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The end of the line

Wednesday, October 14, 1998

By PAUL HOYNES
PLAIN DEALER REPORTER

NEW YORK - The Indians ended their season last night in Yankee Stadium the same way they played much of it.

They didn't pitch well, didn't hit with runners in scoring position and in general made the game look difficult. How this talented, but peculiar team reached the sixth game of the American League Championship Series will go down as one of the biggest mysteries of the year.

New York beat the Indians, 9-5, to reach the World Series for the second time in the last three years and the 35th time in team history. The Indians eliminated them from the postseason last year to reach the seventh game of the World Series.

Today the Tribe's wild run to the 11th inning of Game 7 against Florida seems like it happened a century ago.

The Yankees, who enter the World Series with 121 victories this year, won the best-of-seven ALCS, 4-2. Lefty David Wells, who won two of those games, was named series MVP.

The best the Indians could do was scare the Yankees. They led the ALCS, 2-1, following Bartolo Colon's four-hitter in Game 3. But the Yankees won the next three games, including two in Jacobs Field.

"When we lost Game 4 against El Duque [Orlando Hernandez- that really hurt," said shortstop Omar Vizquel, who hit .440 (11-for-25) in the series.

The Indians put a chill in the Yankees for the final time last night when Jim Thome hit a grand slam off David Cone in the fifth inning to turn a 6-1 romp into a 6-5 ballgame. But Thome's power wasn't enough to overcome a lack of quality starting pitching, poor defense and an unproductive offense.

"Give the Yankees credit," said Thome, who tied a postseason record with six homers. "They came out early, scored runs and kept the pressure on us. My homer made a game of it, but they kept scoring and pulled away from us."

Charles Nagy, the Tribe's best starter in the postseason, collapsed last night. He gave up six runs, three of them earned, on eight hits in three innings. Tribe starters went 1-4 with a 6.04 earned run average (17 runs in 25 innings) in the ALCS.

Yankee starters went 4-1 with a 3.79 ERA (17 runs in 40 innings) in the series. That was the biggest difference between the two teams.

"Their pitchers did a good job holding our hitters down," said Vizquel. "But our pitchers did a good job against their hitters as well."

This was not an offensive series regardless of last night's score. The Indians hit .220, the Yankees .218.

The Indians' defense didn't do the pitchers any favors by making three errors that led to five unearned runs.

"We played with fire all night with our defense," said manager Mike Hargrove, "and got burned by it."

The Indians entered the fifth trailing Cone, 6-0. But Enrique Wilson, Kenny Lofton and Vizquel singled to load the bases. Wilson would have scored on Vizquel's single, but it hit second base umpire Ted Hendry in the rear end on its way to second base.

Under baseball rules Wilson had to stay at third.

Cone walked David Justice to score Wilson and make it 6-1. Manny Ramirez struck out, but Thome crushed Cone's first pitch into the third deck in right field to cut the Yankees lead to 6-5.

The homer was Thome's fourth of the ALCS and 12th in his postseason career. The four homers are a ALCS record.

Cone was in serious trouble, but the Indians let him escape. He retired the last two batters on liners to left for his final outs of the night. That couldn't have surprised many people.

The Indians hit .158 (6-for-38) with runners in scoring position for the series.

The Yankees put the game away with three runs in the sixth. A throwing error by Vizquel set the inning in motion as he grabbed a routine grounder by Scott Brosius and threw the ball over Thome's head at first to end his postseason streak of errorless games at 46.

Dave Burba, who started the fourth in relief of Nagy, walked Joe Girardi after the error. Derek Jeter drove a triple off the fence in right center to make it 8-5.

Ramirez tried to catch Jeter's drive, but his jump was ill-timed. The ball hit the base of the fence as Ramirez jumped and found himself clinging to the middle of the fence.

Jim Poole relieved and retired Paul O'Neill on a grounder as Jeter stayed at third. Paul Shuey relieved and gave up a run-scoring single to make it 9-5.

Ramiro Mendoza relieved Cone and pitched three scoreless innings. Mariano Rivera pitched a one-two-three ninth.

Lofton, invisible in the first five games of the ALCS, opened the game with a bunt single. Brosius foolishly grabbed the ball before it rolled foul and made a high throw over first baseman Tino Martinez's head to put Lofton on second with a hit and an error.

It was Lofton's first bunt hit of the ALCS.

Vizquel tried to bunt Lofton to third. It wasn't a bad idea for the first couple of pitches, but Vizquel wouldn't quit. Finally, he struck out when he bunted a 3-2 pitch foul.

The pitch appeared to be ball four.

Cone struck out Justice and Ramirez to end the inning. It was not a good sign for those who live by momentum.

Things did not improve as the Indians' first-inning jinx bit Nagy hard.

Jeter, O'Neill and Bernie Williams hit three straight one-out singles. Williams drovehome Jeter for a 1-0 lead as O'Neill went to third. Chili Davis hit a long sacrifice fly to the warning track in right to make it 2-0. The Indians were outscored, 17-3, in the first inning in 10 postseason games this year.

The Yankees hit .500 (16-for-32) with 12 runs in the first inning of the ALCS. The Indians hit .273 (6-for-22) with two runs in the first.

Nagy continued to labor and the Indians continued to miss scoring chances.

Thome started the second with a single to center and Brian Giles followed with a one-out single to right as Thome went to third. But Cone retired the next two batters. The Indians entered the game in an 0-for-13 slump with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees made it 3-0 in the second. Brosius opened with a long drive to the warning track in left. Giles made a fine running catch at the fence. Girardi followed with a solid single to right and Chuck Knoblauch doubled to left. Giles played the ball off the grandstand, but slipped on the wet outfield grass and the ball flew out of his glove.

The error allowed Girard to score from first as Knoblauch went into second with a double.

Brosius did not come up short in his next at bat against Nagy. A call by Hendry - the same umpire who called Travis Fryman safe in the 12th inning of Game 2 on his hotly debated bunt - played a big role in the inning.

Williams started the third with a single. Davis sent a grounder to second that Wilson fielded and made a low throw to second. Vizquel caught the one-hop throw and appeared to keep his foot on second long enough for the force. But Hendry called Williams safe on Wilson's throwing error.

Nagy retired the next two batters as Williams moved to third on a fly ball. The inning would have been over if Hendry had called Williams out at second, but Brosius hit a first-pitch 416-foot homer over the center-field fence for a 6-0 lead.

©1998 THE PLAIN DEALER. Used with permission.

BOX SCORE -    10/13/98


CLEVELAND (5) AT NY YANKEES (9) PLAYOFFS - FINAL 

CLEVELAND              ab  r  h rbi bb so lob   avg
Lofton cf               4  1  2  0   1  1   0  .256
Vizquel ss              5  1  1  0   0  1   1  .300
Justice dh              3  1  0  1   1  1   1  .229
Ramirez rf              3  0  1  0   1  2   4  .343
Thome 1b                4  1  2  4   0  2   3  .237
Fryman 3b               4  0  0  0   0  2   1  .167
Giles lf                4  0  1  0   0  0   0  .136
Alomar c                3  0  0  0   0  1   2  .138
 a-Branson ph           1  0  0  0   0  0   0  .000
 Diaz c                 0  0  0  0   0  0   0  .000
Wilson 2b               4  1  1  0   0  0   2  .188

Totals                 35  5  8  5   3 10  14

a-flied to center for Alomar in the 8th.

BATTING: HR - Thome (6, 5th inning off Cone 3 on, 1 out). RBI -
Justice (8), Thome 4 (10). Runners left in scoring position, 2 out - 
Ramirez 1, Wilson 1, Thome 1. Team LOB - 6.

BASERUNNING: SB - Lofton (3, 3rd base off Cone/Girardi). 

FIELDING: E - Giles (1, bobble); Wilson (1, throw); Vizquel (1, throw). 

NY YANKEES             ab  r  h rbi bb so lob   avg
Knoblauch 2b            5  0  2  0   0  1   2  .167
Jeter ss                5  2  2  2   0  1   1  .176
Oneill rf               5  1  1  0   0  2   3  .306
Williams cf             4  1  3  2   1  0   1  .250
Davis dh                3  1  0  1   0  1   3  .250
Martinez 1b             3  0  1  0   1  2   3  .167
Ledee lf                4  0  0  0   0  0   4  .000
Brosius 3b              3  2  1  3   1  0   0  .333
Girardi c               3  2  1  0   1  0   2  .333

Totals                 35  9 11  8   4  7  19

BATTING: 2B - Knoblauch (1, Nagy). 3B - Jeter (1, Burba). HR -
Brosius (2, 3rd inning off Nagy 2 on, 2 out). SF - Davis. RBI -
Williams 2 (5), Davis (5), Brosius 3 (9), Jeter 2 (2). 2-out RBI - 
Brosius 3, Williams. Runners left in scoring position, 2 out -
Ledee 1, Oneill 1, Girardi 1. Team LOB - 7.

BASERUNNING: CS - Williams (1, 2nd base by Shuey/Alomar). 

FIELDING: E - Brosius (1, throw). 

--------------------------------------------------
    Cleveland      - 000 050 000  --  5
    Ny Yankees     - 213 003 00X  --  9

--------------------------------------------------

CLEVELAND                    ip       h   r  er  bb  so  hr    era
Nagy (L, 1-1)                 3       8   6   3   0   1   1   2.55
Burba                         2 1/3   1   3   1   2   4   0   3.97
Poole                           1/3   0   0   0   0   0   0   0.00
Shuey                         1 2/3   2   0   0   2   1   0   0.00
Assenmacher                     2/3   0   0   0   0   1   0   0.00

NY YANKEES                   ip       h   r  er  bb  so  hr    era
Cone (W, 2-0)                 5       7   5   5   3   8   1   2.89
Mendoza (H, 1)                3       1   0   0   0   1   0   0.00
Rivera                        1       0   0   0   0   1   0   0.00

WP - Burba. IBB - Brosius (by Shuey).  Pitches-strikes: Cone
103-62; Mendoza 39-25; Rivera 9-7; Nagy 58-38; Burba 47-28;
Poole 1-1; Shuey 43-26; Assenmacher 4-4.  Ground balls-fly
balls: Cone 2-5; Mendoza 5-3; Rivera 2-0; Nagy 3-5; Burba 2-1;
Poole 1-0; Shuey 2-1; Assenmacher 0-1.  Batters faced: Cone 25;
Mendoza 10; Rivera 3; Nagy 18; Burba 11; Poole 1; Shuey 8;
Assenmacher 2. 

UMPIRES: HP--Jim Mckean. 1B--Jim Evans. 2B--Ted Hendry. 3B--John
Shulock. LF--Larry Young. RF--Tim Welke.
T--3:31.  Att--57,142.   Weather: 54 degrees, drizzle.   Wind: 10 mph, 
out to right.