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Fair Play Wins for the Indians

Game 2: Controversial bunt play in 12th helps Cleveland get even with New York, 4-1.

October 08, 1998|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — The umpires botched the call, Chuck Knoblauch blew his cool and the Cleveland Indians escaped Yankee Stadium with a split.

After 11 innings of excruciatingly intense baseball, Game 2 of the AL championship series turned on a bizarre bunt play in the 12th inning Wednesday.

Umpires failed to call Travis Fryman out for interfering with Tino Martinez's throw as he ran inside the line on his bunt attempt, and Enrique Wilson broke a 1-1 tie by scoring all the way from first base as Knoblauch stood at the bag pointing and arguing, instead of picking up the ball.

Kenny Lofton followed with a two-run single, and the Indians beat New York, 4-1, evening the AL championship series at one game apiece.

"I started out inside the line and when I knew I could get by Tino, I tried to straighten out a little bit," Fryman said.

It was a play that will surely be debated, much like J.C. Martin's controversial bunt that won Game 4 of the 1969 World Series for the New York Mets against Baltimore.

"It was so blatant. I don't know what to say. It was a terrible call," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "There was no line ever touched."

Forget about domination, and put revenge on hold--plays like this can turn a series around.

Jim Thome singled off Jeff Nelson leading off the 12th, Cleveland's first runner since Omar Vizquel tripled with one out in the eighth. Wilson ran for Thome, and Fryman sent a bunt up the first-base line to Martinez.

Martinez threw to Knoblauch, the second baseman who was covering first, and the ball hit Fryman, who was clearly running in fair territory, in the back.

Baseball rules require that a runner be on the foul side of the line for the final 45 feet to first base, but it is up to the umpire's judgment whether a runner interferes with the play.

"The play occurred right at the base," crew chief Jim Evans said. "The fact that he was literally on the base or half a step from the base, he has the right to be in that position."

Evans said there are two keys.

"Is it a throw that would have retired him, and how close is he to the base?" Evans said. "He has the right to be in fair territory that close to the base."

While Wilson rounded second, Knoblauch was pointing at the base, trying to get first-base umpire John Shulock or plate umpire Ted Hendry to reverse the call.

While Wilson rounded third, Knoblauch still was pointing.

Finally, he picked it up, but it was too late. Wilson, who nearly tripped himself up as he headed home, sprawled into the plate with the go-ahead run.

"I thought we'd have to get a wheelbarrow out there for a while," Indian Manager Mike Hargrove said.

Torre argued to no avail.

"I thought they made the right call," Hargrove said. "If I were on the other side, I might have a different opinion."

Torre also was angry at Hendry's calls behind the plate.

"The ball-strike stuff stunk tonight, but it stunk for both sides," he said.

In blowing out Jaret Wright in the first inning of Game 1 Tuesday and cruising to a 7-2 victory, the Yankees looked invincible, just like they did during the regular season. But maybe avenging last year's loss to Cleveland in the first round won't be so easy for the Yankees, who lost for the first time in five postseason games this fall.

Right from Kenny Lofton's game-opening flyout to the warning track in center, the Indians seemed different. David Cone nearly matched Charles Nagy, but the top of the New York batting order, nearly silent in the first-round sweep of Texas, once again sputtered.

David Justice put the Indians ahead with a fourth-inning homer off Cone--the first time the Yankees trailed this postseason--but Scott Brosius' RBI double tied the score in the seventh and chased Nagy, who had been working on a four-hit shutout.

Cleveland is used to coming from behind in the postseason. This is the eighth straight time the Indians lost a series opener.

After an off day, the series resumes Friday night at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, with Andy Pettitte (16-11) pitching for New York against Bartolo Colon (14-9).

Dave Burba, the sixth of seven Cleveland pitchers, was the winner, and Mike Jackson got the save. Nelson, the fourth of five New York pitchers, was the loser.

Nagy and Cone were brilliant. Nagy, who beat Boston in Game 3 last week after winning five of his last six decisions in the regular season, allowed one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one.

Cone, who wanted to atone for an awful start in the opener against Cleveland last year, gave up five hits in eight innings, striking out five and walking three.

Justice, only three for 18 against Cone in his career, homered for the first hit off Cone, sending an 0-1 pitch over the fence in right as Paul O'Neill came close to denying him with a leaping catch.

Cleveland then loaded the bases on walks to Manny Ramirez and Brian Giles around a single by Fryman. But Sandy Alomar stranded them when he grounded to first.

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