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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / AMERICAN LEAGUE

Indians: From Ejection to Elation

Game 2: After Hargrove and Gooden are thrown out in the first, hitters get fired up and Cleveland evens series with 9-5 victory.

October 01, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CLEVELAND — The Indians barely stepped onto the field Wednesday before home plate umpire Joe Brinkman started tossing them, one by one, right off it.

Three pitches into Game 2 of this American League divisional series, Brinkman ejected Cleveland Manager Mike Hargrove for arguing balls and strikes.

Four batters into the game, Brinkman blew a play at the plate, calling John Valentin safe despite a clear tag by catcher Sandy Alomar, and when starter Dwight Gooden screamed a profanity into Brinkman's ear as Gooden trotted back to the mound, Brinkman heaved Gooden too.

After the dust settled, it was Boston ahead by two runs in the top of the first inning while Jacobs Field rattled with frustration.

Cleveland had no outs, no manager, no starting pitcher and a very large chance of going down, 2-0, in the best-of-five series before it shifts to Boston on Friday.

Panic time? It was well past that.

"I'm not saying the umpires are against us," Indian outfielder David Justice said, "but when you have Boston across the field trying to beat us and then you get a couple of guys thrown out, man, it's like everybody's against us, so we've just got to go and take it ourselves.

"It's like you're being backed into a corner, so now it's time to come out fighting."

Almost immediately, the adrenaline rush kicked in, the bats of Sandy Alomar (two doubles, two runs batted in), Kenny Lofton (two runs) and Justice (four RBIs) roared to life, and by the time this long, draining game was over, Cleveland had a 9-5 victory before 45,229.

Cleveland rallied for a run in the bottom of the first, surged for five runs in a second-inning blitzing of shaky Boston starter Tim Wakefield, keyed by Justice's three-run home run. Meanwhile, converted starter Dave Burba turned in a clutch 5 1/3-inning outing after Gooden's ejection and closer Mike Jackson finished things off in the eighth and ninth.

The dramatic developments not only evened the series, 1-1, they seemed to revitalize the Indians, who suffered an 11-3 drubbing in Game 1.

Boston's Bret Saberhagen is scheduled to start against Cleveland's Charles Nagy in Game 3 Friday at Fenway Park.

Hargrove, who took pains after the game not to criticize Brinkman, did agree that the double ejections seemed to trigger something in his team.

"I think the byproduct of it was it turned up our intensity and it turned our fans' intensity up," Hargrove said. "I know our guys came today in a situation where we had to win and they responded very well."

Hargrove was ejected after he went out to the mound to calm Gooden, who glared at Brinkman when two close-call pitches to leadoff batter Darren Lewis were called balls. On his way back to the dugout, Hargrove stopped to chat with Brinkman, and the discussion quickly triggered his removal from the game.

"He was protecting his player," Gooden said of Hargrove. "To defend his pitcher, he's got to say something."

Gooden--who says he never had a problem with Brinkman before--walked Lewis, and then Valentin, and struck out Mo Vaughn before Nomar Garciaparra ripped a ball off the top of the left-field wall. That scored Lewis, but Alomar tagged a diving Valentin on the left arm while Valentin's hand was still about six inches in front of home plate.

"Obviously, I was upset with the pitches to Lewis," said Gooden, who was standing about 10 feet from Brinkman during the play while backing up home plate. "Then the play at the plate, it wasn't a situation where he was blocked or anything--he obviously saw the play. And for whatever reason, he chose to call him safe.

"And by far, he was out. I mean, if you've seen the tape, you know it wasn't a bang-bang play. I was standing right next to him. I was shocked."

As soon as he yelled into Brinkman's ear, Gooden was ejected, and when he was given the news, he erupted in anger, then threw his glove, which still held the game ball, at Brinkman's feet.

"Why don't you go out and pitch?" Gooden raged at Brinkman, before he was escorted back to the clubhouse.

The Indians, instead, chose to go with Burba, who was relegated to the bullpen in favor of Game 4 starter Bartolo Colon at the beginning of this series.

Burba had all the time he needed to warm up--about five minutes--then pitched out of the inning with no further damage. He said he knew that unless he could get to the seventh or eighth inning relatively unscathed, Cleveland had no chance to win.

"I knew that good, bad or indifferent, I was going to be stuck out there for a while," said Burba, who gave up three runs.

Said Hargrove: "I told Dave before the ballgame that I wanted him available from the first pitch because if Doc even got in a little bit of trouble, I wasn't going to mess around. I didn't know how prophetic I would be."

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