MIAMI -- The Cleveland Indians have proved it over and over. They are the team that will not die.
They came back in the Division Series. They upset the heavily favored Orioles in the American League Championship Series. And last night they pushed the 93rd World Series to the limit with a 4-1 victory over the Florida Marlins at Pro Player Stadium.
Right-hander Chad Ogea made the sellout crowd of 67,498 do a double take, beating the Marlins with both his arm and -- believe it or not -- his bat. He pitched five strong innings to out-duel Marlins ace Kevin Brown for the second time in six days, and contributed a clutch two-run single that would be the only run-scoring hit of the game. He later doubled and scored as well.
The Indians backed him with a flashy defensive performance and a resourceful offensive attack to move within one victory of their first world title since 1948.
"We've got a club that a lot of people wanted to write off a number of times," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove, "and a couple of times rightfully so. But we've got a lot of good people on this team. Guys who believe in themselves and their talent. They've got a lot of heart and I'm proud to be associated with them."
The largest baseball crowd in the short history of major-league baseball in South Florida had come to see the Marlins celebrate the greatest sporting achievement by a local professional team since the Miami Dolphins won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1972-73. Instead, they watched the Indians crank up the pressure by forcing a decisive Game 7.
Left-hander Al Leiter is scheduled to take the mound for the Marlins tonight against Indians rookie Jaret Wright. Indians veteran Charles Nagy had been listed as the tentative starter, but he was up in the bullpen during last night's game, which finalized the pitching change by Hargrove.
The Marlins didn't want it to come to this. They had the cheap champagne on ice and their top regular-season pitcher on the mound, but Brown again found himself struggling to keep the game under control. He had given up six runs on 10 hits over six innings on the way to a loss in Game 2, and battled control in the early innings last night.
It didn't help when Bobby Bonilla turned a playable bouncer by Matt Williams into a leadoff single in the second inning. Brown walked two of the next three batters and then engaged in a surprisingly tough one-on-one battle with Ogea, who fought off a pair of two-strike pitches -- even fouled one off his face -- before lining a two-run single to right field.
What a time for Ogea's first major-league hit. He did not bat in the 1995 World Series and was hitless in two interleague at-bats this year, but he became the first American League pitcher to have a multi-RBI game in the World Series since Oakland's Mike Moore drove in two runs in Game 4 of the 1989 "Earthquake Series" against the San Francisco Giants.
He wasn't through. Ogea led off the fifth inning with a sharp grounder down the right-field line and legged out a double, becoming the first pitcher to have a multi-hit game in the World Series since David Cone had two hits for Toronto against Atlanta in 1992.
"I just tried to swing hard in case I hit the ball," said Ogea. "My father always taught me to hit to right field, so I tried to do that."
Interestingly enough, the last pitcher to get more than two hits in a game was teammate Orel Hershiser, who had three hits for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 against the Athletics in 1988. Perhaps just as interesting, Ogea was using a Hershiser-signature bat in last night's game.
"The biggest thing is, I was just up there trying to make contact and a couple of balls went through," said Ogea, who claimed that he had not had a hit since high school. "It was fun."
The 26-year-old right-hander cruised through the early innings without incident. He didn't give up his first hit until Devon White singled with two outs in the third and did not face a serious scoring threat until Moises Alou and Charles Johnson opened the fifth with back-to-back singles. The Marlins finally broke through in that inning when pinch hitter Darren Daulton lined out to right field to score Alou from third.
"I thought we would have a better chance against him this time," Marlins manager Jim Leyland said of Ogea. "He was very impressive. He changed speeds well. He spotted the ball well. I was very impressed and he looks like he's had a bat in his hands before. He's just a very good athlete."
Once again, the Indians' offense kept the pressure off. Ogea went through the first two playoff series without getting a single run of offensive support. He pitched well twice against the Orioles in the ALCS, but took the loss when Scott Erickson pitched a shutout in Game 1 and when Scott Kamieniecki and Jimmy Key strung together eight scoreless innings in Game 5.
In each of his two World Series starts, Ogea has had comfortable early leads. He pitched into the seventh inning in Game 2 and gave up just a run on seven hits to record his first World Series victory. The Marlins appeared to have him on the ropes in the fifth inning last night, but he got Edgar Renteria to ground out weakly with two runners on and the heart of the Florida lineup just ahead.
Hargrove had him on a short leash, going to the bullpen when Ogea walked right fielder Gary Sheffield to lead off the sixth. Three Indians relievers pitched four scoreless innings, with Jose Mesa getting his first save of the World Series and his fourth of the postseason.
"I was completely gassed," Ogea said. "When you're not used to swinging the bat and you're on the bases a couple of times, it has an effect."
Hargrove obviously hadn't forgotten the lesson he learned in Game 1, when the rigors of pitching and hitting caught up with Hershiser in the fourth inning.
The Indians manager went right to his bullpen at the first sign of trouble in the sixth and brought on setup man Mike Jackson, who walked pinch hitter Jim Eisenreich with one out but got out of trouble when Vizquel made an unbelievable diving play to rob Johnson of a run-scoring hit.
Vizquel ranged well to his right and went airborne to flag down the ball, then popped up to make a strong throw that got Johnson by a half-step.
It was one of a series of clutch defensive plays by the Indians that began when Marquis Grissom sprinted to the deepest part of center field to make a back-to-home-plate grab on a long fly ball by Jeff Conine in the second inning.
Left fielder David Justice also made a big catch to rob Conine in the fourth inning and a great hustle play to hold Alou to a leadoff single on a fifth-inning shot that short-hopped the fence.
"I thought the Cleveland Indians played almost a perfect game," Leyland said. "They got contributions from everyone. Ogea had two hits. They moved runners. Omar Vizquel made a great play. It was just a great game."
Cleveland Indians vs. Florida Marlins
(Best of seven; chs. 11, 4)
Series tied 3-3
Game 1 Florida, 7-4
Game 2 Cleveland, 6-1
Game 3 Florida, 14-11
Game 4 Cleveland, 10-3
Game 5 Florida, 8-7
Last night Cleveland, 4-1
Day Site Time
Tonight at Florida 7: 35
Pub Date: 10/26/97