O'Leary's bat speaks loudly
Soft-spoken Boston hitter generated plenty of noise
Posted: Tuesday October 12, 1999 08:34 AM
Boston's Troy O'Leary is greeted by teammates after his third-inning grand slam against Cleveland. AP
CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cleveland Indians feared Nomar Garciaparra so much they walked him intentionally twice. They should have worried about Troy O'Leary.
Twice O'Leary came up after the AL batting champion stared at four balls and twice he homered on the first pitch -- a grand slam in the third inning and a three-run homer in the seventh.
Finally, the Indians decided to walk O'Leary intentionally in the ninth. By then it was too late.
The two homers by O'Leary, who doesn't get much attention because of his soft-spoken nature, gave the Boston Red Sox a 12-8 win as they came back from losses in the first two games to take the AL division series 3-2 Monday night.
"It's the biggest night of my life," Boston's left fielder said.
There haven't been many good ones lately. He had been 2-for-17 in the series before his first homer and he had tailed off at the end of a season in which he hit .280 with a team-high 28 homers.
"It doesn't matter. That's all in the past," O'Leary said. "Tonight's a big night for us."
The Red Sox move on to the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees starting Wednesday night in Yankee Stadium.
O'Leary's second homer broke an 8-8 tie in the seventh and put the Red Sox ahead 11-8. The first had put Boston in front 7-5 in the third.
It was understandable for the Indians to risk pitching to O'Leary.
He went 0-for-5 Sunday night when Boston pounded out 24 hits in a 23-7 win at Fenway Park that tied the series. And first base was open both times Garciaparra came to the plate before the homers.
"We had been handling O'Leary up until tonight," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. "There was no way to pitch around (Garciaparra) in the first inning because there was a man standing on first base.
"In subsequent times, first base was open so we put him on."
The first inning gave the Indians even more reason to pitch to O'Leary rather than Garciaparra, who had given Boston a 2-0 lead with a homer. O'Leary ended the inning by striking out.
He was in the midst of his second straight horrid division series after going just 1-for-16 last year as Cleveland beat Boston 3-1.
In the third, after Brian Daubach's double put runners at second and third with one out, Hargrove had Charles Nagy walk Garciaparra. O'Leary then hit Nagy's next pitch 417 feet into the right-center field stands for Boston's first postseason grand slam in its history.
"My man Troy!" an uncharacteristically exuberant general manager Dan Duquette said, pouring champagne over O'Leary's head.
"Got the first grand slam in postseason history. Thatta baby!"
It was Duquette who claimed O'Leary on waivers on April 14, 1995, after Milwaukee gave up on him. O'Leary responded by batting .308 that season.
On Monday, the score was tied 8-8 when Hargrove faced a decision on whether to walk Garciaparra in the seventh. And, despite O'Leary's grand slam, the manager still wanted no part of Garciaparra.
So after John Valentin walked and moved to second on Daubach's grounder to second baseman Roberto Alomar, Paul Shuey deliberately threw four balls to Garciaparra.
"They walked Nomar a few times. That's a personal challenge," Boston right fielder Trot Nixon said. "Troy took that to heart."
"It's been happening all year. Sometimes I respond. Sometimes I don't," O'Leary said of the intentional walks to Garciaparra. "The way I've been swinging, I told myself just make good contact."
He couldn't have done much better.
"It was Troy's day today,' said Valentin, who just one night earlier had two homers and seven RBIs. "He doesn't get the credit. We love him."
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