Hershiser sees Gibson as Grissom trots home Indians veteran has beaten a Johnson-managed team in postseason before

October 11, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Indians pitcher Orel Hershiser doesn't mind reminiscing about the first time he crossed paths with Orioles manager Davey Johnson in the postseason. It was, after all, his finest hour.

Hershiser almost singlehandedly pulled the Los Angeles Dodgers through the 1988 National League Championship Series against Johnson's heavily favored New York Mets, then went on to be one of the heroes of an even more unlikely World Series victory over the Oakland Athletics.

"I remember his [Mets] team always being the dominant team," said Hershiser, who will take the mound against Mike Mussina today in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. "He again has the same kind of team, but I think that Mets team was more arrogant a little more brash. They strutted around like our 1995 team here. This Baltimore team is more like the '97 Indians. It's a little classier a little more sedate."

The Orioles can only hope that there are few other parallels. The Mets went down hard and the Dodgers went on to ride a wave of emotion all the way to a world title. That was the year that the World Series turned early on Kirk Gibson's dramatic home run. Hershiser hopes that Marquis Grissom's dramatic homer on Thursday will have the same effect.

"I think any home run that turns around the game in a short series is a memorable moment," he said. "Oakland had just swept Boston and we weren't supposed to be on the same field with them, so Gibson's homer was big. It was a shocker. If last night's game was a shocker to the nation then Grissom's homer could be equated to Gibson's."

The momentum shift was dramatic. The Orioles were four outs from taking a quick two-game lead in the best-of-seven series, but the Indians rallied to gain a split at Camden Yards and assume the home-field advantage in what now is down to a best-of-five playoff.

"I think if we had come back there 0-2, their momentum would have been greater and we would have had to listen to all of that stuff in interviews," Hershiser said. "The whole ambiance and aura of the series would be negative. It would have been us against the world."

Instead, all the Indians have to do is face Mussina, who was so overpowering in the Division Series that he twice defeated Randy Johnson and dominated a dangerous Seattle Mariners lineup.

"I know that Mike has been hot," Hershiser said. "He's their big-game pitcher. He is in the prime of his career. He's throwing the ball exceptionally well. I'm just fortunate to have a great offensive team that has a chance to beat him. If we had a weak offensive lineup, I would be at a huge disadvantage."

Hershiser was careful not to say anything that might show up on the Orioles' bulletin board. Johnson was equally complimentary of the veteran right-hander, who is 8-1 lifetime in the postseason.

"He's going to make you hit a ball that's breaking out of the strike zone," Johnson said. "He's not going to give into you. That hasn't changed."

Mussina struggled against the Indians earlier in his career, but dominated them in two regular-season starts in 1997. He pitched 16 innings, gave up just three runs and struck out 19 on the way to a 2-0 record and 1.69 ERA.

"They have changed some personnel," Mussina said. "Without [Kenny] Lofton and [Albert] Belle, it's a different lineup, though that's not meant to take anything away from the guys they have now. I threw the ball a lot better as a whole this year. Maybe that had something to do with it."

Pub Date: 10/11/97

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