Posted: Tuesday October 12, 1999 01:26 AM
CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- New Englanders finally have an October baseball tale that will put a smile on their faces.
Pedro Martinez stopped the scoring madness with six no-hit innings and Troy O'Leary homered twice and drove in seven runs as the Boston Red Sox closed out their American League Division Series with a 12-8 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Renowned for postseason failure, the Red Sox became just the second team to win a best-of-five Division Series after losing the first two games. The Seattle Mariners rallied to defeat the New York Yankees in 1995, the first year of the new format.
The improbable comeback featured the return of Martinez (1-0), who was unable to start due to a strained muscle in his back. The likely Cy Young Award winner made amends for a second dreadful outing by former Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen and brought stability to a wild game that was tied 8-8 after four innings.
"I decided I was going to be out there and whatever happened, happened. If if they decided to take me out in the middle of an inning, I would do that," Martinez said. "But I had to be out there as long as I could."
Martinez tossed four scoreless innings to open Game One and was even more dominant tonight. He allowed just three baserunners, all on walks, and struck out eight, including Omar Vizquel to end it.
"Saberhagen said that he was good to start and Pedro has been getting better the last three days," Boston manager Jimy Williams said. "Pedro came out about 4 p.m today and made a few tosses and said his arm felt good. With that in mind, we felt he could give us a few innings, tops."
Adding to the lore was the unusual fashion in which the Red Sox scored. O'Leary belted a grand slam in the third inning and a three-run blast in the seventh, both following intentional walks to Nomar Garciaparra, who homered in the first. The seven RBI matched the postseason record also equaled by teammate John Valentin in Sunday's 23-7 victory.
"It's been like that all year because of the player that (Garciaparra) is and the star that he is," said O'Leary, who was 0-for-5 on Sunday. "Sometimes I respond. Sometimes I don't. But tonight was a good night."
The Red Sox have not won a World Series since 1918 and have not been to an ALCS since 1990. However, they took a winner-take-all game for the first time since beating the California Angels in the 1986 AL Championship Series. Boston advanced to face its most hated rival, the New York Yankees, in the ALCS beginning Wednesday night in the Bronx.
It was the Yankees who inflicted perhaps the most painful October loss in Boston history, a 5-4 victory in a one-game playoff for the AL East title at Fenway Park in 1978.
The loss was a bitter one for the Indians, who have won AL Central Division titles for five straight seasons but are without a World Series crown since 1948. Cleveland appeared headed to its third straight ALCS after an 11-1 win in Game Two but allowed 43 runs over the last 21 innings of the series.
"This is pretty disappointing. We got a lot of veteran players and I'm sure they learn every year," Vizquel said. " People we expecting this team to go a lot farther."
Paul Shuey (0-1) was the victim in the three-run seventh that put Boston ahead to stay. Valentin reached on infield single off Shuey's bare hand before Indians manager Mike Hargrove gave Garciaparra a free pass. O'Leary answered the challenge, belting a three-run homer over the right-field fence for an 11-8 lead.
"You don't pitch around people when there is no one on base. You pitch around people in RBI situations," Hargrove said. "I chose to pitch around Garcicaparra. We had been handling O'Leary until tonight."
With Martinez unable to start, the Red Sox turned to Saberhagen, who was pounded as he was in Game Two. Saberhagen may have won Game Seven of the 1985 World Series for Kansas City, but he wilted in the big-game pressure tonight. He lasted just two batters into the second inning, allowing five runs and four hits.
Cleveland starter Charles Nagy, who like Saberhagen was working on three days rest, was equally ineffective. Nagy lasted one batter into the fourth, allowing eight runs and six hits.
The Red Sox, who set major league postseason records for runs and hits in Game Four, jumped on top in the first on a two-run homer by Garciaparra, his second of the series and fifth in eight postseason games against the Tribe.
The Indians responded quickly in their half when Kenny Lofton walked, stole second and scored on a double by Omar Vizquel.
Thome gave Cleveland a 3-2 lead, clouting a pitch 477 feet deep into the center field stands.
Saberhagen was the victim of two hard-hit balls before being lifted in the second. Wil Cordero singled high off the wall in left field before Travis Fryman hit a ball that bounced off the top of the wall and over for a homer and a 5-2 lead. Fryman's blast first was called a double before the umpires conferred and reversed the ruling.
Boston fought right back in the third when Trot Nixon walked, went to third on a single by Jose Offerman and scored when Valentin grounded into a force play. Brian Daubach doubled off the left-field wall and Hargrove walked Garciaparra to get to O'Leary, who drove in 103 runs during the season.
O'Leary responded by hitting the first grand slam in Boston's postseason history over the right-center field fence for a 7-5 lead.
Cleveland regained the lead in the third on doubles by Roberto Alomar and Manny Ramirez, his first hit of the series, and a two-run homer by Thome off Derek Lowe over the center-field fence. It was Thome's fourth homer of the series and 16th in the postseason, moving him ahead of Babe Ruth into third place on the all-time list.
Valentin made it 8-8 in the fourth with a sacrifice fly that scored Darren Lewis, who had absent-mindedly wandered off second and went to third when catcher Sandy Alomar threw the ball into center field.
Garciaparra capped the scoring with an RBI double in the ninth.
The Indians played most of the game without Lofton, their star center fielder and leadoff hitter. He dislocated his left shoulder making a headfirst slide into first in the bottom of the fourth.
For three innings, Martinez was matched by rookie Sean DePaula, who did not allow a hit before giving way to Shuey in the seventh.
"They got it done. I give them a lot of credit," Shuey said. "I think we lost a little mementum when Pedro came in and shut us down. DePaula was awesome for us."
Ramirez, who drove in 165 runs in the regular season, was 1-for-18 with one RBI in the series.