Maddux out, Braves no mortal lock

October 27, 1995|By Ken Rosenthal

CLEVELAND -- Who put the Kryptonite in Greg Maddux's locker? Gave him a Clark Kent arm? Stripped the "S" off his cape?

The Cleveland Indians, that's who.

Try to bury the Tribe, and they suddenly become more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

They trailed Seattle 1-0 and 2-1 in games in the American League Championship Series.

Then they trailed Atlanta 2-0 and 3-1 in the World Series, and faced possible elimination against Maddux last night.

What, Albert Belle worry?

The Indians are alive.

Alive, and kicking, and heading back to Atlanta after last night's 5-4 victory in Game 5.

Don't bet against them. You can't bet against them. Last night, they beat Superman. Surely, they can overcome Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.

If Maddux is mortal, they all are.

His loss at rollicking Jacobs Field was the first defeat suffered by a Braves starter in 13 postseason games.

Oh, the Indians still face huge odds. They were the 40th team in World Series history to face a 3-1 deficit. They'd be only the seventh to win the Series.

It doesn't matter. Beat Maddux, and all things are possible. Beat Maddux, and the world is a safer place.

"The mountain was real high to climb," Hershiser said.

And Hershiser helped scale it. Hershiser, who triggered a controversy by asking out of Game 1. Hershiser, who pitched eight innings to improve his career record to 8-1 in the postseason.

"We're still in a hole, but this club has never quit," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. 'It has faced much more difficult circumstances than it faces right now."

Like when, 1954?

The Indians certainly won't be scared in Atlanta. The crowd at Fulton-County Stadium is about as intimidating as a kindergarten class.

It's Dennis Martinez against Glavine in Game 6, then Charles Nagy against the struggling Smoltz in Game 7, if necessary.

Last night was supposed to be it. Last night the Indians faced a pitcher who hadn't lost since Aug. 9, a pitcher who threw a two-hitter against them in Game 1.

And they rocked him.

Maddux allowed a two-run homer by Belle in the first inning, then back-to-back, two-out RBI singles by Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez in the sixth.

What was the difference?

The Indians' approach, for one thing. Maddux's control is so good, it's best to come out swinging, and prevent him from getting ahead in the count.

"A lot of us were looking to face the first two pitches he threw," Thome said. "We were fortunate to get pitches up in the zone, and capitalized."

As Hershiser put it, "The offense knew how to adjust. They didn't want to be the same team against Greg Maddux again."

Only twice in the regular season had Maddux allowed four or more earned runs in a game. It has now happened twice in the playoffs.

"Auto-Maddux," that's what the front-page headline in the Atlanta paper said after Game 1. But last night, he was shaky from the start.

The last time Maddux allowed two walks and a homer in the first inning? More than five years ago, July 14, 1990.

Rarely does Maddux show emotion, but evidently he was frustrated by Belle's homer. Eddie Murray fouled off his next pitch with a home-run swing, and then Maddux threw at his head.

It might prove the turning point of the series. The benches emptied as the scowling slugger walked toward the pitcher, shouting and cursing.

"That got us all fired up," Thome said.

Maddux stood his ground, and Hershiser sought him out. The two could be seen chuckling on television, but only after exchanging words.

"I said, 'Did you try to hit him on purpose?' " Hershiser recalled. "He said, 'I was trying to jam him.' I said, 'You can be better than that.' Meaning, 'You should have better control. I have the ball, too.' "

"We don't throw at people," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.

Whatever, Murray walked, then got picked off first -- without sliding back to the bag, of course.

Maddux settled down over the next three innings, but it didn't last. The Indians hit three straight rockets off him in the fifth, another sign he wasn't at his best.

The next inning, Carlos Baerga hit a one-out double. Maddux walked Albert Belle intentionally to set up a double play, but the Braves never got it.

Thome and Ramirez gave the Indians a 4-2 lead, but the Tribe couldn't have won without Thome's 436-foot homer off reliever Brad Clontz in the eighth.

Ryan Klesko hit a two-run, two-out homer off Jose Mesa in the ninth, his third homer in three games and the first by a left-handed hitter off Mesa this season.

Four of the five games in this series have been decided by one run. Every one of them has been tied in the sixth inning or later.

"The pressure's on them," Hershiser said. "They definitely have something to lose. They've lost the last two World Series they've participated in. Atlanta fans are probably wondering what's going on."

The entire country is.

?3 Who put the Kryptonite in Greg Maddux's locker?

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