Eisenreich filling out designated-hitter role More a pure hitter, Marlin comes through with homer in sixth-inning rally

October 22, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- As Florida manager Jim Leyland explained his decision to make Jim Eisenreich his designated hitter last night, he pointed out that the veteran wasn't ideal for the job "because he's not a power hitter."

Try telling that to Charles Nagy.

The Cleveland right-hander was taken deep by Eisenreich in the sixth inning, the two-run homer cutting the Indians' lead in half. Five batters later, it was gone, though it lasted longer than Nagy.

Eisenreich, with only two home runs in 293 at-bats this season, had painted a new face on Game 3 of the World Series. At the very least, he had applied the first strokes to a 14-7 victory at Jacobs Field.

"When we got within two runs, we felt we had hope again," Marlins outfielder Gary Sheffield said.

Eisenreich, who hadn't started since Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, was playing in his second World Series. He went 6-for-26 with a home run against the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 while a part-time outfielder with the Philadelphia Phillies.

"The experience is tremendous. This is almost better because it's happening now," he said.

"At the same time, I'm not just glad to be here. I want to be here and win. We lost the first one in '93 and I'd like to win this one."

He did his part last night to give this fish tale a happy ending.

After flying out to end the second inning, Eisenreich lined a single to right field in the fourth, then followed a walk by Darren Daulton in the sixth with a 409-foot shot on Nagy's initial offering, reducing Cleveland's lead to 7-5. The Indians had been burned by their own rules, Florida using the designated hitter because the Series had shifted to an American League park.

"He's a pure, outstanding hitter," Leyland said. "He's a tough guy to defense. He puts the ball in play."

In October, he's been known to put it in the seats.

"I was just trying to move the runner along and get on base. The home run was a bonus," he said. "The wind was blowing out and I happened to get a good pitch. I surprised him by swinging at the first pitch, which I didn't do the first two times."

Eisenreich, who had only four 1997 postseason at-bats before last night, wasn't a stranger to the DH role, having spent parts of six seasons in Kansas City before signing with the Phillies.

He went 2-for-16 with two RBIs as a DH this season during interleague games, but said, "It's not that difficult. I'm 38 years old, so down time is good once in a while."

Eisenreich has come a long way from the player who broke in with Minnesota in 1982 and nearly gave up baseball because of the often debilitating effects of Tourette's syndrome, which he learned to control with medication.

"When I signed my first professional contract, I thought I'd play until I was 30. I'm a guy that really doesn't like to travel too much and likes to be at home. I have a beautiful wife and two young children, and we're expecting our third in December, and to me that's what it's about," he said.

"It's pretty amazing that I'm still playing, but at the same time I think I can play a lot longer. And if someone is going to give me a uniform, I'm still going to play."

Pub Date: 10/22/97

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