Add Indians' Ogea to long list of October's unlikely heroes

October 27, 1997|By Jayson Stark | Jayson Stark,Knight-Ridder News Service

MIAMI -- In October, the last thing we want is for our heroic figures to be too predictable. If they were, baseball wouldn't be the great and goofy sport it is.

In, say, basketball, Michael Jordan knows he's supposed to be Michael Jordan. And Wil Perdue knows he's supposed to be Wil Perdue. Very logical. Very predictable.

But in baseball, the heroes they scripted down in central casting turn into the bums. And the bums turn into the heroes.

So for every Lenny Dykstra, there is a Brian Doyle. And for every Reggie Jackson, there is a Mickey Hatcher.

And then there is Chad Ogea.

He is your latest, hot-off-the-presses, 26-year-old October hero. He is the reason the Cleveland Indians beat the Florida Marlins, 4-1, Saturday night to force a Game 7 last night.

World Series heroes really shouldn't be people who went 0-5, with a 7.52 ERA, in June. Who went winless from May 23 to Sept. 1. Who spent August in tropical Buffalo.

But nobody explained this to Chad Ogea.

So Saturday night, in a save-the-season situation, Ogea found himself pitching against Kevin Brown.

Brown was supposed to be the hero in this one. He was the big-time ace of the Florida Marlins. Winner of the Best Stuff in the Universe competition. The man who threw about 375 pitches in the playoff game that eliminated the Atlanta Braves and sent the Marlins to the World Series.

So naturally, Chad Ogea went out in front of 67,498 teal-a-holics and screwed up this plot line royally.

If he'd just done this by outpitching the great Kevin Brown, that would have been at least remotely sensible.

But not only did Ogea pitch like Greg Maddux, he turned into Joe Carter to boot.

All right, so he didn't hit a home run and do a Mummers strut around the bases. But the big image of this game won't be of Chad Ogea throwing his changeup. It will be of Chad Ogea carrying a big stick.

No Indians pitcher had gotten a hit in the entire quarter-century DH era -- regular season, postseason, any kind of season.

So what did Chad Ogea do when he strolled to bat in the second inning? After fouling off back-to-back carnivorous two-strike pitches -- he lined a two-run single to right. Of course.

That merely made him the first Indians pitcher to drive in a run in the World Series since the Roaring Twenties (Jim Bagby against Brooklyn, Game 5, 1920, to be exact).

It was also arguably the biggest World Series hit ever by an American League pitcher in the DH era, since it drove in the winning runs and put the Indians ahead to stay.

But was Chad Ogea through with this offensive reign of terror? Of course not.

In the fifth inning, he found another high Kevin Brown fastball heading his way. And he sliced that one down the right-field line for a double.

Later, he scored on a sacrifice fly. Which made him the first American League pitcher to account for three runs in a World Series game since -- ready? -- Mudcat Grant (Game 6, 1965).

Before September, Ogea was 5-8, with a 5.49 ERA. And while the official reason for those unsightly numbers was a strained ligament in his elbow, the fact is that the Indians were not really delighted with his professionalism or work ethic after they signed him to a three-year contract last winter.

But the elbow injury gave him a long, long chance to think about things. Then he went to Buffalo on a rehab option and got his stuff back together. And since he returned, he has been amazing.

His record since Sept. 1 is 5-2, with a 2.90 ERA. In the postseason, his ERA is an incredible 2.32. He says he is pitching better now than at any time in his life. Explain that, huh?

"You go through spells as a pitcher where you throw the ball really well, and you go through spells where you don't," he said. "But I think the biggest thing is that I've been able to focus on what I'm doing from pitch to pitch instead of worrying about things around me."

Such as those 67,498 people booing him, for instance. Such as the fact that this was the unhittable Kevin Brown he was getting two hits against, for instance.

And the fact that this wasn't remotely logical. Chad Ogea? Why the heck not? You want predictable, you've got the wrong sport.

Pub Date: 10/27/97

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