Johnson made right call with yank in seventh inning, starter Wells says Left-hander usually resists removal, but not this time

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson walked to the mound in the seventh inning yesterday expecting a fight.

That's the norm when he informs starting pitcher David Wells that his work is done. Johnson braced himself for the usual heated exchange that accompanies a mound-side visit with Wells. There would be a little cussing, Wells would stare down Johnson, then he would urge the manager to keep him in the game.

Not so yesterday.

Wells left the game after 6 2/3 gutsy innings with barely a peep, much less a holler.

"I walked out there fully capable of letting him talk me out [of pulling him]," Johnson said. "If he gave me that normal glare that he gives me, like, 'What the heck are you doing out here?' I would have left him in.

"But I think the pressure of the game and the effort he put forth through the game drained him quite a bit. At that point, it wasn't like he was going to fight me if I made a change."

Playoff games can do that to a pitcher, especially when your team is trailing the New York Yankees 1-0 in the American League Championship Series.

Wells allowed eight hits, though three of them came in the first inning, and three earned runs to pick up his first win of the 1996 postseason. The Orioles won, 5-3, tying the series. Three of the Orioles' four playoff wins have come in games Wells started.

It didn't appear that would hold up yesterday. Wells was in trouble early, then worked out of it. The Yankees led off the first inning with three straight singles, all on fastballs -- the pitch Wells threw almost exclusively in his first two playoff starts.

Fastballs on the inside corner, that was the original game plan again yesterday. But when the Yankees jumped to a 2-0 lead, things changed in a hurry.

"We started throwing more breaking balls and changeups and mixing it up," catcher Chris Hoiles said. "That was the biggest thing in the turn-around. Basically, he wanted to throw fastballs in and dictate the count. But those three hits pretty much distracted us from that."

Pitching coach Pat Dobson talked to Wells in the dugout before he took the mound in the second inning and told him to slow down. "I'm always hyper out there," Wells said.

Then everything changed.

Wells allowed just three hits over the next four innnings, and registered a strikeout after each hit, negating any chance of a big inning.

He threw a first-pitch strike to 12 straight batters. The Yankees went 0-for-12 against Wells with runners on base after the first.

"That's rising to the occasion," Dobson said. "Don't let them get any chances. Don't let them put it in play. Whatever we needed, he did it."

The Yankees' best opportunity to rattle Wells came in the fifth inning, when catcher Joe Girardi led off with a triple to the right field gap. Wells struck out the next batter, Derek Jeter, the Orioles' public enemy No. 1.

Tim Raines then worked a full count before Wells threw a pitch just off the plate that he believed was a strike. Ball four.

Often, Wells stomps off the mound and screams in such situations. But yesterday he merely crouched down, stuck out his tongue and winced in mild disappointment.

"You gotta deal with it and accept it," Wells aid. "You gotta go on to the next guy. You can't dwell on it, because they [the umpires] are going to miss pitches and we're gonna make bad pitches."

The next guy was Bernie Williams, public enemy No. 2, who hit a game-winning homer in the 11th inning of Game 1. No sweat.

Wells struck him out on four pitches and got slugger Cecil Fielder to ground out, ending the inning with Girardi still standing helplessly at third base and the score still knotted at 2.

Draining stuff, even for Wells.

"Yeah, I was drained," Wells said. "Johnson asked me how I felt, and I just looked at him and said, 'I still got some more in me.' He said, 'That's all I need to know.' He did what was best and he did the right thing."

Great escapes

After yielding two runs on three hits in the first inning, David Wells shut down the Yankees until the last of the seventh. His most impressive innings came in the fifth and sixth.

In the bottom of the fifth, after Todd Zeile had tied the score, 2-2, on a two-run home run in the top of the inning, Yankees catcher Joe Girardi threatened to put the Yankees back in front with a leadoff triple. However, Wells struck out Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams and retired Cecil Fielder on a ground ball to escape the jam.

In the sixth, Mariano Duncan hit a one-out double, but Wells struck out Paul O'Neill and Charlie Hayes to keep the score tied at 2. In the top of the seventh, the Orioles took the lead for good on Roberto Alomar's double and two-run homer by Rafael Palmeiro.

Pub Date: 10/11/96

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