Improving Indians keep a gift they used to give away

May 28, 1991|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Evening Sun Staff

The Cleveland Indians' coaching staff ruled the clubhouse stereo after last night's 3-2 win over the Orioles at Memorial Stadium, for the group of choice was Chicago, which hasn't been hip in at least two decades.

But the song of choice was "Beginnings," which given the Indians' recent state of affairs might not have been such a bad selection

"We seem to make it interesting, don't we?" said Indians manager John McNamara.

Indeed. Last night's game was the kind that Indians teams have lost, since, say, the mid 1950s, which is about the last time they were any good.

In fact, just a day before, the Indians battled back from a five-run deficit in Milwaukee to force extra innings, only to see the Brewers take a 7-6 win on a Greg Vaughn home run off closer Doug Jones to lead off the 10th inning.

So, cue up the music to last night's bottom of the ninth inning, with Cleveland leading 3-2, with one man out. Ernie Whitt, the pinch hitter for third baseman Tim Hulett, is facing Shawn Hillegas with a 3-1 count.

Whitt rides the pitch down the rightfield line, but the potential game-tying home run goes just foul, by no more than 10 feet.

"What did I think? I thought home run," said Hillegas, who had given up one to Robin Yount the day before. "It was only foul by a little bit."

That was enough, as Hillegas allowed runners to first and third with two out, but got Mike Devereaux to fly to center to secure his second save.

"We got the win and that's what it is all about," said Hillegas. "After last night's ballgame, to come back and get the win is real good."

"You need games like this," said Indians rightfielder Beau Allred, who hit the game-winning home run in the sixth inning. "We're battling the same way they are and they need a win just like we do."

Given their sixth-place perch in the AL East, 7 1/2 games behind Boston, the Indians aren't about to downplay any victory.

But the fact they could capitalize on a night when, by his own admission, knuckleball starter Tom Candiotti didn't have his "A-stuff" was a genuine sign of encouragement for the Indians.

"We're a pretty resilient club. The Milwaukee game was tough, but we bounced back really quick," said Candiotti, whose record went to 6-2."It's great to win those 2-1 or 4-3 games."

Candiotti, who worked seven innings in 93-degree heat, only really stumbled in the fourth inning, when he gave up two runs on three hits.

But he struck out seven and walked only two, and said the heat actually helped his knuckler work.

"I had a lot of pressure situations and those are the kinds of pitches that take a lot out of you," said Candiotti, who ran his career record against the Orioles to 7-4.

"I was really glad to see the heat. When I throw the knuckleball in Cleveland, it's tough to throw because of the wind. But it's always hot and muggy here when we come and it's a great place to throw the pitch."

Allred's game-winner chased Baltimore starter Bob Milacki in the sixth. The homer allowed Allred to atone for an error in the fourth that allowed Cal Ripken to score the Orioles' second run.

"You have to kind of redeem yourself," said Allred. "I made a bonehead play and I'm glad I got a chance to make up for it."

Sounds like this is only the beginning for the Indians.

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