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Indians Rally Around the Flag Again

September 24, 1997|From Associated Press

David Justice doesn't know much about the New York Yankees' decades of dominance of the Cleveland Indians.

He does know a bit about playoff celebrations.

Justice, a member of five division champions with the Atlanta Braves, keyed a dramatic comeback with a home run and score-tying single Tuesday night as the Cleveland Indians clinched their third consecutive AL Central title with a 10-9 victory over their age-old nemesis, the New York Yankees, at Cleveland.

"It's a great feeling, the same feeling as when we clinched in Atlanta," said Justice, who set up Sandy Alomar's game-winning single in the ninth that capped Cleveland's comeback from a 9-2 sixth-inning deficit. "They're all exciting."

About 10 minutes after the final out, Chicago was eliminated with a 5-3 loss at Minnesota. Thousands of fans remained to watch the White Sox lose and revel in the Indians' first victory in 63 tries when trailing after eight innings this season.

They got one more chance to boo former Indian outfielder Albert Belle, who struck out leading off the ninth for Chicago. Some Cleveland players who were watching on TV in the clubhouse said, "Ohhhhh," in mock disappointment.

Justice hit a solo homer off Hideki Irabu to key a two-run eighth as the Indians pulled to 9-8, then tied it with an RBI single off Jeff Nelson (3-7) in the ninth.

Alomar, who hit a two-run homer and RBI single earlier, singled to center to drive in Matt Williams, who had walked.

It was yet another thrilling moment for Alomar in this ballpark, where he hit the go-ahead homer in the All-Star game in July.

"I guess I'm always in the right spot," Alomar said. "David Justice's [hit] gave me a chance to get mine. If he doesn't get that hit, I never get to the plate."

The Yankees, second to Baltimore in the AL East and Cleveland's probable opponent in the first round of the playoffs, weren't concerned about losing momentum against the Indians, a club they have dominated.

Although they are 5-5 against Cleveland this year, the Yankees are 13-5 at Jacobs Field the past four seasons.

"This game doesn't have any bearing on next week," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said.

Minnesota 5, Chicago 3--The White Sox were eliminated in the AL Central when they lost to the Twins at Chicago and Cleveland rallied to beat New York.

The White Sox signed Belle away from the Indians in the off-season in hopes of ending Cleveland's two-year run atop the division. But it was not to be.

With the score tied, 3-3, Denny Hocking walked leading off Minnesota's fifth, and one out later, Brad Brede hit his third home run to make it 5-3. It was Brede's first homer since Sept. 8 when he connected against Oakland.

Frank Thomas hit a three-run homer for the White Sox and kept his league-leading average at .352.

Baltimore 3, Toronto 2--The Orioles moved closer to their first division title in 14 years by beating Rogers Clemens and the Blue Jays at Toronto.

Roberto Alomar went two for five, scored a run and drove in one for Baltimore, whose magic number to win the AL East stands at one.

Clemens (21-7) gave up three runs and eight hits in eight innings. The right-hander, who struck out 11 and walked two, will have one more start to try to set a Toronto record for wins in a season.

Detroit 6, Boston 0--The Tigers got two RBIs from Bobby Higginson and climbed above the .500 mark for the first time in two years with the win over the Red Sox at Detroit.

The Tigers are 79-78 after going 16-6 this month. Detroit, which lost 109 games last year, has a winning record for the first time since April 16, 1996, when it was 8-7.

Milwaukee 7-2, Kansas City 4-6--Jeff King hit a two-run home run as the Royals earned a split at Milwaukee.

In the first game, Darrin Jackson's suicide squeeze in the bottom of the seventh snapped a tie to lead the Brewers. Milwaukee officially was eliminated with Cleveland's victory over New York.

King, who became the first Royal since 1988 to reach 100 RBIs, went five for six with five RBIs and four runs in the two games. King's fifth-inning homer, his 25th, snapped a 2-2 tie.

Jim Pittsley (5-8) pitched five innings for the win in the second game.





Player Team Performance Team's Result Frank Thomas Chicago 3-run home run Loss Sandy Alomar Cleveland 2-run home run, 4 RBIs Win Jeff King Kansas City 5 for 7, 4 RBIs in doubleheader Split




Player Team Performance Team's Result Bob Tewksbury Minnesota 6 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs Win Nerio Rodriguez Baltimore 5 1/3 innings, 2 runs, 2 hits Win Roger Clemens Toronto 8 innings, 3 runs, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts Loss


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