Indians finally have things going their way

October 13, 1997|By Terry Pluto | Terry Pluto,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

CLEVELAND -- Do you have the feeling that something bigger than all of us is happening here?

Even when the Indians do something wrong, it's coming out right.

Think about that.

Think about how the Indians won the third game of the series.

Think about how nothing in your life as an Indians fan has prepared you for what you are seeing in these playoffs.

Think about the final play, the difference in this 2-1 victory in 12 innings over the Orioles.

Omar Vizquel is at bat.

Marquis Grissom is on third base.

Grissom is running for home plate as if he's being chased by a pit bull.

Vizquel is supposed to bunt the ball.

You've seen it before, the suicide squeeze.

No matter what, Vizquel MUST get the bat on the ball. He MUST bunt the ball on the ground.

Or else Grissom is dead -- that is where the suicide part of this play comes in.

Only Vizquel missed the pitch.

Think about that.

Omar messed up this entire play.

Or as Vizquel said, "I miss the ball, and I get ready to kill myself."

Only it worked, anyway.

Lenny Webster just dropped the ball. The Orioles catcher had it in his mitt -- then he didn't.

The ball wasn't in the dirt. It wasn't especially high. It wasn't that far from the plate.

You can throw Webster about 1,000 pitches just like that, and he catches 999 of them.

Only this time, he didn't.

I am having a hard time with all this. I love it. I'm mesmerized by it. I'm almost speechless.

But things like this just don't happen to the Indians.

They don't win a game when they blow a key double play (as

Tony Fernandez and Jim Thome did in the ninth). They don't win a game when Grissom loses a ball in the lights (also in the ninth).

They sure don't win when Manny Ramirez is picked off first base in the ninth, or when they need a combination of Jeff Juden, Al Mormon and Eric Plunk to ride in like the cavalry from the bullpen to save the day.

This was a game where Indians hitters struck out a staggering 21 times -- and somehow, they won when Vizquel missed a pitch, too.

No wonder manager Mike Hargrove said he downed not one, but two "big glasses of Alka Seltzer" just to make it through the longest game (4 hours, 51 minutes) in postseason history.

And no matter what you're drinking these days, the Indians were ahead 2-1 in this best-of-seven series. All of this makes you wonder if Somehow, Somewhere, Someone WANTS the Indians to go to the World Series.

It makes you wonder if Someone has decided to repay the Indians fans for their 40-some years of misery with a postseason unlike any other this franchise (or maybe any franchise) has ever seen.

It certainly has to make the Orioles wonder exactly what is going on with these Indians.

Imagine being a Baltimore fan.

You have Mike Mussina pitching.

Mussina is one of the most dominating pitchers, and never has he thrown much harder or better.

In this game, Mussina put his name in the postseason record book right next to Sandy Koufax as he struck out 15.

But it wasn't enough.

He was matched by Orel Hershiser, who is 39 years old.

Hershiser says he's in the twilight of his career -- but the way his ball sunk and danced in the twilight Saturday, Hershiser looked 29.

He looked like he was wearing Dodger Blue, having yet another postseason for the ages.

If you are an Orioles fan, you have to realize your team went 12 innings, faced seven different pitchers -- and could score only one run.

You can talk like manager Davey Johnson, about how you are absolutely, positively convinced Vizquel's bat tipped that pitch on his bunt -- and it was a foul ball.

You can even bring in Webster the catcher as an expert witness, who will swear he heard Vizquel's bat hit the ball.

Webster even went to the press interview room on his own, pleading his case for a foul ball, which would have negated the final play.

Guess what?

Umpire John Hirschbeck had another opinion.

No foul ball, he said.

So the Orioles are left grousing about bad breaks and rotten calls.

"After the series we had with New York, I didn't think I'd ever see another series like this," said Eric Plunk, who actually was the winning pitcher.

"But all these games are nail-biters, too.

"There are some fluky things happening."

And believe it or not, they are all going the Indians way.

Terry Pluto is a columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal.

Pub Date: 10/13/97

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