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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : American League Notebook : A’s Stewart Says Jeers of Fans Motivated Him

Times Staff Writers

While Jose Canseco was laughing about the Boston Red Sox fans’ chants concerning his alleged steroid use, Oakland Athletics pitcher Dave Stewart was using their derision as motivation.

“To be honest, I didn’t feel that good when I went out to the bullpen to warm up,” said Stewart, who allowed 1 run and 5 hits in 6 innings of the A’s 2-1 victory in Game 1 of the American League playoffs Wednesday.

Stewart says he is always very anxiousbefore games and can’t even eat pregame meals because of a nervous condition.

But when he started to warm up Wednesday, he felt nothing.

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“Then a bunch of fans down by the bullpen started heckling badly and it made me mad,” he said. “So I took it out to the mound with me.

“The fans motivated me, and I’d like to thank them,” Stewart said.

A’s Manager Tony La Russa spent about 15 minutes answering questions in the postgame interview room and was about to leave.

“One more thing,” he said. “The play that Carney Lansford made was the best play I’ve ever seen by a third baseman on a pop-up.”

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The play: Boston’s Todd Benzinger, leading off the fourth inning, hit a foul pop fly down the left-field line. Lansford made a headlong dive into the dirt to snag the ball an instant before crashing into the fence.

“I didn’t even know I caught it,” Lansford said. “I couldn’t feel it in my glove and I didn’t know I had it until I pulled my glove up and looked in it.”

With Jim Rice on second and Jody Reed on first in the second inning, Oakland shortstop Walt Weiss made a diving stop in the hole of a hard-hit ground ball by Rich Gedman. Weiss jumped to his feet and fired to second, but Reed got there first.

Wade Boggs struck out to end the inning.

Would Rice have scored if Weiss hadn’t made the play?

La Russa: “I think it makes a much better story to assume that he would have.”

Roger Clemens won’t win his third consecutive Cy Young Award this year, but he gives Boston more than a fighting chance to salvage a Fenway split tonight.

In this “off-year” for Clemens, he led the American League in strikeouts with 291, tied Stewart for most complete games with 14, pitched into the seventh inning in 31 of 35 starts and allowed only 13 runs from the seventh inning on (1.95 earned-run average).

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He also tied the Dodgers’ Orel Hershiser for most shutouts in the majors with 8. That represents the most individual shutouts in the American League since 1978, when Ron Guidry had 9, and the most by a Red Sox pitcher since 1916. In that season, a Boston left-hander named Babe Ruth also threw 9 shutouts.

Before his tiebreaking single, Oakland’s Dave Henderson threatened to become this game’s John Shelby by misplaying a 7th-inning fly ball by Boston’s Rich Gedman.

With Kevin Romine on second base and Jody Reed on first with 1 out, Gedman hit a dying fly ball to center field. Henderson started to run in, then hit the brakes--and the seat of his pants. But Henderson caught an incredibly lucky break when the ball kicked back toward him and he gloved it while sitting on the ground.

Gedman was held to a single, which loaded the bases for Wade Boggs’ eventual game-tying sacrifice fly.

“I don’t think I would’ve got to it if I hadn’t slipped,” Henderson said. “After four steps, I realized I wasn’t going to get it, so I pulled up. That’s when I fell.

“But the runner (Romine) had to hold up and just got to third base. So, it turned out to be a good play for us.”


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