Wright's stuff good enough for Indians Rookie goes 6 innings, gets victory despite wildness

October 23, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Rookie pitcher Jaret Wright reached into a hole last night and pulled his team to the frozen surface. But not without a struggle.

Displaying poise that belied his youth, and giving the kind of clutch performance that typified his starts after Cleveland Indians losses, Wright battled the elements and the Florida Marlins for six innings and defeated both, evening the World Series with a 10-3 victory in Game 4 at Jacobs Field.

The youngest pitcher to start a World Series game in 12 years, Wright, 21, allowed three runs on five hits and struck out five. He didn't need to be his sharpest because of a generous Indians offense that heaped runs upon him early. Good thing, too.

The closest he got to being in a groove was when he set down six consecutive batters in the middle innings. The only time he retired the side in order was in the fifth.

Wright walked five, and only 55 of his 105 pitches were strikes, but he won, raising his record to 9-0 this year when starting the day after the Indians had been defeated.

"I don't even understand what's going on right now. I'm on Cloud 9," Wright said.

Indians manager Mike Hargrove will turn to a veteran, Orel Hershiser, in Game 5 tonight. His club won't be facing elimination partly because of Wright, who began the season in Double-A Akron.

At least it prepared him for the cold. When Wright wasn't blowing away hitters with his mid-90s fastball, he was blowing into his hand, a desperate attempt to keep warm.

He never did get hot.

Wright, two months shy of his 22nd birthday, put two runners on in the first inning, then was bailed out by a double-play grounder from Bobby Bonilla.

He allowed a two-out walk to Jim Eisenreich in the second, compounded his trouble with a wild pitch, then struck out Charles Johnson looking.

He also walked No. 9 hitter Craig Counsell leading off the third, and got away without a scratch.

He wasn't so lucky in the fourth. Eisenreich, suddenly one of the toughest outs in Florida's lineup, poked a run-scoring single to left, narrowing Cleveland's lead to 6-1.

It stayed that way until the sixth, when Darren Daulton walked and Moises Alou homered to left. Eisenreich followed with a single, but Wright got Johnson to line weakly into a double play. Unlike in Game 3, the Indians weren't about to fumble this lead.

"I was just trying to make pitches when I had to," Wright said. "It wasn't pretty, but we got it done."

Wright was long on tenacity and short on memory. He put aside a miserable outing in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, when the Orioles hit three homers in the third inning and chased him before the fourth.

He hadn't pitched since then, and unless it's an emergency, he won't pitch again in this series. But he has two wins over New York in the Division Series, and his first World Series triumph.

"We ran him out there because we believed in him, believed in his stuff, and he proved us right," Hargrove said.

"I'll give whatever I have," Wright said, "until I fall apart."

He held the Indians together last night.

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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