CLEVELAND -- For one night, at least, the 93rd World Series turned into the Snowfall Classic. The temperature dropped into the low 30s and Game 4 was played through a series of snow flurries, but it still wasn't as flaky as the night before.
Cleveland Indians rookie Jaret Wright pitched six solid innings and the Indians offense picked up where it left off in the wild ninth inning of Game 3 on the way to an 10-3 victory over the Florida Marlins that evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
The sellout crowd of 44,877 at Jacobs Field braved another less-than-enchanted evening to watch the Indians finish with 15 hits, pounding Marlins rookie Tony Saunders for six runs and seven hits over two-plus innings. Catcher Sandy Alomar continued his amazing postseason performance with three hits and three RBIs; outfielder Manny Ramirez hit his ninth career postseason home run, and Matt Williams became only seventh player in baseball history to homer in the World Series for a team from each league.
"We came out ready to play tonight," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove. "The thing we did tonight, we maintained it from the first pitch on. The other night we had a lull and allowed them back into the game. With a good club like that, you can't do that."
The victory set up a critical Game 5 pitching rematch between veteran Orel Hershiser and Marlins rookie Livan Hernandez in the final game in the great almost-white north. The winner will be in a position to win the world title with a split of the final two games at Pro Player Stadium.
One way or the other, the Marlins will be happy to get back to the tropics.
Marlins manager Jim Leyland continued to insist that the brittle weather was a non-issue, but some of his players apparently disagreed. Left fielder Moises Alou took the field with open-face ski mask and shortstop Edgar Renteria wore a thick turtleneck that he pulled up to his eyes when he was on the field.
The quality of play was not nearly as ragged as it was during Tuesday night's 14-11 fiasco, but Saunders got off to a rocky start, giving up three runs on four hits in the first inning. The Indians, who had jumped on top the night before, only to lose the game in the late innings, shook off the frustration of that defeat and came back swinging.
"I think we approach every game the same," said Williams, who reached base in each of his five plate appearances and had three hits. "We try to be as aggressive as we can and take it to the other team no matter who it is."
Saunders, who grew up outside Baltimore, may have had trouble gripping the ball, or simply struggled to get a grip on his emotions. How many rookies would be able to maintain perfect composure starting a World Series game in front of a deafening sellout crowd on the road?
Wright obviously felt much more at home, but he got in trouble with a single and a walk in the top of the first before third baseman Bobby Bonilla bailed him out with a double-play ball. He struggled to stay ahead in the count, but still kept his wits about him long enough to record his third victory of the postseason.
"I'm going out there doing the same thing, trying to throw strikes," Wright said. "You score 10 runs, three in the first, and that gives you momentum. You just want to keep it going when they're scoring runs like that."
The Marlins had some chances, but Wright worked out of trouble after giving up a run in the fourth and made one big mistake after that -- a pitch that Alou launched into the left-field stands for his second home run of the series.
"I will say that I was very impressed with Jaret Wright," said Leyland. "He's everything I heard and more. That's a great arm, with a two-seamer [fastball], a four-seamer, breaking ball and I can tell he's obviously working on his changeup. But he has all the ingredients to be a great one from what I saw. I was very, very impressed, and he was popping the ball real good."
The Indians were not so reticent to take advantage of their early-inning opportunity. Saunders struck out the first batter he faced, but allowed hits to four of the next five, including a two-run home run to Ramirez and a run-scoring double to Alomar.
Round up the usual suspects. Ramirez has been the Indians' most productive postseason hitter this year and is fast becoming the Mr. October of Cleveland. The home run, an opposite-field shot to right, was his second of this World Series, his fourth of the 1997 postseason and the ninth of his career, which only spans four years and change.
Alomar's postseason heroics also have been well-documented, from his game-saving home run in Game 4 of the Division Series to his game-winning single against the Orioles in Game 4 of the ALCS to his great all-around performance Sunday night in Miami, when he homered and made the defensive play of the game.
"This is what I play for," Alomar said. "I've been injured; I've been down and it has taken a toll on my knees. But I have come back. I have come back and I've worked very hard all season."
In another strong Game 4 performance, he doubled into the gap in left-center to score Williams in the first inning and singled through the right side of the infield in the third to bring home David Justice with the Indians' fifth run of the game.
Saunders was not long for the game at that point. He walked the next batter to load the bases and left without a happy memory of his World Series debut. He lasted two-plus innings and gave up six runs on seven hits and three walks. It could have been even worse, but reliever Antonio Alfonseca worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation to hold the score at 6-0.
The Marlins finally broke through in the top of the fourth, when Darren Daulton doubled off the right-field wall and designated hitter Jim Eisenreich brought him home with a single to left. Wright worked out of trouble in that inning and worked through the sixth, his only other lapse the two-run homer by Alou that temporarily pulled the Marlins to within three runs.
No problem. The Indians continued to hammer the ball all over Jacobs Field. They loaded the bases against reliever Ed Vosberg in the bottom of the sixth and padded their lead when Alomar grounded into a run-scoring force play at third. Bonilla nearly turned the hot shot into a double play, but this is Alomar's year. The throw to first was slightly off line and Omar Vizquel scored, giving Cleveland's All-Star catcher another big RBI.
Alomar could be on his way to the World Series MVP award. Through four games, he is batting .471 (8-for-17) and has driven in six runs. If the Indians go on to win the world title, he might get some stiff competition from Marquis Grissom, whose 14-game World Series hitting streak came to an end, but still is batting .500 (7-for-14) through the first four games.
Both sides now
Matt Williams last night became the seventh player to homer for teams from each league in the World Series:
Player .. .. .. ..NL .. ..AL
Kirk Gibson .. .. .1 .. ...2
Roger Maris .. .. .1 .. ...5
Frank Robinson .. .1 .. ...7
Bill Skowron .. ...1 .. ...7
Enos Slaughter .. .2 .. ...1
Reggie Smith .. ...4 .. ...2
Matt Williams .. ..1 .. ...1
vs. Florida Marlins
(Best of seven; chs. 11, 4)
Series tied 2-2
Game .. .. .. .. .. .... ..Result
Game 1 .. .. .. .. ..Florida, 7-4
Game 2 .. .. .. ...Cleveland, 6-1
Game 3 .. .. .. ...Florida, 14-11
Last night .. .. .. ..Clev., 10-3
Day .. .. .. ..Site .. .. ..Time
Tonight .. .. .at Clev. .. ..8:20
Saturday .. ...at Florida .. ...8
Sunday .. .. ..at Florida ..7:35*
Pub Date: 10/23/97