WORLD SERIES: ATLANTA BRAVES vs. CLEVELAND INDIANS : Stifled Indians Can Only Sit and Tip Their Caps to Glavine : Baseball: Cleveland batted only .179, eighth-lowest in Series history.


Wave after wave of reporters stopped by Cleveland Indian reliever Jim Poole’s locker to grill him about the home run he gave up to Atlanta’s David Justice on Saturday, a sixth-inning blast that was the only run in the Braves’ 1-0, World Series-clinching victory.

But after Poole had showered and dressed and the mass media had dispersed, there was still one more inquiring mind, who stood about three feet tall, waiting inside Poole’s locker.

“Dad, did we lose?” 3-year-old Austin Poole asked.

“Yep, we lost,” Poole said.

“Dad, did you give up a home run?”

“I sure did,” said Poole, who hadn’t given up a homer to a left-handed batter since May 12. “He knows that part well. He likes to hit a lot more than he likes to pitch.”


So did the Indians, at least before this World Series, their first in 41 years. They won 100 games during the regular season with a high-powered offense that hit .291, the best team average in 45 years, and led the major leagues in runs.

Their lineup was filled with big boppers such as Albert Belle, who had 50 home runs and 52 doubles, Manny Ramirez, who hit 31 homers, and Jim Thome and Paul Sorrento, who hit 25 homers each.

But these are the World Series numbers they will ponder all winter: a .179 average, the eighth-lowest ever for a team in the Series, 19 runs and 59 total bases in six Series games. That’s an average of about three runs and 10 total bases a game.

Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium has been called the Launching Pad, but it was more like the Landing Pit for the Indians, who crashed to earth with a grand total of nine hits--count ‘em, nine--in three games here, including two against Greg Maddux in Game 1 and one against left-hander Tom Glavine in Game 6 Saturday night.

But unlike their previous losses against superior Brave pitchers, the Indians didn’t chalk this one up to swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, being over-anxious.

“Glavine was just awesome,” Cleveland pitcher Orel Hershiser said. “We hit two balls hard all night. He completely shut us down. He could have easily thrown a no-hitter.”

Hershiser knows a thing or two about pitching pressure games in the World Series--he almost single-handedly pitched the Dodgers to the 1988 championship over the Oakland Athletics--and he could relate to what Glavine was going through Saturday night.

“He’s got to be elated,” Hershiser said. “In the next two or three weeks he’s going to be shaking his head, asking himself, ‘Did that really happen?’

“It’s really like an out-of-body experience. He might have a dream next week that Albert went deep on him, and he’ll wake up and say, ‘Nope, that didn’t happen.’ ”

Virtually nothing happened when the Indians were batting Saturday. All they managed against Glavine were three walks and one single, a soft liner to center by catcher Tony Pena to lead off the sixth inning.

But the rare scoring opportunity died quickly when Poole popped to first trying to bunt. Only one Cleveland runner reached second all game, Kenny Lofton in the sixth, but that was with two out, and Vizquel popped out to end the inning.

“It was a masterful job by Glavine,” said Dennis Martinez, who pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings Saturday. “He showed me why [Atlanta Manager] Bobby Cox said earlier in the week that this is the man he wants for the big game. He changed speeds, hit the corners, moved the ball around. That’s how you win ballgames. You have to tip your hat to him.”

The Braves finished the series with a 2.67 earned-run average, but in their four victories, Atlanta starters gave up only nine hits in 29 innings and had an 0.93 ERA.

“I was really surprised how well they pitched considering they had a week’s rest [before the Series],” Vizquel said. “They made very few mistakes. They never challenged us with inside fastballs, even on counts where you thought you’d get a good pitch to hit.”

And when the Indians did hit the ball well Saturday, they had nothing to show for it. Sorrento drove a ball off closer Mark Wohlers toward center field in the ninth that several Indians felt might have a chance to clear the wall, but the wind knocked it down, and outfielder Marquis Grissom had more than enough room to make the catch.

Carlos Baerga followed with a ball hit well to left-center, but Grissom ran it down to end the game.

“I thought I got all of that, but the ball kind of died,” Baerga said. “It surprised me, because everyone says the ball flies out of here. I don’t know if it was the wind or cold weather that knocked it down.”

After the final out, Baerga stood with his hands on his hips between first and second as pandemonium broke out around him, Braves pouring out of the dugout and fans onto the field to celebrate.

Baerga stood there for several moments, absorbing the entire scene, committing it to memory.

“I’m never going to forget that,” Baerga said. “It was really hard for me. This is the first time I’ve been close to getting a ring, and that was the first time I’d seen anything like that. It’s something I want to be a part of, and it’s something that will motivate me next year.”