In a Fall Classic, Indians Prevail in 12
By Mark Maske
CLEVELAND, Oct. 11 Mike Mussina notched 15 strikeouts to further cement his status as one of baseballís best pitchers, and the Baltimore Orioles were handed a gift of a ninth-inning run by the Cleveland Indians. Yet they could not find a way to win an epic Game 3 of the American League Championship Series today at Jacobs Field. The Indians got a disputed run-scoring passed ball by Orioles catcher Lenny Webster in the 12th inning to escape with a 2-1 victory before a raucous crowd of 45,047.
After all of the plot twists finally were exhausted, the Orioles were left needing to do some catching up for the first time in 1997. They spent every day of the regular season in first place in the AL East. They played from ahead in beating the Seattle Mariners in the first round of the playoffs, and they won the opening game of this best-of-seven series. But the Indians have rallied with consecutive dramatic wins and are scheduled to send prized rookie Jaret Wright to the mound to face Scott Erickson in Game 4 here Sunday.
The Indians got Matt Williamsís run-scoring single in the seventh inning against Mussina and handed a 1-0 lead to closer Jose Mesa in the ninth. But they botched a would-be double play ground ball, and center fielder Marquis Grissom lost a fly ball to give Brady Anderson an RBI double.
Mussina outdueled Randy Johnson in beating the Mariners twice during the first round of the playoffs, and added to his ever-growing reputation today. His 15 strikeouts in his seven-inning, three-hit, one-run performance established his career high and set a team record. It also was a record for a league championship series game. He matched a league championship series mark with five consecutive whiffs at one point.
Mussina issued only two walks, both to Manny Ramirez, and threw 79 strikes among his 120 pitches. He struck out Bip Roberts and Vizquel three times each. He whiffed Ramirez, Brian Giles and Grissom two times apiece and got Jim Thome, David Justice and Williams once each.
But Cleveland moved in front in the seventh on Mussinaís walk to Thome on a disputed ball four call, Justiceís soft base hit on a ball that center fielder Anderson apparently didnít see until it was too late and Williamsís ground-ball RBI single.
Relievers Paul Assenmacher and Mike Jackson got Cleveland through the eighth after starter Orel Hershiser had limited the Orioles to four hits over his seven shutout innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts. But Mesa surrendered a leadoff single in the ninth to Chris Hoiles.
Pinch hitter Jeffrey Hammonds followed with a grounder to second baseman Fernandez, who chased pinch runner Jeff Reboulet back toward first. Reboulet stopped and Fernandez threw to first baseman Thome to get the out on Hammonds, but Thomeís throw to second base to try to get Reboulet deflected off Rebouletís arm. He was safe as the Indiansí pleas that Reboulet should be called for interference went nowhere. Reboulet scored when Grissom, who won Game 2 for Cleveland with an eighth-inning home run, lost Andersonís high fly to center field and had the ball land about 40 feet behind him.
The Orioles got out of a ninth-inning jam courtesy of an apparently erroneous call by first base umpire Durwood Merrill. TV replays indicated that Sandy Alomar beat Orioles third baseman Cal Ripkenís throw to first base on his two-out ground ball with two runners aboard, but Merrill called him out. The Orioles left the bases loaded in the 11th when Rafael Palmeiro struck out against Cleveland reliever Al Morman.
The Indians squandered a first-and-third, no-out chance and left the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning. Orioles reliever Arthur Rhodes issued a leadoff walk to Vizquel and Ramirez lined a single to right field. Orioles Manager Davey Johnson and head trainer Richie Bancells went to the mound to check on Rhodes, who was pitching for the first time in this series after suffering a strained muscle in his left arm near his elbow during the first round of the playoffs. That prompted an angry tirade at the umpires by Indians Manager Mike Hargrove, who apparently believed that Johnson was stalling with Randy Myers warming up in the bullpen.
Kevin Seitzer, pinch hitting for Thome, failed to get down a bunt but Rhodes threw a wild pitch to get Vizquel to third base. Johnson went to Myers with the count 2-2 to Seitzer. Ripken made a superb diving play on Seitzerís ground ball to get the out at first base, with Vizquel holding at third and Ramirez going to second. Justice lined out to B.J. Surhoff in shallow left field. Williams walked to load the bases, but Myers struck out Alomar.
Indians hitters struck out 21 times on the day, and Orioles batters whiffed 12 times. The total of 33 strikeouts matched the major league record for a postseason game that these two teams set last year in the divisional series.
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