Absence of a knockout punch spells distance for Series

October 26, 1997|By John Eisenberg

MIAMI -- OK, maybe it isn't the most memorable World Series ever played.

But it's certainly one of the longest.

And you thought the Marlins had a shot at putting the Indians away last night at Pro Player Stadium.

You obviously haven't been paying attention.

This is the Fall Classic That Refuses To End.

The Marlins and Indians won't really play Game 15 tonight -- it'll just seem like Game 15.

Actually, it'll be Game 7, the ultimate setting for baseball drama.

One more chance for a forgettable Series to redeem itself with one of those grand moments or climactic performances that mark the event's history.

Don't count on one.

Both teams work hard and play competently, but they're just not classic Series teams.

Didn't you know all along that it was going to come down to Game 15, er, Game 7?

If ever there was a Series destined to go the distance, this was it.

The Marlins made the playoffs as a wild-card qualifier, and the Indians won fewer games than the also-ran Mets in capturing the AL Central.

In other words, it's a dead-even match of teams that aren't strong enough to knock each other out.

Marlins manager Jim Leyland said that widespread criticism of the Series made him want to puke, but there are reasons why the TV ratings are relatively puny.

Most of the games have taken well over three hours, moving at a turtle's pace.

The pitching has been average at best, with the staffs combining for 64 walks in six games.

Even happy-face "commissioner" Bud Selig confessed that the 14-11, error-filled Game 3 was a disaster.

The umps have tossed in a few bad calls to complete the picture.

The games just haven't been classics.

Long, yes; classics, no.

The Marlins still might win it all tonight, but if they were a true championship team, they would have won it last night in Game 6.

They had a 3-2 lead in the series after winning two of three games in Cleveland, they were playing at home in front of the largest Series crowd in 34 years, and they were pitching their ace, Kevin Brown.

A truly great team would finish its business at such a moment.

The Marlins fell behind in the second inning and slept through a 4-1 loss.

Brown, who hadn't lost a decision since July when the Series began, was beaten for the second straight time by -- drum roll, please -- Chad Ogea.

Ogea was pretty close to magnificent, actually, giving a better Babe Ruth impression that Rick Dempsey. He drove in the Indians' first two runs with a single in the second, scored their fourth run after doubling to lead off the fifth, and pitched five innings of four-hit, one-run ball to get the win.

And Brown? He wasn't terrible, but he certainly didn't resemble anyone's ace.

He hasn't resembled an ace, in fact, since throwing 148 pitches to lead the Marlins over the Braves in the clinching game of the NLCS.

He gave up six earned runs in Game 2 and had little on the ball again last night, doing his part to further the walk-a-thon theme that has dominated the Series.

Brown walked Jim Thome and Marquis Grissom to load the bases with one out in the second inning last night, then gave up the single to Ogea on a 2-2 pitch.

When Omar Vizquel led off the next inning with a double and came around to score for a 3-0 lead, the big crowd fell silent for the rest of the night, cheering only when local legend "Muscle Boy" posed his pecs on the stadium TV screen in the late innings.

Not every pitcher can come back quickly from a 148-pitch outing, and Brown couldn't.

No one has second-guessed Leyland, but maybe they should.

Of course, it wasn't just Brown's performance that doomed the Marlins last night.

The Indians had something to do with it.

You knew it wasn't the Marlins' night when Jeff Conine hit a ball 425 feet in the second inning only to watch Grissom sprint back and make a basket catch with his back to the plate.

Conine trotted back to the dugout, sat down and screamed, "No way."

The Marlins mounted another rally in the sixth but Vizquel ended it with a sensational stop at shortstop; he dove headlong to his right, stopped a hard bouncer and threw out Charles Johnson.

Bobby Bonilla came up with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh -- the Marlins' last great chance -- but he hit Mike Jackson's second pitch high into the warm night for a routine out.

So, there'll be one more night, one more game, one more chance for the Series to give us something to remember.

If you think it's gone on a long time, you're not alone.

It started in the summertime, with the first two games in warm, sunny Florida last weekend.

From there, it moved into winter, with three games in cold, snowy Cleveland.

Friday's travel day was for thawing more than resting -- a spring cleansing, if you will.

Now comes the finish, one way or another, back in Florida's summery weather.

L Does that mean it's taken a year to decide the World Series?

Nah.

Just seems like it.

Pub Date: 10/26/97

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