The American League’s championship series resumes tonight with the Bulldog opposing the Moose.
That may sound like the Bronx Zoo, but then the New York Yankees have been put to bed for the winter.
It’s Orel Hershiser of the Cleveland Indians, one of baseball’s most renowned big-game pitchers, opposing Mike Mussina of the Baltimore Orioles, one of baseball’s emerging big-game pitchers, with the best-of-seven series tied at a game apiece.
Just because he beat Randy Johnson twice in the division series?
What about his 105-49 record?
“I’ve won a lot of games,” Mussina said Friday. “I can’t believe none of them were big.”
Mussina hadn’t won a lot of games against the Indians before this year. He was 0-2 last year with a 14.86 earned-run average and 2-6 in his career. This year, however, he was 2-0, including a 3-0 victory on May 30 in which he came within two outs of a perfect game while striking out 10.
Said Cleveland Manager Mike Hargrove: “My impression of Mussina is the same as everyone else’s. He’s one of the dominant pitchers, as good as there is when he’s on his game.”
The Indians were four outs from coming home 0-2 when Marquis Grissom hammered a three-run, eighth-inning homer off Armando Benitez for a 5-4 victory and a split at Camden Yards.
The potential impact of Grissom’s homer, Hershiser said, reminded him of two memorable homers in the postseason of 1988, when he pitched the Dodgers past the New York Mets in the National League championship series and the Oakland A’s in the World Series. The first was Mike Scioscia’s two-run, score-tying homer off Dwight Gooden in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the league championship series and Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit, ninth-inning homer off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the World Series.
“Grissom’s homer changed the aura,” Hershiser said. “No one gave us much of a chance to begin with. If we had come home 0-2 it would have been us against the world. Now we feel much better about the situation. It’s a five-game series and we have the home-field advantage [with the next three games at Jacobs Field].”
Hershiser is 8-1 in the postseason and came up big again in Game 4 of the division series after pitching poorly in Game 1.
He was asked if he had considered that this could be his last postseason start?
“Not at all,” the 39-year-old right-hander said. “I’m not going to retire, as I’ve said. I expect to pitch next year in the right situation, and I hope that’s here in Cleveland. I mean, I certainly don’t see this as the end of the Indians’ run [of success] but the beginning.”