In a Pinch, Davis Brings Inspiration, Celebration
By William Gildea
CLEVELAND, Oct. 13 "Youíre my hero," Rafael Palmeiro said to Eric Davis late tonight, extending his fist for Davis to touch from his chair two lockers away. "Youíre my hero."
Palmeiro said his heart was still beating fast from Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, won by Baltimore, 4-2, with Davis stroking a pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning to provide breathing room for Palmeiro and the other Orioles to escape Cleveland. "I canít wait to get on the plane so I can relax," said Palmeiro.
"Harold is a great hitter. I was surprised at the call to pinch hit," said Davis. "I just tried to get a good pitch. Iíve been seeing the ball pretty good the whole series." He opened the ninth by falling behind in the count. It was 1-2 when he swung hard. "It was a slider," he said. "I knew he wasnít going to throw me a fastball because I faced him yesterday and he threw me one and I almost hit it out."
Geronimo Berroa drove in two runs with a two-out single in the third inning against the Indians starter Chad Ogea, who proved tough otherwise over eight innings. Robby Alomar walked, moving Brady Anderson along to second, and up stepped Berroa against the right-handed Ogea. "When they were facing Robby, I knew they were going to pitch him carefully because I was hitting behind him I was the right-handed hitter," Berroa said "The first thing Iíve got on my mind is just go up there aggressively like I do. He tried to throw me away, and I got the base hit up the middle. That was a great point for us."
Until the ninth inning, it appeared that Berroaís hit would be the difference, but Davis touched off a firestorm against Assenmacher. Palmeiro followed with a double and Cal Ripken drove him in with his second single of the game. As it turned out, the Orioles needed something more because once the game was turned over to Randy Myers after Scott Kamieniecki and Jimmy Key combined for eight scoreless innings, the usually reliable closer helped to speed up Palmeiroís heart rate and no doubt that of countless Oriolesí fans as he allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth. Davisís homer loomed large as Myers wobbled.
"Itís amazing heís able to contribute to the team," the happy, excited Palmeiro said of Davis. "He just had therapy" his latest treatment following his cancer surgery coming immediately after Game 2. "Itís amazing," Palmeiro repeated. "Heís my hero."
"I know it made a lot of us happy," Orioles Manager Davey Johnson said of Davisís home run, only the teamís second pinch-hit home run of 1997. "Each of us was just tickled that he made a big contribution."
"Just about won the game," Palmeiro said.
Davis knotted his tie, pulled on his dress shoes. He was asked if something like this, hitting a pinch-hit home run in a Game 5 of an ALCS, "kept him going."
"Just putting my uniform on keeps me going," he responded. "Being able to get out there keeps me going. Thatís the best therapy."
And the home run? "Itís the icing."
Going home was what Davis had on his mind most of all. He was dressed and ready for what promised to be a happy flight. The Orioles, looking as if they were about to be dispatched, still had hopes of winning their first pennant since 1983. Their hopes late tonight were more realistic than at any time since things began to go crazily wrong last weekend.
"This means weíre going home and putting on our white uniforms," said Davis, the teamís prime exhibit of whatís possible.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company