Cleveland Indians Advance To World Series for Second Time in Three Years by Beating Baltimore
Cleveland Indians Advance To World Series for Second Time in Three Years by Beating Baltimore Orioles 1-0 on Tony Fernandez’s 11th-Inning Home RunBy DAVID GINSBURG
BALTIMORE (AP) _ They must be hiding good luck charms in those high socks of theirs.
How else to explain the strange fashion in which the Cleveland Indians keep finding ways to win?
The Indians won the AL pennant for the second time in three years Wednesday, beating the Baltimore Orioles 1-0 in Game 6 on an 11th-inning home run by late-substitute Tony Fernandez.
The Indians open the World Series on the road Saturday night against the Florida Marlins.
Cleveland managed only three hits, yet still won their fourth one-run game of the series. The Indians prevailed in Game 2 on a three-run homer by their No. 9 hitter, Game 3 on a blundered squeeze bunt and Game 4 with the aid of a wild pitch that scored two runs.
``This whole series I didn’t think we caught many breaks,″ Orioles manager Davey Johnson said.
``You don’t win this many one-run games because of fate or luck, but because you mind your Ps and Qs and you’ve got talent,″ Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove insisted.
The Indians concluded a magical week with their best trick yet _ surviving another brilliant effort by Mike Mussina and making the Orioles disappear from the playoffs.
The Indians managed only one hit in eight innings off Mussina, who turned in his second straight sensational performance in a losing cause. Mussina left after having thrown 108 pitches in his second successive start with three days’ rest.
``I don’t know if we’ve played a game this postseason in which we’ve been dominated by a pitcher like Mike Mussina,″ Hargrove said. ``He was absolutely outstanding.″
Mussina set an ALCS record with 15 strikeouts in Game 3, but the Orioles failed to score during his seven innings and lost 2-1 in the 12th. The right-hander was even sharper this time, retiring 20 of the first 21 batters while allowing only a leadoff double by David Justice in the fifth.
Again, however, Baltimore couldn’t give him any support and he left after allowing only one hit, two walks and striking out 10.
His line for the ALCS: 15 innings, four hits, no earned runs, 25 strikeouts and two no-decisions.
Mussina set records for strikeouts in an ALCS (25) and in one postseason (41).
Baltimore stranded 14 runners and went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Rafael Palmeiro was the worst offender, going 0-for-3 and stranding five.
Cleveland starter Charles Nagy allowed nine hits and three walks in 7 1-3 innings, but he matched zeros with Mussina to keep the Indians in the game.
The Indians finally broke the scoreless battle in the 11th, when Fernandez launched a 2-0 pitch from Armando Benitez over the 25-foot scoreboard in right field to stun the crowd of 49,075. Fernandez was playing for Bip Roberts, who was out of the lineup after taking a line drive below his left thumb.
``I knew something special was going to happen tonight, but I couldn’t tell you I was going to hit a home run,″ Fernandez said. ``It worked out for the best. I’m glad I was able to contribute in a positive way.″
It was the first postseason home run in 133 at-bats for Fernandez.
``I’m a genius aren’t I?″ joked Hargrove. ``It’s an absolutely fantastic story. It’s hard to embellish on it. I didn’t tell him to hit a home run that last time up or anything.″
Benitez also gave up the game-winning hit in Game 2, a three-run shot by MVP Marquis Grissom, and the decisive RBI single to Sandy Alomar in Game 4.
``Unfortunately, he’s a young pitcher and when you get behind in the count you can’t afford to throw a pitch up in the strike zone. It didn’t happen all year,″ Johnson said.
``It was a learning experience. Hopefully I will learn from this season and come back better next year,″ Benitez said.
Brian Anderson got the win, pitching a scoreless 10th inning, and Jose Mesa got three outs for the save.
The Orioles won a league-best 98 games during the regular season in becoming the third AL team to stay in first place from wire-to-wire.
They’ll be remembered as the first of those three to fail to win the World Series.
``I look back and see we were the best team in AL, just like we were in 1969 when we lost to the New York Mets,″ said Johnson, who played for the Orioles team that was upset in that World Series.
The Indians, whose chose to pull their socks up to the calves as a show of unity, went the distance without Albert Belle, the sullen star who left as a free agent during the offseason. The new-look Tribe has only 10 players left from the 1995 World Series team which lost to the Atlanta Braves.
``It may not be a better club, but it has far fewer distractions,″ general manager John Hart said.
At the request of Fox Sports, the game started at 4:16 p.m. Both teams were worried that the shadows that cross the pitcher’s mound would make pitches difficult to see, but the cloudy sky made that a non-issue.
Notes: Grissom was MVP despite striking out four times in Game 6. ... Justice and Baines were the only players to get a hit in each of the six games. ... The Orioles outhit Cleveland .248 to .193 in the series and outscored the Indians 19-18. ... Thome went 0-for-23 at Camden Yards this season. ... The Indians turned 11 double plays in the series, an LCS record.