The Bellingham Mariners, who wound up the regular season with a three-game sweep of the Spokane Indians, will open their bid for the Northwest League championship tonight in Bend, Ore., against the Rockies.
Oscar Rivera (8-3, 4.43 earned-run average) will start for Bellingham's Northern Division champions, making their first playoff appearance since 1986.
The best-of-three series will be completed at Bellingham's Joe Martin Field Tuesday and, if necessary, Wednesday, starting at 7 p.m. each night. Derek Lowe (7-3, 2.42) is scheduled to start for Manager Dave Myers' Mariners Tuesday, with Jerry Aschoff (6-1, 2.13) getting the call Wednesday if a third game is needed.
Bend, the Southern Division champion, and Bellingham finished the regular season with identical records - 43-33. The Rockies led the Class A league in pitching, with a 3.45 ERA going into Friday night's season finale. The Mariners were second at 3.48. Bend had a .264-to-.246 advantage in team batting.
Bellingham boosted its average about 15 points in the final week of the season. And the Baby M's have two of the league's hottest hitters - first baseman Fred McNair (.329, eight home runs, 54 runs batted in) and second baseman Arquimedez Pozo (.322, seven homers, 21 RBI).
In Bellingham's last eight games, McNair, who was named designated hitter on the Northwest League All-Star team, went 14 for 30, with a double, three homers, 10 RBI and seven runs scored.
Pozo, 19, who was sent to Bellingham from San Bernardino in mid-July, played in 39 games for the Mariners. On Aug. 13, he was batting .238. In 18 games since then, he has hit .420 (29 for 69) with seven doubles, five homers, 16 RBI, 23 runs scored and six stolen bases. -- Brian Doughty, 17, a June graduate of Juanita High School, pitched the first complete game and first shutout of his pro career Thursday night, a three-hit, 1-0 victory over the Spokane Indians. Doughty (3-1, 2.56 ERA), who struck out seven and walked none, "didn't have his best velocity, but was getting his curveball over and mixing up his pitches very well," said Bryan Price, Bellingham pitching coach. "He was never in real trouble."
The Baby M's got only two hits off Spokane's Ken Grzelaczyk, who fanned 10 and walked two.
But Bellingham stole an eighth-inning run. Derek Warren, a .130 hitter, singled. Pinch runner Renaldo Bullock stole second - his league-leading 40th steal. He took third when the Spokane catcher threw to first after dropping a third strike, and raced home when the first baseman threw wildly to third. Bullock scored nine runs and stole nine bases in the Baby M's last eight games.
-- Jerry Aschoff pitched five hitless innings and Dave Lawson and Brian Wallace hit home runs in Bellingham's season-ending 7-1 victory Friday night. The Mariners left for Bend immediately after the game. They planned to work out yesterday, then watch the televised Washington-Arizona State football opener. Husky linebacker Jim Clifford played 23 games for the Baby M's before returning to the UW for his senior season. . . . The Seattle Mariners have extended the Bellingham player-development contract for another two years. . . . Tickets for Tuesday's playoff game may be purchased by phone (1-206-671-6347) tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets will be sold at Martin Field Tuesday, beginning at 9 a.m.
-- The Peninsula Pilots, playing the Lynchburg Red Sox this weekend for the Carolina League championship, landed five players on the Class A circuit's all-star team: First baseman Bubba Smith, left-handed pitcher John Cummings; catcher Miah Bradbury, center fielder Darren Bragg and utility infielder (second baseman) Ruben Santana.
Smith (.261), the league's home-run champion (32) and RBI runner-up (93) was named the CL's player of the year. Cummings (16-6, 2.57 ERA), who led the league in victories and strikeouts (144), was named pitcher of the year. And Mark Hill, whose surprising Pilots led the Southern Division in both halves of the season, was named manager of the year.
AROUND THE FARMS
-- Roger Salkeld, 21, right-hander who missed the entire season because of shoulder tendinitis, has been throwing in Arizona the past month. His velocity is back in the 90s, Jim Beattie, Seattle farm director, said. If things continue to go well, Salkeld will pitch in the new Arizona Fall League, scheduled to open Oct. 6.
-- Calgary's Dave Brundage, 27, former Oregon State star who has been an outfielder throughout his seven-year pro career, will get a shot at pitching in the Arizona instructional league. The left-hander, a .244 hitter this year, pitched two innings - his fifth mound appearance of the Pacific Coast League season - Thursday night in the Cannons' 21-7 loss to Edmonton. "He has pretty good command, pretty good stuff. He's a smart ballplayer. He could become a pitcher," Beattie said. . . . Calgary first baseman Greg Pirkl raised his batting mark to .273 with an 11-for-29 week. Shortstop Rich Amaral (.310, 49 stolen bases) hit .348 (39 for 112) in August.
-- Left-hander Mike Hampton, 19, who had a 13-8 record and 3.12 ERA in 25 starts for Class A San Bernardino, was "outstanding" in his second start for Class AA Jacksonville, Suns Manager Bob Hartsfield said. Hampton gave up seven hits, walked one and struck out four in eight innings in a 1-0 loss to Chattanooga.
-- Tempe left-hander John VanHof, 18 (2-1, 1.44 ERA), who was sidelined the final three weeks of the Arizona League season because of a deep hip sprain, might miss the instructional league, too, Beattie said.