CLEVELAND -- This was the World Series that was going to establish Atlanta Braves right-hander Greg Maddux as something more than just a great regular-season pitcher. This was his chance to shake off the ghosts of postseasons past and show the world that he is -- in April and October -- the best of his generation.
The coronation was supposed to be last night. There was just the small matter of dismissing the struggling Cleveland Indians the way he did in Game 1 and the transformation would be complete.
It just didn't happen. Maddux threw the ball well, but not well enough and the Indians clung to life with a 5-4 victory that sent the 91st World Series back to Atlanta for Game 6 and maybe even Game 7 this weekend.
Maddux pitched seven innings and gave up four runs on sevehits, which would be an adequate performance for the average major-league starting pitcher, but was something less than that with postseason veteran Orel Hershiser on the mound for the Indians. Hershiser was on the wrong end of a two-hit performance by Maddux in Game 1, but he got even with an eight-inning, five-hit performance that gave the Indians a chance to even the series tomorrow night.
It must have seemed like an impossible task, considering the numbers that Maddux brought into the game. He was 18-0 in his previous 21 road starts, dating to 1994 and including a no-decision in the first game of the Divisional Series in Denver. And he had given up as many as four runs just three times all season before Manny Ramirez drove in the fourth Indians run in the seventh.
"I was not really disappointed with the way I threw the ball tonight," Maddux said. "I thought I pitched pretty good. Everything they got, I thought they earned."
The Indians were supposed to be ready to go. They came into the game with a .190 combined batting average in the series and an average of just 3.5 runs per game. That figured to translate into another dominant performance by Maddux, but there were indications early on that he wasn't the same pitcher who threw a near-perfect game in the opener.
The first sign was the one-out walk to light-hitting Omar Vizquein the first inning. The next was the mistake pitch that Albert Belle sliced into the right-field bleachers to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. Then he walked Eddie Murray after buzzing his helmet with a high fastball that nearly touched off a bench-clearing brawl.
Two walks in the first inning. Maddux averaged less than one walk per game through 32 regular-season and postseason starts this year. He had walked more than two batters in a game just once. But he said afterward that it was not as bad as the box score might indicate.
"The No. 2 hitter [Vizquel] laid off some good pitches," Maddux said. "The 2-2 pitch to Eddie I thought was a pretty good pitch and the 3-2 pitch he didn't chase. I didn't even think the pitch to Belle was a bad pitch. I might have gotten it down a little more, but I'm just not used to seeing that ball travel that far."
Maddux threw 102 pitches, which means that he has little chance of coming back if a seventh game is necessary. He'll have to settle for a 4-3 overall record in postseason play, which doesn't do justice to his status as the best pitcher of the 1990s, but he said yesterday that he wasn't disappointed.
"I think you always want to be as good as you can be," he said"but you just have to pitch. You have to block out everything else and just worry about pitching."
3' Atlanta Braves vs. Cleveland IndiansSite ..... Result/day .. time TV
Game 1 ... Braves, 3-2
Game 2 ... Braves, 4-3
Game 3 ... Indians, 7-6, 11 inn.
Game 4 ... Braves, 5-2
Game 5 ... Indians, 5-4
Game 6 ... Tomorrow
Atlanta .. 7:20 ........ 11, 4
Game 7* .. Sunday
Atlanta .. 7:20 ......... 2, 7
* -- If necessary