Centers fold in shadows Twilight turns Grissom, Anderson into victims

October 12, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- In a game where every play, and most certainly every mistake, was magnified to the size of Lake Erie, Brady Anderson had to wade through hot water yesterday.

With one out in the seventh inning and a runner on first base, Cleveland's David Justice lofted a shallow fly ball to center field. Anderson stood motionless, appeared to take a small step back, then charged in much too late to make the catch. Matt Williams followed with a ground single up the middle, and the Indians had a 1-0 lead.

The Orioles rallied in the ninth to tie, but Cleveland scored on a controversial passed ball in the 12th for a 2-1 victory that gave them the advantage heading into tonight's Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

Most of the attention on Anderson's misplay had shifted to the bizarre finish by the time he returned to his locker with his right knee wrapped in ice. The first questions asked of him involved a play he was much too far away from to give an honest assessment. But eventually, the talk shifted to Justice's single, and an explanation was in order.

"I was playing him very deep into right-center because there was one out and I didn't want a double to score the runner from first," he said. "It was very dark out there, as you could tell. Bad visibility all around, I guess. I lost it for a very short period of time from playing that deep. After that, I couldn't catch up to it."

"I thought he just broke back," manager Davey Johnson said. "It didn't look like he got a good jump on the ball and then there was no chance to get it. Everything had to fall perfect on it for him to catch it. But he didn't get a good jump."

Anderson was playing despite a severe muscle strain in his upper right leg, suffered in Game 2 at Camden Yards. He said the injury didn't cause his slow reaction or his decision to pull up on the ball.

"I couldn't catch it after that. It was probably still 10 or 15 feet ahead of me," he said.

"I felt fine today. Cleveland has a great field to run on. It's not like our park, which is very soft and difficult to run on. Sometimes, our park is what causes injuries. The outfield is sand-based out there and very soft and gives way. Cleveland's field is very good, solid."

Anderson didn't appear to be restricted running the bases. He singled in the fourth inning, then walked and stole a base in the 11th, easing some concerns Johnson had about starting him.

He also had an RBI double in the ninth inning that was gift-wrapped by Indians center fielder Marquis Grissom, himself a victim of poor visibility. Grissom camped under Anderson's high fly ball, or so he thought. It ended up dropping about 30 feet behind him, and the tying run scored.

"When the balls go high over the stadium, they're hard to see. I simply lost it. No excuses," he said.

"I felt like the worst person in the world."

It was no picnic for the hitters, either. The teams combined for 33 strikeouts, tying the postseason record they set in last year's Division Series and establishing an ALCS mark for futility. Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina said the Indians were "blind" and criticized the afternoon starting time as unfair.

"For me, hitting is the worst my first time up because there's still some sunlight on [Orel] Hershiser," Anderson said. "You can't see the ball that well until the lights start taking effect. And it's the same in the outfield. It's dark out there."

Even one of the day's finest defensive plays was affected by the conditions. Anderson ran down a long drive by Justice in right-center with a runner on base to end the fourth inning and keep the game scoreless.

"As soon as he hit it, I lost it. Just for a split second. It wasn't like Marquis'. His was a combination of dark and it was a time when the sky was the same color as the ball. He didn't see the ball at all.

"Some strange things were happening today."

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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