Indians complicate task, forced to face Mussina in Game 6 Team tried too hard to clinch series at home, shortstop Vizqel says

October 14, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Champagne wasn't the only thing the Cleveland Indians put on ice at Jacobs Field last night.

With a 4-2 defeat to the Baltimore Orioles in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, the Indians also had to put a hold on what appeared to be almost certain World Series plans.

The way the Indians figure, the champagne will taste just as good at Camden Yards tomorrow.

"I'll clinch it anywhere. I don't care," said center fielder Marquis Grissom. "We just have to go out and play."

But the Indians know that they made their task more difficult by having to return to Baltimore to face Mike Mussina in Game 6. The Orioles' right-hander dominated the Cleveland lineup in Game 3 Saturday, striking out an ACLS- record 15 hitters in seven innings.

Asked if he felt comfortable with a three-games-to-two lead, Indians manager Mike Hargrove said: "In a series that goes like this one is going, I don't think anyone can feel comfortable. Obviously, we'd rather be in our position than theirs. But they have a great ballclub, and we have our work cut out for us."'

Grissom has first-hand experience in coming from behind, or losing with a lead, in the playoffs. Just last year, as a member of the Atlanta Braves, he was on a team that erased a 3-1 deficit to the St. Louis Cardinals to advance to the World Series. He was then on a team that blew a 2-0 lead and lost to the New York Yankees.

"You can't be satisfied," said Grissom. "You have to win four games. That was last year, This is a different year."

Not that the Indians figured that it would be easy, that the Orioles would go quietly into the cool and breezy Cleveland night. But shortstop Omar Vizquel said he noticed a difference about the way his teammates approached last night's game than in the first four games of the series.

"I think the expectations were too high," he said. "Nobody wanted to go back to Baltimore. I think we just tried to do too much."

Grissom disagreed.

"I don't think we were flat," he said. "We just got to their pitchers too late."

The Indians had their chances early, with Bip Roberts leading off the first inning with a double, and in the third, when Roberts singled with one out and went to third on a single by Vizquel. They had threatened in the fourth, when David Justice walked leading off and went to third on Brian Giles' two-out double.

"We couldn't get it done," said Manny Ramirez, who after being )) hit by Orioles starter Scott Kamieniecki in the first inning, twice grounded out and struck out once.

And at least one member of what had been an almost unhittable Indians bullpen didn't get it done, either. Trying to hold the Orioles to the two runs surrendered by starting pitcher Chad Ogea over the first eight innings, Paul Assenmacher gave up a leadoff home run to pinch-hitter Eric Davis, a double to Rafael Palmiero and singles to Cal Ripken and B.J. Surhoff.

"The bottom line is that I didn't do my job," said Assenmacher, who had been nearly perfect in three previous appearances in the series, giving up just one hit and striking out three in 1 2/3 innings. "We still had a chance down only two runs but I didn't shut the door."

The door that swung open might have carried the momentum of the series away from the Cleveland clubhouse. The Indians were trying to put a positive spin on the fact that they still lead the series, but the prospect of facing Mussina again is not one they relish.

"We have to figure out a way to score some runs against him," said Vizquel.

Said Hargrove, "I expect him to come out and throw a very good ballgame. I haven't seen him throw a bad one yet this year. I expect him to throw very well."

Two years ago, the Indians were in a similar situation to the one they'll face tomorrow. They led the Seattle Mariners in the ALCS, three games to one, but lost Game 6 and had to go back to the Kingdome to face Randy Johnson. The Indians won and advanced to the World Series.

"Whatever happened in '95 doesn't matter now," said Vizquel. "We have to win this year. We just have to battle back."

Pub Date: 10/14/97

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