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Pitching in

Cleveland starters shutting down Red Sox, critics

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Posted: Saturday October 09, 1999 02:48 AM

  Burba: "I just have to go out and pitch like it's any other game." AP

BOSTON (AP) -- Fenway Park is no place for a rookie pitcher, never mind a right-hander, to make his major league debut.

But it's where Dave Burba made his.

"The only thing I can remember was that my legs were shaking so hard I didn't think I was going to be able to throw a baseball," Burba said.

He is nervous again.

Burba will start Game 3 of the AL division series today as the Cleveland Indians try to complete a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox.

"I just have to go out and pitch like it's any other game," he said. 'I know it's important, but I have to stay focused. I can't have my mojo messed up."

Burba, the Indians' class clown, loves to joke around. He says "mojo" with a British accent just like Austin Powers, the fictional movie spy. He's also got Rodney Dangerfield's routine down pat, and Burba will sometimes break into his impersonation of the disheveled comedian in the middle of Cleveland's clubhouse.

If Dangerfield had been watching the first two games of the AL division series between Cleveland and Boston he might say, 'I tell ya', the Indians pitching staff, they don't get no respect.'

"People don't think we have any pitching," Burba said following the Indians' Friday workout at Fenway Park. 'Throughout the year, that's all we heard. "Cleveland doesn't have enough pitching to go anywhere. They'll never win with those guys.' Well, to me, you don't win 97 games without some kind of pitching."

Or the first two games in this series.

Burba, who rescued the Indians pitching out of the bullpen in last year's playoffs, will start Game 3 against Boston's Ramon Martinez. Burba has a tough act to follow if the Indians intend to sweep.

Bartolo Colon and Charles Nagy have had consecutive strong starts for the Indians so far, but their performances have been overshadowed by Pedro Martinez's injury in Game 1 and Cleveland's 10-run blowout in Game 2.

It figures. The Indians get some great pitching and nobody bothers to notice.

"You guys have ripped our pitchers all year long," Indians catcher Sandy Alomar said. "It's always been like that in Cleveland. Just because we score a lot of runs, people don't think we have any pitching. You don't get to the World Series twice in five years if you don't have good pitching."

Good. Not great. That has been the rap on the Indians' pitching staff all year. Without a clear-cut No. 1 starter among them, Cleveland's pitchers have become an easy target.

But few teams in baseball have the balance of Cleveland's starting rotation, or its bullpen depth.

"We don't have a rotation of Cone, Clemens, Hernandez and Pettitte or Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz and Millwood," manager Mike Hargrove said. "But our guys are good, solid pitchers. Charles Nagy won what, 17 games? Bartolo Colon won 18. Dave Burba won 15. That's three guys right there that are as good as anyone else has got.

"When you have a team with a dominant characteristic like we do with our offense, some of the parts of the puzzle will get overlooked. And that's what has happened with our pitching."

Boston was supposed to have the advantage in this series because of its pitching. More specifically, because of the great Pedro Martinez.

But it has been Cleveland's pitching which has been dominant.

Colon and Nagy combined to hold the Red Sox to three runs and 10 hits in 15 innings in the first two games, and Boston is batting just .188. Only Mike Stanley (five hits), Nomar Garciaparra (three) and Jose Offerman (three) have done anything against Cleveland. The rest of the Red Sox are 2-for-41.

So far, the postseason has justified the Indians' decision not to trade for another starting pitcher to get them deeper into October. Curt Schilling, David Wells and Chuck Finley were among the pitchers rumored to be on their way to the Indians at some point in 1999.

"There's not a Randy Johnson on our staff," Burba said. "And no Pedro. I guess we don't have a quote bona fide No. 1 starter. But I'd rather have our pitching staff than anybody else."

Burba said all the negative talk directed at the Indians' starters has motivated the group to shut down offenses and shut up critics.

"It kind of drives you," he said. "You just want to go out there and prove that we have a good pitching staff."


 
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