Baseball: Red faces for the Indians

The Baltimore Orioles started well in their attempt to reach a World Series since 1983, taming the Cleveland Indians 3-0 in the first game of the American League Championship Series.

Scott Erickson led the way for the Orioles by pitching a four-hitter on Wednesday night for the first shut-out of the 1997 post-season. Brady Anderson chipped in with his speciality, a lead-off homer off Chad Ogea, and Roberto Alomar followed up with a two-run shot in the third innings that effectively ended the contest.

After a wobbly end to the the regular season, Baltimore are once again firing on all cylinders. In the best-of-five divisional series, the AL East champions brushed aside the Seattle Mariners 3-1, handing two rare defeats to Randy Johnson, normally baseball's most overpowering pitcher.

In the National League, where Atlanta are chasing their fifth pennant in seven years, the Braves atoned for a sloppy opener by thrashing the Florida Marlins 7-1 to square the best-of-seven series at 1-1.

On Tuesday, three simple fielding errors handed the Marlins five unearned runs and a 5-3 win. A day later, however, normal service resumed as the redoutable Braves pitching - this time it was John Smoltz's - gave up just three hits.

NATIONAL LEAGUE Play-offs: Atlanta Braves 7 Florida Marlins 1 (seven- match series level 1-1).

AMERICAN LEAGUE Play-offs: Baltimore Orioles 3 Cleveland Indians 0 (Baltimore lead seven game series 1-0).

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