Marlins get off with a bang, bang Back-to-back homers in 4th sink Hershiser, Indians in opener, 7-4

Alou's is three-run DTC shot

67,245 cheer as Florida succeeds in debut

October 19, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- The steady rain that pelted Pro Player Stadium yesterday afternoon threatened to give critics of baseball's first semitropical World Series another reason to curse the expansion era, but the weather cleared up just in time for the Florida Marlins to show the world that they just might be the best team money could buy.

Driven by back-to-back homers, the Marlins pounded Orel Hershiser and the Cleveland Indians, 7-4, last night to move one step closer to Wayne Huizenga's dream of becoming the first baseball owner to buy a championship team and sell it in the same year.

Huizenga spent $89 million on free-agent players to upgrade the team last winter, then put the franchise up for sale this summer. Now, it looks like the price is going to go up.

Cuban defector Livan Hernandez pitched a rocky 5 2/3 innings, but the Marlins scored four times on back-to-back home runs by Moises Alou and Charles Johnson in the fourth inning to take control of the game and reward the sellout crowd of 67,245 -- the largest crowd in the five-year history of the Marlins and the largest for a World Series game since 1963.

Hernandez did not resemble the rookie phenom that quickly matched Mike Mussina's one-day-old record of 15 strikeouts in a league championship series game last weekend, but he pitched well enough to record his third postseason victory in three starts before stalking into the Marlins' dugout and throwing a brief tantrum when manager Jim Leyland removed him in the sixth inning.

Hershiser did not resemble the clutch pitcher who was 8-1 with a 1.93 ERA in postseason play before last night's game. He tied a dubious World Series record by surrendering seven earned runs over 4 1/3 innings, three of them on a game-of-inches homer by Alou that hit the foul pole in left field.

Alou is one of the high-priced players who was acquired to turn the Marlins into an instant contender, and he came through with his first homer of the postseason.

"It was awesome," he said. "It felt very good to do something like that in the World Series against a great pitcher like Orel Hershiser. I don't think I ever hit a home run against him when he was with the Dodgers. The ball, I thought it was going to go foul, but it felt real good. There is no better feeling like that."

It was a feelgood kind of night. The huge crowd wanted the first-ever World Series pitch by a Marlin to last forever. Thousands of flashbulbs ignited at the moment that Hernandez let go of the ball, and thousands more went off when Hershiser threw his first pitch.

Maybe they'd rather be watching "Seinfeld" in Secaucus, but the Marlins are making history in Miami.

"It was a great experience," Hernandez said through an interpreter. "The team played well. Charles Johnson caught a great game. I was very excited."

He showed it in a shaky first inning. Bip Roberts led off the game with a double, and Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove played little ball to get on the scoreboard early. Omar Vizquel moved Roberts to third with a sacrifice bunt and David Justice stroked a line single to center to score the run.

But that was all the Indians would get until the game was getting out of hand. Hernandez settled down to retire five straight batters after the Justice single and worked out of trouble in the third and fourth before the offense handed him a comfortable lead.

"He wasn't quite as sharp as he was against the Braves, but

that's OK," Leyland said of the rookie, who had two wins against Atlanta. "That's a real powerful lineup, so I was very pleased."

Hershiser worked through the first two innings without giving up a hit, but a leadoff double by Craig Counsell in the third put the Marlins in position to tie the game. Hernandez sacrificed the runner to third and Edgar Renteria brought the run home with a bouncer to first base.

The Marlins pumped up the volume in the fourth, when Alou hit his three-run homer and Johnson followed immediately with a mammoth shot into the upper deck to give the Marlins a lightning-quick four-run lead.

Johnson is known largely for his great defensive performance this year, and rightfully so. He played the entire season without making an error or allowing a passed ball. But Leyland was saying just before game time that his offensive contribution was just as important.

"I just think everybody zeroed in on his defense," Leyland said. " We were a little sluggish after the break, but when we got rolling, Charles Johnson was hitting the ball out of the ballpark. His offense is one of the reasons we're here. He took some pressure off some guys up top. And I think his offense down the stretch was very, very important to this team."

The Indians were coming off a very light offensive performance in the final two games of the ALCS. They had scored just two runs in Game 5 against the Orioles and managed just three hits in the finale, so there was some question what kind of attack they would be able to mount with eight offensive players instead of nine.

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