The American League Championship Series has become more than a competition between two teams. It has also developed into a battle of the fans, and the Indians appear to have the edge there, too.
Popular opinion among both clubs and members of the media is that the crowd at Cleveland's Jacobs Field for games 3, 4 and 5 of the American League Championship Series was louder and more involved than the Camden Yards contingent in games 1 and 2.
"I think the intensity level was much higher, and I don't know why," said pitching coach Ray Miller. "I don't know whether it's the Dawg Pound background or the fact those guys have won the last three or four years and this team's only won once. But it was pretty impressive to me. I don't know how long the games were, but 80 percent of the people were standing."
"Cleveland fans supported their team tremendously," right fielder Eric Davis said. "They were a 10th man, and [the Indians] got a lot of inspiration from them. Our fans are the same way, but fans only cheer when you give them something to cheer about."
Davis said he believes the crowd here needs a little prodding. "I think you have to give credit to their scoreboard operator. With the gimmicks he puts on the screen, it gets the fans fired up. It's not our fans, it's our scoreboard operator. If he puts it on the board, our fans will cheer," he said.
Brady Anderson, who praised the fans here for filling Camden Yards each night, suggested there isn't always strength in numbers.
"They're very loud and they're always in the game," he said, "but it's like Yankee Stadium. You put 30,000 Yankees fans together and they're going to be louder than 50,000 Orioles fans every time. That's just the way it is. In New York, you have to be loud."
Anderson: Leg no hindrance
Anderson said the strained muscle in his upper right thigh that slowed him noticeably in Baltimore and raised concerns about how much he could contribute the rest of the series, didn't restrict him once the games shifted to Cleveland.
"That off day that we had [Friday], I felt really bad. I wasn't able to move that well at all. But once [Game 3] started, I felt better than I had expected," he said.
Calming the coach
When Jimmy Key entered Monday night's game in the sixth inning, relieving starter Scott Kamieniecki, Miller said, "That was probably the most calm I've been in the whole five games.
"I knew it was the right situation. I knew he was a big-game pitcher."
He had been a struggling pitcher, but Key gave the Orioles three hitless innings before turning the game over to closer Randy Myers in the ninth.
"He threw strike one and hit both sides of the plate," Miller said, adding that Key could be available tomorrow if the series goes seven games.
Nagy backs Hershiser
No news conference in this series would be complete without a few questions pertaining to Orel Hershiser and the allegations by Orioles manager Davey Johnson that the Cleveland pitcher is known to doctor the ball.
First, Indians pitcher Chad Ogea heated up the topic by saying Hershiser "cheats," and so does "just about everybody else." Then, manager Mike Hargrove denied that either of his pitchers resorted to illegal tactics.
Yesterday, Indians Game 6 starter Charles Nagy was asked about the internal reaction to Johnson's accusation.
"People have been saying that about Orel for a long time now," Nagy said. "We joke with Orel about it, but from what I've seen, he doesn't cheat. He throws the ball really well. He doesn't need to cheat."
Nagy rebuffed the suggestion that bad blood has developed between the teams, especially after Kamieniecki hit Manny Ramirez with a pitch in the first inning of Game 5, leading to an exchange of words between the players.
"It's just part of the game," Nagy said. "People might want to make more out of this than there is, but it's just things that happen during the course of the game. This is the ALCS. People are going to say things and do things to try and get the edge. But we still have to go out and play the game between the lines."
Wacky and weary
Players from both clubs have talked about how emotionally draining the series has been, with its narrow margins, bizarre twists and dramatic finishes.
"It wears on you a little bit," Nagy said, "but I think you see it on both sides. [Monday,] both teams were a little tired just because of the previous games. [Yesterday] was a much-needed day off. That's one of the reasons why we're probably not having a workout, just to give the guys some time off to get away from the field for a while."
"They've been exciting to me," said the Orioles' Davis. "These games have given fans, as well as the players, everything they can ask for."
Slumping Indians credit O's
The Indians lead this series despite a .216 team batting average that hitting coach Charlie Manuel attributes to the Orioles' pitching.
"When you run into good pitching and they're locating the ball and have good command I'd say our offense is going to have a hard time hitting the ball," he said. "We've got to take what we can get. And we've been hyped. Our games have been kind of nerve-racking. The biggest thing is to relax and tell yourself this is just another ballgame and concentrate on what you're doing. Let your ability take over for you. Don't panic."
Cleanup hitter Jim Thome is in one of the deeper funks, going 1-for-10 with five walks. A .286 hitter with 40 homers and 102 RBIs during the season, Thome hasn't knocked in a run during the ALCS.
"I watch his films and I watch him hit, and believe me there isn't a whole lot that he's doing different, except that I think he's trying too hard and kind of pressing a little bit and trying to do too much," Manuel said. "The only thing Jimmy needs to do is have a big game. It's just a matter of time."
Orioles spokesman John Maroon said the club still is discussing what, if anything, will be done today to acknowledge the death of John Denver, whose song "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," is played during the seventh-inning stretch here.
Denver, who danced atop a Memorial Stadium dugout as the song played during a World Series and did the same at Camden Yards during a Sept. 20 game, died Sunday.
"Part of our feeling is the best way to honor him is to continue playing the song, which has become part of a baseball tradition in Baltimore," Maroon said. "Other than that, we're not sure. It's still being talked about."
Brady Anderson, who has homered twice during this ALCS, has six career postseason homers, tying him for second place on the Orioles' all-time list.
Player .. .. .. .. .HRs
Frank Robinson .. .. .9
Boog Powell .. .. ....6
Eddie Murray .. .. ...6
Brady Anderson .. .. .6
Part of the Orioles' postseason success this year is due to keeping their opponents' leadoff and No. 2 hitters off base. A look at how Seattle and Cleveland table-setters have struggled:
Hitter .. .. .AB .. ..H .. ..BB .. ..OBP .. ..R
Cora .. .. ...13 .. ..3 .. ...0.. . .230 .. ..1
RKelly .. .. .12 .. ..4 .. ...0.. . .333 .. ..1
Amaral .. .. ..3 .. ..2 .. ...0.. . .667 .. ..2
Rodriguez .. ..4 .. ..0 .. ...0.. . .000 .. ..0
Total .. .. ..32 .. ..9 .. ...0.. . .281 .. ..4
Roberts .. ...20 .. ..3 .. ...0.. . .150 .. ..0
Vizquel .. ...20 .. ..1 .. ...2.. . .167 .. ..1
Fernandez .. ..3 .. ..1 .. ...0.. . .333 .. ..0
Total .. .. ..43 .. ..5 .. ...2.. . .170 .. ..1
Pub Date: 10/15/97