Fla. stops Indians cold, 14-11 Cleveland's 3 errors help Marlins to 7-run ninth, 2-1 Series lead

29-degree wind chill a factor

Indians blow 7-3 lead in wild game of walks Marlins rout Indians in wild 9th, 14-11

October 22, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians finally got their comeuppance last night. They reached the 93rd World Series with the help of a run-scoring blown squeeze play and a two-run wild pitch. It was only a matter of time before the ball started bouncing the other way.

It bounced all over the place under near-freezing conditions at Jacobs Field, and it didn't stop bouncing until the Florida Marlins had come from four runs down to score an ugly 14-11 victory.

Actually, it didn't stop bouncing until a last-gasp Indians rally came to an end with the tying run on deck, but you get the idea. The wind chill of 29 degrees for the first pitch and the damp field clearly contributed to a 4-hour, 12-minute free-for-all that featured the most runs of any World Series game except the infamous 15-14 battle between the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies at rain-drenched Veterans Stadium in 1993.

Former Oriole Bobby Bonilla scored the go-ahead run in the Marlins' seven-run ninth inning when a throw glanced off his back at third base and redeemed him for an earlier throwing error that had helped the Indians take apparent control of the ragged game.

The errant throw by center fielder Marquis Grissom -- one of three errors by Cleveland in the inning -- dribbled into the camera well behind third base, allowing Bonilla to get up and walk home with the decisive run. The Marlins went on to score six more runs in the inning on a variety of bad hops and odd occurrences that seemed to indicate that the Indians had used up their days of grace.

"It was a helpless feeling there in the ninth," Indians left fielder Bip Roberts said. "Every time they put the bat on the ball, something bad happened."

Marlins outfielder Gary Sheffield shook off the bitter cold to deliver a tour de force performance that included a home run, five RBIs and terrific catch in right field, but the rest of the evening was more of a tour de farce, with both teams bumbling their way into the late innings.

The sellout crowd of 44,880, perhaps mistaking it for a Browns game, braved the sub-freezing wind chill until the Marlins tied a ,, World Series record with the touchdown and extra point in the ninth.

The hardy Clevelanders who stayed until the end saw the Indians score four times in the bottom of the ninth, but Florida closer Robb Nen eventually got out of the inning and the Marlins took the lead in the best-of-seven Series, two games to one.

"They won the first game and we won the second game, and both teams just out-uglied each other tonight," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove. "I don't attribute the poor play to the weather. It was just poor play. We haven't played a game like that in a long time and I'd bet you a dollar they haven't either. Those things just happen. We just played poorly."

The 29-degree wind chill appeared to have a far greater impact on the pitchers than the hitters, which should come as no surprise. The bitter cold makes it difficult to get a good grip on the ball, and both starters clearly were having trouble with their control in the early innings.

Indians starter Charles Nagy gave up a bases-empty home run to Sheffield in the first inning and nearly lost his grip on the game two innings later, walking three straight batters to bring home a run.

Marlins starter Al Leiter looked as if he might get dinked to death in the bottom of the first inning. He was charged with an error when he couldn't find the handle on a chopper back to the mound by leadoff hitter Roberts, then kept the inning alive with a two-out walk to David Justice to set up a pair of bloop RBI singles by Matt Williams and Sandy Alomar.

That was before both starters turned the game into a walk-a-thon. Nagy walked the first three batters in the Marlins' lineup with one out in the third and might have dug himself an even deeper hole if Bonilla had not bailed him out with a very convenient double-play ball.

Leiter walked four batters in the fourth inning to bring home a run and set himself up for an ugly play by Bonilla, who charged a two-out chopper by Manny Ramirez, double-clutched and bounced the throw past first base to allow Jim Thome and Grissom to score. The play was ruled a hit, with the error allowing the runners to advance.

It was either the weather or one of the great postseason coincidences, but Nagy and Leiter tied World Series records with their wildness -- Nagy for walking three batters in a row and Leiter for walking four batters in an inning.

"The sad thing about Leiter's performance was that he had great stuff," Marlins manager Jim Leyland said. "He just struggled with his control, but I don't think the cold affected us. The only way the cold affects you is if you're walking guys and your other guys have to stand around out there."

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