Yanks make 7-2 opening statement Wells excels again, shuts down Indians for Game 1 victory

5-run first sets the tone

Indians' Wright KO'd after just eight batters

October 07, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK NTC — NEW YORK -- The Cleveland Indians came to the Bronx last night hoping to puncture the aura of invincibility that has grown up around the New York Yankees during their record-breaking 1998 season.

Instead, they found those pinstripes impenetrable in the opening game of the American League Championship Series. Left-hander David Wells turned in another impressive performance and the New York offense came back to life to score a 7-2 victory before a deafening sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium.

Maybe the Yankees aren't unbeatable, but they're doing a pretty good imitation. The victory was their fourth straight of the postseason and their 11th in a row, including the final week of the regular season.

What is even more impressive is the way they have suffocated two of the best offensive teams in baseball, holding the Texas Rangers and Indians to just three runs in 36 innings.

Wells, who pitched eight shutout innings in Game 1 of the Division Series, stretched his scoreless streak to 16 1/3 innings before giving up a meaningless, two-run homer to Manny Ramirez in the ninth. The former Oriole struck out seven and walked one. Reliever Jeff Nelson finished up, getting the last two outs.

Did someone say revenge? The Yankees have made much out of their desire to settle a couple of old scores in this playoff series. They were knocked out of the 1997 Division Series by the Indians and they have never forgiven Cleveland starter Jaret Wright for the pitch that broke the wrist of infielder Luis Sojo early in spring training.

If they were looking for a little payback, they made the first installment with a five-run first-inning rally that set a couple of ALCS records and knocked Wright out of the game.

The top of the Yankees' lineup was conspicuous by its lack of production in the first round, the first four hitters combining for just six hits in 41 at-bats (.146) and only one RBI in the three games against the Rangers. Those same four hitters had four singles and two RBI before Wright recorded his first out last night.

Leadoff hitter Chuck Knoblauch slapped a soft single to right-center and Derek Jeter followed with a base hit to center before Paul O'Neill gave the Yankees the lead with an RBI single. Bernie Williams, who had been held hitless in 11 at-bats by the Rangers, drove home his first run of this postseason with a single through the middle.

Wright got Tino Martinez to ground into a force play and struck out Tim Raines, but he bounced a pitch past catcher Sandy Alomar to bring home the third run of the inning and eventually gave up a run-scoring single to catcher Jorge Posada that brought manager Mike Hargrove to the end of his patience.

Right-hander Chad Ogea came on in relief and promptly gave up an RBI single to Scott Brosius to complete a five-run bat-around. The five runs were the most ever in the first inning of an ALCS game. The six singles were the most in any inning in ALCS competition.

How much more would Wells need on a night when he clearly was at the top of his game?

The Yankees added a run in the sixth on a home run by Posada and another in the seventh on an RBI double by Williams, but it was overkill at that point -- the way Wells was throwing.

He had little trouble through the first three innings, allowing only two singles. Cleveland got a runner to second in the third with two outs, but Wells struck out Joey Cora to end the inning.

After allowing a one-out single in the third, Wells retired nine straight.

Wells has emerged as one of baseball's best clutch pitchers. He is 6-0 in seven career playoff starts with an impressive 2.08 ERA.

He can't claim to be a 20-game winner, but he won his 20th game of the season last night, building on a career year that included an 18-4 regular season and the first regular-season perfect game by a Yankees pitcher.

Not exactly the same guy who pitched well -- but not spectacularly -- for the Orioles in 1996. Not even the same guy who had an up-and-down year for the Yankees last season.

"We saw a different David Wells this year," said teammate David Cone, who will take the mound in Game 2 this afternoon. "He battled the whole year long never gave in and he really worked on his craft. I think he is a much more cerebral pitcher, if that is possible to say about David Wells.

"But, yeah, he definitely has a much better idea of what he's doing. He is much more intense."

Playoffs today

AL Championship Series

Game 2: Cleveland at New York, 4: 07 p.m., chs. 11, 4/WBAL (1090 AM)

NL Championship Series

Game 1: San Diego at Atlanta, 8: 15 p.m., chs. 45, 5/WBAL (1090 AM)

ALCS schedule

?3 N.Y. Yankees vs. Cleveland (New York leads 1-0)

Last night: Game 1

' New York 7, Cleveland 2

Today: Game 2

, Cleveland (Nagy 15-10, 5.22)

at New York (Cone 20-7, 3.55), 4: 07 p.m.

Friday: Game 3

New York (Pettitte 16-11, 4.24) at Cleveland (Colon 14-9, 3.71), 8: 07 p.m.

Saturday: Game 4

New York (Hernandez 12-4, 3.13) at Cleveland (Gooden 8-6, 3.76), 7: 07 p.m.

Sunday: Game 5*

New York at Cleveland, 4: 07 p.m.

Tuesday: Game 6*

1% Cleveland at New York, 8: 07 p.m.

Oct. 14: Game 7*

Cleveland at New York, 8: 07 p.m.

*-If necessary

TV: All games on chs. 11, 4

Pub Date: 10/07/98

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