History again conspires against Red Sox

October 07, 1999|By Ken Rosenthal

CLEVELAND -- History, it's all about history. The Cleveland Indians' recent history against Boston in the Division Series. The Red Sox's tortured history against any opponent in October.

After Game 1, everyone figured the Indians would need to point to their 1998 postseason triumph over Boston for inspiration.

But now they can point to '95, when they swept the Red Sox after trailing 2-0 in the opening game, and not '98, when they won three straight after losing the opener to Pedro Martinez.

Where does Boston turn?

Martinez is down. And unless the Red Sox can rebound from last night's 3-2 defeat today in Game 2, they might soon be out.

The Sox have now lost 17 of their last 18 postseason games dating to their infamous Game 6 defeat in the 1986 World Series. And in case anyone has forgotten, they haven't won a world championship since 1918.

Their Game 1 defeat to Cleveland in '95 went 13 innings, finally ending on a two-out homer by Red Sox reject Tony Pena. Last night's game didn't last as long, but it included a pivotal hit by Red Sox reject Wil Cordero, and could prove equally devastating.

Martinez left after four innings with a strained muscle in his mid-back. Even though the Red Sox led the American League in ERA this season, it's difficult to imagine the rest of their staff holding down the seventh team in history to score 1,000 runs.

Will it never end for the Red Sox?

Martinez said it was the first time he had suffered such an injury.

He threw only 58 pitches last night, and it's possible he could return quickly. But manager Jimy Williams refused to even address such speculation, and Martinez said he had "no idea" when he might be ready.

"When I wake up tomorrow, I'll see how it feels," Martinez said. "I'll put it in God's hands."

And all of New England will be praying with him.

The Indians had lost their previous eight postseason openers, a reflection of their lack of success against opposing No. 1 starters, and their lack of a dominant ace in the '90s.

Bartolo Colon changed all that, recording a season-high 11 strikeouts in eight innings, and Travis Fryman's one-out, bases-loaded single off Rich Garces in the ninth provided the Indians with a trademark Jacobs Field finish.

Colon, as is his custom, seemed to grow stronger in the late innings, hitting 100 mph on the radar gun in the eighth and 99 mph on his 117th and final pitch. But manager Mike Hargrove cited fatigue as the reason he removed Colon for Paul Shuey in the ninth.

Shuey justified the move, retiring Nomar Garciaparra (2-for-3, homer, double) and Mike Stanley (3-for-4) for the first time all night, and earning the victory after the Indians broke the tie in the bottom half.

Red Sox fans can now add third baseman John Valentin's two-out error in the sixth to their long list of postseason disappointments. Jim Thome hit a two-run homer off reliever Derek Lowe on the next pitch, tying the score.

The Indians, meanwhile, put on a defensive clinic. Left fielder David Justice doubled Garciaparra off first base after making a catch against the wall in the sixth. Second baseman Roberto Alomar contributed a diving backhand stop in the seventh, Omar Vizquel an over-the-shoulder grab in the eighth.

And Colon just kept going and going.

"When his last pitch is 100 mph, that's pretty impressive," Williams said. "This kid really pitched his heart out, really competed. He knew who he was pitching against."

Martinez entered 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA against Colon, 5-0 against the Indians. But even after he departed, the Red Sox appeared in decent shape: The Indians were 1-for-30 off Lowe this season.

It was then, though, that the psychology of the game changed.

"We came in and I heard Omar say, `Hey, new pitcher, guys,' " Fryman recalled. "I thought he was joking around to kind of lighten the guys a little bit. I looked out there and saw Lowe walking in. For me, it was kind of like, `Hey, we've got a chance to get back in the game, too.' "

Lowe pitched nearly as well as Martinez, allowing one hit in his four innings. But his one mistake was to Thome, and the Red Sox unraveled after he hit Manny Ramirez to start the ninth.

Left-hander Rheal Cormier allowed a one-out single to pinch hitter Cordero. Right-hander Garces walked pinch hitter Richie Sexon, then gave up the game-winning hit on a 1-2 count to Fryman.

"The only good thing about that at-bat was the result," said Fryman, who spent much of the season on the disabled list with a knee injury. "I did everything up there I didn't want to do."

But he delivered, and now the Red Sox must revive themselves overnight.

"We have a team. We'll rebound," Williams said. "We have other good pitchers and we've bounced back from other situations and challenges during the course of the season."

A year ago, Williams turned to knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in Game 2, and the Indians scored seven times in the first three innings. This time, he will start 35-year-old Bret Saberhagen, who made three trips to the disabled list this season, two due to shoulder trouble.

The Indians will counter with Charles Nagy, who is 7-1 lifetime against the Red Sox, and twice shined in the October twilight against the Orioles in the 1996 and '97 postseasons.

Both of Nagy's postseason victories have come at Fenway Park, but today's 4: 09 p.m. start could work to his advantage. He struck out 12 Orioles in six innings under similar conditions in Game 4 of the '96 Division Series, and threw seven shutout innings in the decisive Game 6 of the '97 ALCS at Camden Yards.

History, it's all about history.

Recent and ancient, the history favors the Indians now.

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