer against the Indians in last year's playoff. The center fielder went on to hit .294 in the series.

"No question about it, Brady's a big-game player," Orioles manager Davey Johnson said. "He rises to the occasion. He's not intimidated by any situation he's in. Maybe that's from waterskiing in Tahoe, I don't know. He was his usual stellar self."

Anderson said he doesn't turn up the intensity in the postseason, mainly because he always gives 100 percent during the regular season. Indeed, he played with appendicitis last year and with a broken rib early this season.

"During the season, each game is the most important game of my life," he said. "I don't try to coast during the season and then all of a sudden get more intense during the postseason. For me, it's sort of a smooth transition from the regular season to the postseason."

The same can be said for the Orioles, who won a league-best 98 games in the regular season and have thus far won four of five in the playoffs.

"Well, it's a long way from over yet," Erickson said. "We played a

couple good games here in the last week and hopefully we can carry it

over for the next 10 days."

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