Stretch run may have given O's a tougher front, Morgan says

Go on and admit it. No one will rap you on the knuckles for admitting the simple truth that it just wasn't in the realm of conscious thought that the Orioles would head to Cleveland for Game 3 of the American League Division Series with a 2-0 lead.

After all, the Indians are the reigning league champions who had their playoff ticket stamped seemingly in May, while the Orioles squeezed into the postseason on the last weekend of the season.


But that juxtaposition may very well explain why things are the way they are, according to ESPN and NBC analyst Joe Morgan.

"The Baltimore Orioles have gone down the stretch playing hard and playing tough games, so they're a little tougher at this point, maybe," said Morgan. "Cleveland clinched their division awhile back and the Orioles have been fighting all the way down and nothing really changes. They're still fighting. So, maybe it helps them that they had a pennant race all the way down because they came out firing the first two days."


Morgan says he believes the Indians got seduced by talk that Oriole Park is a bandbox and started swinging from the hips, rather than just getting runners aboard, then allowing the true power men -- Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez -- to bust out the whuppin' sticks.

As the scene shifts to Jacobs Field for Game 3 today (ESPN and Channel 54, 4 p.m.) and the rest of the series if the Indians win today, Morgan says the Orioles should not fall into the trap of thinking that they must wrap up the series in three.

"You have to keep playing the way they've played the first two games. I would tell my teammates that we need to score first. If we can score early, then the pressure starts to build on Cleveland because I'm ahead and I already have a two-game lead," said Morgan. "They just have to play the way they've been playing. They can't say 'We've got it' or 'We have to win it in three.' "

A fourth game in the series would air on ESPN2 and Channel 54 tomorrow at 1 p.m., and a fifth game would appear on Fox (Channel 45) Sunday at 7 p.m.

By the way, Wednesday's Game 2 did a respectable 9.5 rating and garnered a 24 share of the available audience for Channel 54, and ESPN's coverage got a 7.2/18 in the Baltimore region. Nationally, the game did a 3.0 cable rating and was seen in 2.1 million homes.

Let's all play nice

Major League Baseball officials settled a squabble between ESPN and NBC over who would carry tomorrow's New York-Texas game, ruling for ESPN.

According to a schedule released by Major League Baseball on Sept. 26, Game 4 of the Yankees series was to air on ESPN at either 1 p.m., if the Rangers were the American League West champion, or at 11 p.m., if Seattle won the crown, and NBC was to air Game 3 of the St. Louis-San Diego series in prime time.


However, NBC announced yesterday that it would take the fourth game of the Yankees series, after already airing games 1 and 3.

Major League Baseball officials issued a three-paragraph statement last night saying that it had held preliminary talks with the networks about moving the Yankees game to prime time if both American League series were tied at 1-1 after Wednesday. But with the Orioles leading Cleveland 2-0, baseball officials said the original schedule will stand.

That schedule will have the Orioles and Cleveland meeting at 1 p.m. on ESPN2 (and Channel 54), provided the Orioles don't clinch today, the Yankees and Rangers playing at 1 p.m. on ESPN, Atlanta and Los Angeles playing at 4 p.m. on Fox (Channel 45) and the Padres and Cardinals on NBC (Channel 11) at 7: 30 p.m.

On the agua fria

Wasn't it just the other day that the Colorado Avalanche was hoisting the Stanley Cup? Well, before the frost can hit the Zamboni, it's time for it to start defending the Cup, as ESPN kicks off another NHL season with the Avalanche meeting the St. Louis Blues at 8 tonight.

"NHL2Night," ESPN2's five-nights-a-week hockey wrap-up show, has its season premiere tomorrow at midnight, and its package of up to 48 games commences with the New York Rangers, and the newly acquired Wayne Gretzky, playing host to the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m.


Something is happening

Clobbering an opponent in one day isn't enough of a challenge for super middleweight champion Roy Jones Jr.. As you may recall a few months ago, Jones beat up on some palooka a few hours after playing in a United States Basketball League game.

For his latest feat, Jones will pummel No. 1 contender Bryant Brannon after taking questions from a panel of boxing writers and fans at the top of the HBO telecast, which gets under way at 10 tonight.

Pub Date: 10/04/96