Indians pull ahead of O's Mussina's 15 strikeouts not quite enough

Playoffs: Marathon game filled with excruciating turns gives Cleveland 2-1 ALCS lead.

GAME 3 Orioles 1, Indians 2

October 12, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- The Orioles cried foul last night, and this time they meant it literally.

The Cleveland Indians continued their miracle march toward the World Series when Marquis Grissom scored on a blown suicide squeeze play in the 12th inning to give them a 2-1 victory over the Orioles in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Jacobs Field.

Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel failed to lay down the sacrifice bunt -- missed the pitch completely, according to umpire John Hirschbeck -- and the ball deflected off the glove of Orioles catcher Lenny Webster, allowing Grissom to sprint home from third and put the Indians up, two games to one, in the best-of-seven playoff.

What a way to lose. Webster would argue in vain that the ball hit the bat and should have been ruled foul. Orioles manager Davey Johnson joined in the debate, and would complain later that Hirschbeck failed to ask for help from an umpire with a better view of the play.

The Orioles would lose in frustrating fashion for the second game in a row, and would have another vintage moment to add to their postseason whine list.

"It was a hard-fought game that both teams had chances to win," Johnson said. "You just hate to see it end like that."

Shades of Jeffrey Maier. It was last year at about this time that a 12-year-old truant reached out of the stands at Yankee Stadium to interfere with a fly ball and turn it into a game-tying home run for the rival New York Yankees.

The Orioles didn't have to look back that far. Johnson still was steaming about a call in Game 2 that he feels contributed to the first Indians victory of the series. He felt that reliever Armando Benitez got slugger Jim Thome on a checked-swing third strike before Grissom hit a game-breaking three-run home run. Last night, he said he saw the ball change direction when it passed Vizquel's bat.

"It looked to me like he fouled it off," Johnson said. "I thought I heard it. I thought it, from my angle, went in a different direction. Webster didn't even go after it because he thought it was foul. I asked him [Hirschbeck], 'Why don't you ask the guy at second because he obviously had the best look.' He declined to do that, and I said the object is to get it right.

"I was disappointed on the call the other night and I don't want to get beat on another bad call."

The game lasted nearly five hours (4: 51) and was the longest game -- by time -- in the history of the playoffs. It was so long that Mike Mussina struck out a record 15 batters and missed the last 2 1/2 hours. It was so long, that it will be hard to keep the frustration from bleeding over into tonight's game, but Johnson insisted that the Orioles would be able to bounce back.

"We've been in tough situations before," Johnson said. "It's not a heartbreaking thing. I'm not worried at this point."

Mussina pitched the game of his life and it wasn't good enough. He set a major league record for strikeouts in a league championship series game and carried a one-hitter into the seventh inning, only to give up a run and leave with a chance to get the loss.

He struck out the side in the first, third and sixth innings on the way to a career strikeout high and wrote his name in several places in the record book, but Indians starter Orel Hershiser matched him scoreless inning for scoreless inning until Mussina finally surrendered the run in the seventh inning.

"It's just amazing to watch him pitch," Hershiser said afterward. "I kept thinking, 'Just put another zero up' and see what happens."

Hershiser left the game after seven innings and appeared to be on his way to his ninth postseason victory in 10 career decisions, but the Orioles came back in the bottom of the ninth when Grissom lost a fly ball by Brady Anderson in the twilight and allowed the tying run to score.

Anderson lofted the seemingly routine fly ball to straightaway center with a runner at second and one out, but Grissom stared blankly at the heavens and the ball landed about 20 feet behind him. Pinch runner Jeff Reboulet came home to score and the game continued into extra innings.

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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