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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / AMERICAN LEAGUE | 7 RBI's

A Mo-mentous Occasion for the Red Sox

Game 1: Vaughn ties playoff record in 11-3 victory over Indians.

September 30, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CLEVELAND — More power. More confidence. More pitching. More savvy. And especially and spectacularly, Mo Vaughn.

It was an overflow of Mo, actually. A dam-burster.

The Boston Red Sox, who hadn't won a playoff game since the 1986 World Series (losing 13 straight), and Vaughn, who went hitless in Boston's last postseason appearance, opened this American League division series Tuesday by closing the door on the past with an overpowering 11-3 defeat of the Cleveland Indians before 45,185 at Jacobs Field.

"What I really wanted to do was get all that stuff out of the way--I didn't want to have to worry about it any more," the Red Sox first baseman said. "Now that we've got that done . . . we can go out and play.

"It's definitely nice to get rid of a lot of things."

All the pent-up frustrations and all the ghosts of Red Sox failures past were released (at least temporarily) about five minutes into this game when Vaughn muscled Jaret Wright's full-count pitch the opposite way into the left-field bleachers for a startling three-run home run.

Vaughn, who had gone 0 for 14 in 1995 during Cleveland's first-round sweep of Boston after his MVP season, added a two-run shot in the sixth inning, and finished the day with a postseason record-tying seven runs batted in.

Vaughn tied the major league postseason RBI mark set by Seattle's Edgar Martinez in Game 4 of the 1995 division series against the New York Yankees.

"Wow," Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra said when asked about Vaughn's performance. "Is that good enough?"

In 1995, Vaughn clearly pressed, trying to prove his worth by over-swinging and playing into pitchers' hands, and Boston went out meekly (with a team batting average of .184) against the Indians.

"I think you all saw in '95 that I was trying to do things that weren't there," Vaughn said. "I just wasn't ready in '95.

"I told the guys before this series that they just have to relax and try to have fun. The '95 playoffs went so fast for me. Before I knew it, we were here and we played three games and we were gone."

Garciaparra, Boston's other big gun, hit a three-run homer of his own in the fifth, and the two combined to drive in all of Boston's runs.

No. 2 batter John Valentin, the only other position player remaining from the '95 team (Tim Wakefield is the only pitcher), had three hits and scored four runs.

With all the offensive fireworks, Boston dispatched Wright, Cleveland's best big-game pitcher, without a superlative performance from ace Pedro Martinez.

Wright, who got his first postseason defeat after going 3-0 in 1997, lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up six runs, seven hits, two walks and striking out six.

Staked to the sudden lead, Martinez turned in a no-frills seven innings, giving up three runs, striking out eight and walking none.

Cleveland, the Central Division winner, trailed, 8-0, after Vaughn's second homer, but had a chance to claw back into the game after Kenny Lofton's two-run homer off Martinez in the sixth and Jim Thome's solo shot in the seventh as Martinez tired.

The Indians followed Thome's homer by putting runners at second and third against Martinez with one out, but after a visit from Manager Jimy Williams, Martinez finished off his outing without further damage by retiring Sandy Alomar and Omar Vizquel.

"What really motivated me," Martinez said of the seventh-inning predicament, "was to hear Jimy say, 'I came out here to take you out and I'm not going to do it because I have a lot of confidence in you and I know you can do it.' That made me feel real confident and made me go a little harder."

So, all of a sudden, today's Game 2 is a face-the-music moment for the Indians in this best-of-five series--they know they are in deep trouble if they go to Boston for Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) trailing, 0-2.

Wakefield starts today for the Red Sox, Dwight Gooden for the Indians.

Cleveland, however, has faced the 0-1 situation several times recently.

The Indians dropped Game 1 in their divisional series against the Yankees and the AL championship series against Baltimore in 1997, and in the 1995 championship series against Seattle, and ended up winning all three series.

"It's not the perfect-world scenario," Indian Manager Mike Hargrove said. "We certainly did not come in here looking to lose the first game to keep our tradition going.

"We would rather have won the first game, but if you can get any comfort out of anything, we have done it before. We have to do it again."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Vaughn Very Driven

Most RBIs in a postseason game:

* 7: Mo Vaughn, Boston vs. Cleveland, Sept. 29, 1998 (Division series).

* 7: Edgar Martinez, Seattle vs. New York, Oct. 7, 1995 (Division series).

* 6: Will Clark, San Francisco vs. Chicago, Oct. 4, 1989 (NLCS).

* 6: Bobby Richardson, New York vs. Pittsburgh, Oct. 8, 1960 (WS).

A.L.

TUESDAY

Red Sox: 11

Cleveland: 3

Texas: 0

New York: 2

TODAY

Boston at Cleveland

10 a.m., ESPN

Texas at New York

5 p.m., Ch. 4

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