Cleveland Rocks N.Y., Leads Series


Chuck Knoblauch stood with his hands on his hips and watched the Indians circle the bases again. This one wasn't his fault, and the Yankees couldn't argue about anything.

After

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  • winning Game 2 with a freaky gift courtesy of Knoblauch, Cleveland needed no assistance Friday night.

    "Playing the New York Yankees is all the motivation we need," said Omar Vizquel.

    Jim Thome homered twice and Cleveland pounded Andy Pettitte for four homers -- three in a 13-pitch sequence in the fifth inning -- and Bartolo Colon pitched a four-hitter for a 6-1 win over the Yankees in Game 3 of the AL championship series.

    Cleveland, given little chance to stay with the powerful Yankees before the series started and even less after New York won the opener in a rout, is doing what many thought was impossible.

    "I've proud of them, but I'm not surprised," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "We knew coming in we were underdogs, but we were underdogs last year. I've said it a thousand times. The postseason is a brand new deal."

    Manny Ramirez and Mark Whiten also homered for the defending AL champs, who also turned three double plays behind Colon.

    Meanwhile, the Yankees' storybook regular season, which included 114 wins, an AL East title and comparisons to the great teams in baseball, seems like ancient history.

    Bartolo Colon
    Bartolo Colon beat the Yankees 6-1 for the Indians' first postseason complete game since 1954. (AP)

    Whatever went right for New York from April through September has disappeared in October. The Yankees aren't hitting in the clutch. Their owner, who stayed in the shadows all year when things were going well, is now everywhere. And for the first time since the first week of the season, New York is trailing another team.

    "It's got to get going, we're too good not to get it going," said Pettitte, tagged for six runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. "I hate to say we're putting too much pressure on ourselves. It's seems the other team has turned it up a notch. ... We might be pressing a little bit."

    Manager Joe Torre had held a pregame meeting to focus his club after the events of Game 2, but even that didn't seem to help. And now Dwight Gooden, one of the most popular players ever in New York, will start Game 4 Saturday night against rookie Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez with a chance to push the Yankees a little closer to elimination.

    "We need to hit a little bit," Torre said. "We just haven't been hitting. Not to take anything away from Colon, but we need to get back on the stick."

    Pettitte, who lost twice to Cleveland in last year's postseason, got rocked so badly in the fifth he appeared to be on the verge of tears as he staggered to the Yankees' dugout after the Indians were done with him.

    Cleveland was leading 2-1 at the time on the strength of Thome's second-inning homer and rookie Enrique Wilson's RBI single when the Indians started taking some in-game batting practice with two outs.

    After Ramirez hit his fourth homer this postseason and 13th of his career into the Yankees' bullpen, Travis Fryman walked. Thome then skied a ball toward right that finally came down over the wall in right.

    Whiten, a former Yankee playing in his first playoff game this year, followed with a liner that scattered fans on the left-field porch and sent the 44,904 at Jacobs Field into a frenzy.

    "No butterflies," said Whiten. "I was nice and relaxed. I just tried to stay focused and put a good swing on the ball."

    When he was finally pulled, Pettitte walked slowly toward the bench, and after setting down his glove, rubbed his hands on his head trying to figure out what went wrong.

    Yankee fans everywhere were probably doing the same.

    Knoblauch, the Game 2 goat for failing to pick up a ball that got away on a controversial call at first base, wasted no time in putting Wednesday's events behind him.

    He was greeted with a sarcastic standing ovation in pregame introductions and before his at-bat in the first, but his single to left quickly quieted the crowd.

    Derek Jeter sacrificed and Paul O'Neill's groundout moved Knoblauch to third where he briefly chatted with Fryman, whose bunt single led to Knoblauch's 12th-inning blunder.

    Bernie Williams then slapped a single to score Knoblauch, who received a warm greeting when he got t the dugout.

    The Indians stranded two runners in the bottom of the first against Pettitte, who was continually high in the strike zone and behind in the count.

    Thome made him pay for just that in the second, driving a 3-1 pitch into the Indians' bullpen to tie it 1-all. Whiten didn't give the left-hander any chance to relax by following with a double.

    Whiten moved up on Sandy Alomar's grounder to the right side, and with the infield in, Wilson, who scored on a mad dash around the bases when Knoblauch decided to argue with the umpires, bounced an RBI single through the middle.

    Colon, who got 16 outs on grounders, pitched the first complete game in the ALCS since Wilson Alvarez for the White Sox in 1993, and the first for a Cleveland pitcher in the postseason since Bob Lemon in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.

    Notes

  • Cleveland Hall of Famer Bob Feller threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
  • Williams has hit safely in eight straight ALCS games.
  • Gooden will be seeking his first postseason win. He lasted just 22 pitches before being ejected in his Game 2 start against Boston in the division series.
  • Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove hadn't decided on a Game 5 starter by gametime, saying he was still checking his options. They include: Chad Ogea , Dave Burba and Jaret Wright , who didn't get out of the first inning in Game 1.
  • New York starting pitchers entered the game 4-0 this postseason with a 0.97 ERA.
  • Tino Martinez went 0-for-4 and is now 7-for-57 (.123) with zero RBI in his last 14 career ALCS games. He is hitless in his last 18 ALCS at-bats.

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