Indians' Wright rises above Game 7 pressure Rookie's strong 6 1/3 innings come on three days' rest

October 27, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- Reality still hasn't hit Cleveland Indians rookie Jaret Wright, failing in much the same way as his postseason opponents.

He was supposed to be too young. Or too tired. Or in too far over his head. It all made too much sense.

It all meant nothing to Wright.

Manager Mike Hargrove bypassed veteran Charles Nagy last night in Game 7 of the World Series, letting the hopes of a championship-starved city rest with a player who began the year in Double-A. Wright nearly answered with his fourth postseason victory, and his second rescue of the Indians in a do-or-die situation, allowing two hits in 6 1/3 innings but getting no decision in a 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Florida Marlins at Pro Player Stadium.

Wright, 21, was two outs away from becoming the first rookie to win the decisive game of a World Series since Pittsburgh's Babe Adams in 1909, until closer Jose Mesa rewrote history by allowed the tying run to score.

"Nobody on this team likes to lose," Wright said in a somber Cleveland clubhouse. "It just didn't work out today."

He added, "My performance is separate. It's a team, we go out there together. Next year, there'll be a fire to go out there and celebrate like the Marlins did tonight. All you can do now is wait."

Working on three days' rest and adrenalin, Wright made short work of the Marlins and more of a name for himself. He threw 108 pitches, struck out seven and almost joined Florida's Livan Hernandez as the only rookies to win four postseason games.

Talk about having the Wright stuff. He beat the New York Yankees twice in the Division Series, his Game 5 triumph continuing the Indians season after it appeared to be over the previous night. He won Game 4 of the World Series, and last night was the second-youngest pitcher, behind Kansas City's Saberhagen in 1985, to start Game 7. He was, without question, mature beyond his years.

The only hit he allowed through six innings was a one-out double to Edgar Renteria in the first. The only run off him came on a Bobby Bonilla homer leading off the seventh. The next batter, Charles Johnson, ran the count full before Wright blew a fastball by him that registered 97 mph. He was gone after walking Craig Counsell, passing along his lead to the normally trusting hands of his bullpen. Only Mesa had butter fingers.

"He's a big strong guy with quick hands," Wright said of Bonilla, hampered all series by a strained hamstring. "He got all of it, and he hit it out, that's about it."

Two of Wright's five walks were to Marlins pitcher Al Leiter. Not to be outdone at the plate, he laid down a two-strike sacrifice bunt in the third inning, leading to a two-run single by Tony Fernandez that held up until the ninth.

The son of former major-league pitcher Clyde Wright had done what seemed impossible a month ago. Not only could he stand the heat, he sizzled. Again.

Maybe this was reality after all. Who was going to argue?

Pub Date: 10/27/97

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