Beaten in 12, O's cry foul Indians grab 2-1 lead on botched squeeze, no-tip call in 4: 51 epic

'Saw contact, heard contact'

O's tie on lost fly in 9th

Mussina's 15 strikeouts highlight pitched battle

Game 3 Indians 2 Orioles 1

October 12, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- The Orioles ran out of escapes last night and for the first time must wonder if they're also running out of season.

A bizarre ending to the longest game in playoff history left the Cleveland Indians 2-1 winners in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series when Marquis Grissom scored from third base on what plate umpire John Hirschbeck ruled was a clean miss on a suicide squeeze-bunt attempt by Omar Vizquel in the 12th inning. When Grissom touched the plate as Lenny Webster tried to come up with what was scored a passed ball, he also put the Orioles in an inferior situation for the first time this year.

The play touched off a wild celebration among the Jacobs Field crowd of 45,047 and a wake inside the Orioles' clubhouse.

"This," said starting pitcher Mike Mussina, who got nothing for giving much, "is tough to take."

With one out and Randy Myers pitching, Vizquel bunted through an attempted suicide squeeze. Myers' slider bounced away from Webster. Believing the ball foul, Webster reacted slowly while Grissom never broke stride.

"He tipped it," Webster said. "I saw contact. I heard contact."

When Grissom touched the plate, Hirschbeck signaled him safe and the Orioles' dugout erupted in protest.

"I was disappointed that I missed the ball," Vizquel said. "I turned around and Marquis was crossing the plate." Pressed, Vizquel ++ added, "I didn't foul the ball, I bunted right through the pitch."

The play ended a 4: 51 epic that included a record 33 strikeouts and brilliant performances by Mussina and his Indians counterpart, Orel Hershiser. Mussina struck out 15 in seven innings only to be dwarfed by a chaotic finish.

Hirschbeck maintained that his gesture only indicated a strike, but the Orioles remained unconvinced. Webster said he interpreted the move as signaling a foul ball, which explained his slow move toward the ball.

"I would have signaled and yelled loudly. I would have been emphatic. If I would have called foul, he would have heard it," said Hirschbeck.

Grissom didn't wait for a ruling. He never flinched and scored without a play being made.

"My job is to get to home plate. Once I saw it touch the catcher's mitt, I just wanted to get to home plate," said Grissom, who also scored Thursday's winning run on his three-run homer.

Orioles manager Davey Johnson rushed from the dugout, gesticulating wildly to indicate the ball had glanced off Vizquel's bat.

Half the umpiring crew already had left the field and the Indians danced around them in full celebration. Hirschbeck gave Johnson a hearing, but made no move to seek help from his other umpires.

"I was about to go crazy because he made the call and took off," Johnson said. "But he did come back and listen to me. I felt he should get help from the second base umpire. You're not going to hear the tick, although I thought I heard it. Maybe that's wishful hearing."

Asked if he asked for an appeal, Johnson said, "Oh, he was probably gone already. That was [second base umpire Larry] McCoy. But Joe Brinkman stood around and they probably thought they had it right. It's a judgment call. It's only a courtesy to ask. Both teams had chances to win it all night.

"You just hate to see it end up on one of those deals like this."

Johnson remained stoic about the Orioles trailing for the first time in their wire-to-wire season. Still, his irritation over two losses following two controversial calls clearly bothered him.

"We had our chances to win and I hate to say a bad call beat us," said Johnson. "We just didn't get it done."

Even the replays showed different things to different people.

The Indians insisted that replays showed the winning play was clean. The Orioles thought it showed otherwise.

"I've watched a couple replays and it clearly shows it," said Webster. "You can see the slider coming down and in, and at some point it made contact and ricocheted. And all I can do is get a bit of my glove on it."

From center field, Brady Anderson believed he saw Myers' breaking pitch double back against itself, a clear indication of a -- foul ball. "It changed planes. To me that shows something," Anderson said.

It didn't show enough for any of the other members of the six-man umpiring crew.

Pitching his second inning after coming on to escape a first-and-third, no-out situation in the 11th, Myers had walked Grissom with one out in the 12th. Tony Fernandez singled and Grissom took third, barely beating Jeffrey Hammonds' throw from right field. Four pitches later, Vizquel won the game with a mistake.

Coming immediately after a bitter ending to Game 2, when a Jim Thome checked swing was ruled a ball and extended the inning for Grissom's game-winning homer, several Orioles wondered where the series was heading.

The Orioles' clubhouse remained closed for more than 20 minutes afterward, longer than the maximum allowed by the American League.

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