Yankees power up, subdue Indians Back-to-back-to-back HRs fuel rally to 8-6 victory

October 01, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- As he watched the Cleveland Indians basically run laps around the bases during a five-run first inning, New York Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez had just one thought.

"I thought if we could keep the game from getting out of hand, we could get back," Martinez said. "We didn't want them to get to eight or nine."

Although few could have imagined it happening after the first inning, last night's opening game of the American League Division Series did eventually get out of the Indians' hands. It happened in a five-run sixth inning when Tim Raines, Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill connected for back-to-back-to-back home runs -- the first time that's happened in postseason history.

The trio of long balls lifted the Yankees to an 8-6 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series that will continue here tomorrow night.

It was an impressive offensive display from a team that, from the wild-card position this year, is looking to win its second consecutive World Series.

The Yankees won last night despite starting pitcher David Cone's giving up six runs in just 3 2/3 innings.

Still, Yankees manager Joe Torre expects to give Cone the ball to start Game 4 in Cleveland on Sunday, if that game is necessary. Cone, who went on the disabled list late in the season with what was diagnosed as tendinitis in his right shoulder, hasn't won a game since Aug. 17.

"He warmed up fine, but in the first he was trying to be too careful and made some mistakes," Torre said. "Now, looking ahead to Game 4, we're still scheduled that way and we'll see what happens. It's not hurting him, so we're not that concerned about injury."

Maybe going with Cone again in a possible Game 4 is a hunch of Torre's. And you definitely can't go against Torre's hunches, not after last night.

It was on a hunch that Torre went with Chad Curtis in left field and used Raines as the designated hitter. That hunch paid off big in the sixth, when Raines, with two outs and a man on, lined a pitch from Cleveland reliever Eric Plunk 401 feet off the facing of the upper deck in left field to tie the game at 6-6. The Yankees had been chipping away at an early 5-0 deficit, knocking Hershiser out in the fifth inning.

"In the heat of the battle, you go up and look to hit the ball hard," said Raines, who began the season on the disabled list and played with the team's Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A teams during rehabilitation assignments this season. "We're line-drive hitters. Sometimes you hit those line drives that go out of the ballpark."

After Raines came Jeter, who lined a shot off Plunk over the right-field wall for a 7-6 New York lead.

Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove, looking to stop the bleeding, yanked Plunk and inserted Paul Assenmacher. But right fielder O'Neill drove an 0-2 pitch over the center-field wall, completing the home run trifecta and leaving the Indians shellshocked.

"In the sixth, [Plunk's] pitches were up, and they scored five runs with two outs," said Hargrove. "Anytime we score six runs, we should win the game. We didn't perform as well as we could."

Hargrove was asked about his decision to pull Hershiser, who entered the game with an 8-1 record and a 1.83 ERA in 14 postseason appearances going into last night. Hershiser was successful in getting out of jams early in the game, but it appeared the Yankees were beginning to get to him when he was pulled in the fifth after giving up three hits.

"He had hung two or three breaking balls to get in the trouble he was in," Hargrove said. "At that time, we needed to stop what was going on."

The Yankees had a bit more success with their bullpen, as Ramiro Mendoza came in in relief of Cone and gave up just one hit in 3 1/3 innings on the way to the victory.

Jeff Nelson, a Catonsville High alumnus, recorded a big out in the bottom of the seventh when got Indians third baseman Matt Williams to fly out, leaving the bases loaded.

Closer Mariano Rivera faced the final five batters and picked up the save.

And just like that, a golden chance for the Central Division champion Indians to steal a game from the wild-card Yankees was gone.

"I don't know if you ever feel very comfortable or confident scoring that many runs that early in a playoff situation," Hargrove said. "Not against a team like the Yankees."

NOTE: The Yankees' three homers in an inning tied a postseason record shared by, among others, the 1970 Orioles. fTC Pitcher Mike Cuellar, left fielder Don Buford and first baseman Boog Powell did it against the Minnesota Twins in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series.

Pub Date: 10/01/97

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