CLEVELAND -- It was as if someone were practicing Wahoo voodoo somewhere before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series last night, ramming pins into a little stuffed doll. Cleveland Indians were breaking down all over the place.
Slugger Albert Belle, sidelined by a sprained ankle. Pitcher Dennis Martinez, suffering from shoulder stiffness. Catcher Sandy Alomar, out of the lineup because of a stiff neck. Even Slider, the Indians' mascot, was injured, slipping off the right-field wall during the game and shredding the ligaments in his right knee.
But those Indians left standing compensated for their fallen comrades, battering Seattle Mariners starter Andy Benes. Ken Hill pitched seven shutout innings in a 7-0 victory, and Cleveland tied the best-of-seven series 2-2. Eddie Murray, sliding into Belle's cleanup spot, provided the big blow, bashing a two-run homer in the first inning.
"Any time you lose anybody with the ability that Albert has, you need people to step up," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove.
Cleveland's victory ensures that the series will end in Seattle, at the Kingdome, where the Mariners enjoy a distinct home-field advantage. Orel Hershiser, pitching on three days' rest, will attempt to gain control of the series for Cleveland tonight in Game 5, facing Seattle's Chris Bosio.
The Mariners could have gained control of this series last night. ,, The Indians were reeling, set back by injury. A guy with 50 homers is knocked out of the lineup, Mariners manager Lou Piniella said, and you can't help but feel fortunate. A few quick Seattle runs and a well-pitched game from Benes and nobody would've blamed Piniella if he had started studying some Atlanta Braves scouting reports.
But Benes was terrible, allowing six runs in 2 1/3 innings. Somebody asked Piniella afterward if one particular fault of Benes' stood out in his mind. "Yeah, those balls that were going into the seats," Piniella said.
Will Piniella feel comfortable with Benes in Game 7, if the series goes that long? "Yeah," he said sarcastically. "Out of the bullpen."
Benes threw effectively in his prior start, in Game 5 of the divisional series against the Yankees, pounding strikes past the New York hitters.
But his history in San Diego, before being traded to Seattle on July 31, was good and bad, Jekyll and Hyde. He would pitch masterfully and lose 2-1, and in a subsequent start with run support, he would get bombed, leaving his managers and coaching staff mystified and frustrated.
The bad Benes, the Mr. Hyde side of the right-hander, took the mound for the Mariners last night. Benes repeatedly fell behind in the count and paid for it. Immediately.
Kenny Lofton singled to lead off the first inning for the Indians, stole second and moved to third when the throw from catcher Dan Wilson skipped away. Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel, hitless in the first three games of the series, walked, and Piniella rocked forward on the Mariners' bench, staring into the dugout floor.
Carlos Baerga, intent on advancing the runners, pulled a slow roller to second, and Seattle's Joey Cora had no choice but to flip to first, as Lofton scored and Vizquel moved to second.
With Murray at the plate, Benes fell behind in the count, and he tried throwing a slider. Murray, swinging left-handed, hammered the ball as it crossed the plate knee high. Bam. A 435-foot shot to center, into Cleveland's bullpen. Benes had recorded exactly one out, and he trailed by three runs.
"We didn't pick up on anything wrong with [Benes'] mechanics," Piniella said. "He just got his breaking pitches up."
The Indians scored a single run in the second, and finished off Benes in the third, when Cleveland, for the third straight inning, managed to get the leadoff runner on base. Baerga singled, and one out later, Jim Thome ripped an opposite-field homer, making it 6-0. Manny Ramirez singled to left field, and even as Vince Coleman fielded the ball, Piniella was on his way to the mound to yank Benes.
Despite his apparent disgust with Benes, however, Piniella said "the story was that Ken Hill pitched a good ballgame."
"I just wanted to show my talent," said Hill, obtained from St. Louis for three minor-leaguers July 27. "I went out and pitched the way I know I'm capable of."
Hill pitched imperfectly, getting into jams in the second, third and fourth innings. Throwing with a lead, however, he simply pitched aggressively, throwing strikes when necessary. He hTC departed after the seventh, having allowed five hits and no runs. In the postseason thus far, the Cleveland starters are 4-1 with a 1.45 ERA.
The Indians were in full celebration by the fifth inning, with Slider, the orange muppet-style mascot, leading the way, dancing on top of the eight-foot wall.
But as he stepped over the section of the wall that changes direction, Slider became a sinker, tumbling and landing awkwardly. For several seconds, he limped along the runway as Bob Wells pitched to Baerga. Slider went down in a heap in the bullpen, before being taken away in a wheelchair.
The all-too-serious diagnosis for Dan Kilday, a.k.a. Slider: A torn medial collateral ligament, and a torn anterior cruciate ligament. (The Mariners' mascot, incidentally, broke his ankle roller-blading during a playoff against the Yankees last weekend.)
Maybe the Indians' victory eased the pain for Belle and Alomar -- and Slider.
Seattle Mariners vs. Cleveland Indians
' (Series tied, 2-2)
Day .. .. .. .. .Site/Result .. .. .. .. .. .. Time
Game 1 .. .. .. .Mariners, 3-2
Game 2 .. .. .. .Indians, 5-2
Game 3 .. .. .. .Mariners, 5-2 (11)
Last night .. ...Indians, 7-0
Tonight .. .. ...at Cleveland .. .. .. .. .. ..7:20
Tuesday .. .. ...at Seattle .. .. .. .. .. .. .8:07
Wednesday* .. ...at Seattle .. .. .. .. .. .. .8:07
* -- If necessary
Day .. .. .. .. ..Site .. .. .. .. ..Time
Saturday .. .. ..at Atlanta .. .. ...7:27
Oct. 22 .. .. ...at Atlanta .. .. ...7:27
Oct. 24 .. .. ...at Sea./Cle. .. .. .8:27
Oct. 25 .. .. ...at Sea./Cle. .. .. .8:27
Oct. 26* .. .. ..at Sea./Cle. .. .. .8:27
Oct. 28* .. .. ..at Atlanta .. .. ...7:27
Oct. 29* .. .. ..at Atlanta .. .. ...7:27
* -- If necessary