Yankees feast on Ogea, 5-3 Hargrove's switch backfires

N.Y. needs one win for AL title

October 12, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Please, sir, drop the dice and walk away from the table.

Unfortunately for the Cleveland Indians, no one bothered to give manager Mike Hargrove such advice before yesterday's showdown against the New York Yankees.

Hargrove, never accused of being a manager of 1,000 moves, made one too many when he decided to start Chad Ogea over Jaret Wright in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. He and the Tribe may have all winter to think about it.

Hargrove needed to see Ogea labor for only four outs before admitting his gamble was a mistake. By then, Ogea had thrown 47 pitches, allowed nine base runners and trailed 4-2.

The Yankees, carried along on former Oriole David Wells' sloping shoulders, were never seriously challenged in what ended as a 5-3 win before 44,966 at Jacobs Field.

They now lead the series, three games to two, with David Cone needing only to beat postseason enigma Charles Nagy tomorrow night to finish the series.

"We've played well enough to put ourselves in a decent position," said right fielder Paul O'Neill. "Nothing's over, but you like this position a lot more than two days ago," when the Indians led the series, two games to one.

The Indians caught Wells at less than his best, but it didn't matter. Ogea was victimized by shaky control, bad luck and his inability to contain a crisis.

That Wright provided Hargrove six solid innings in the first relief appearance of his career further encouraged those skeptical of the altered rotation. Wright walked seven, but allowed only two hits. Ogea allowed just as many base runners in his abbreviated appearance.

Making Hargrove's day worse was catcher Sandy Alomar's stiff back, which necessitated backup Einar Diaz starting and left the manager with three rookies at the bottom of his lineup. Hargrove also scratched designated hitter David Justice, who has a sore right forearm, just before the first pitch.

Ogea carries a solid October pedigree, but very little recent form. He hadn't won a start since July 27 and had been placed on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right middle finger before going 2-2 in nine relief appearances.

Wright prodded Hargrove's decision with two horrendous postseason starts, including a Game 1 appearance in this series in which he managed only two outs while allowing five earned runs in a 7-2 loss. His postseason ERA stood at 19.80, which outweighed his two wins over the Yankees during the regular season.

"I based [the decision] on good information," said Hargrove. "I based the decision the way I thought was right."

The Yankees led 2-0 before their second out, thanks largely to two deflected singles, one off Ogea's glove on a potential double-play grounder, and left the inning with three runs and the bases loaded.

Hinting at what was to come in a 40-minute first inning that consisted of 63 pitches to 16 hitters and one mound visit, Ogea started the game by hitting Chuck Knoblauch with an 0-2 pitch.

After he struck out Derek Jeter, O'Neill grounded up the middle. Ogea reflexively stabbed at the one-hopper, deflecting it behind shortstop Omar Vizquel, who appeared to have the play measured for a double play. Instead, the carom rolled for a single, leaving runners at the corners.

"It's not something I'm going to sit here and cry about," said a dry-eyed Hargrove. "Those things happen. But that was probably as gut-wrenching as anything, knowing that it was a fairly routine double-play ball that wasn't handled."

"If I leave it alone or if I catch it, it's a double play," said Ogea. "You instinctively go after it. But even when I was jumping after the ball, I thought, 'Don't let this happen.' "

It did. And it didn't stop there.

The first of 11 walks by five Indians pitchers -- three by Ogea -- loaded the bases. Designated hitter Chili Davis then lined a two-run single off first baseman Richie Sexson's glove. Ogea hit Tino Martinez to reload the bases and Tim Raines grounded into a fielder's choice for the third run.

The Indians attacked a slow-starting Wells for two runs in the first inning as Kenny Lofton led off with a home run barely inside the right-field foul pole and Manny Ramirez contributed a sacrifice fly. Though far less than sharp, Wells faced only 22 hitters in his last 6 1/3 innings.

Wells had retired eight of the previous nine hitters when Torre decided to lift him with one out in the eighth. Wells argued the move and briefly refused to hand the ball to his manager.

The game was decided in a three-hitter span that again involved a Hargrove decision. Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson created a mess when he hit Travis Fryman and allowed Ramirez a single to put the tying run on base with one out.

Torre replaced Nelson with closer Mariano Rivera. With Justice available on the bench, Hargrove allowed switch-hitter Mark Whiten to bat despite three strikeouts. Whiten bounced into an inning-ending double play.

Next for ALCS

Game 6 Tomorrow

Cleveland at New York, 8: 07 p.m., chs. 11, 4

ALCS schedule

New York Yankees vs. Cleveland

(New York leads 3-2)

Game 1

New York 7, Cleveland 2

Game 2

Cleveland 4, N.Y. 1, 12 innings

Game 3

Cleveland 6, New York 1

Game 4

New York 4, Cleveland 0

Yesterday: Game 5

New York 5, Cleveland 3

Tomorrow: Game 6

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

Wednesday: Game 7*

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

*-If necessary

TV: All games on chs. 11, 4

Pub Date: 10/12/98

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