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Colon, Vizquel Lead Cleveland To Win


Bartolo Colon astounds with sheer ease and consistency. Omar Vizquel does it in one shocking instant, making the kind of play no one can remember any shortstop making before.

That combination helped Cleveland beat the Houston Astros 4-2 Friday night, giving the Indians their sixth straight victory and highest margin above .500 since 1996.

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  • Colon and Vizquel might have confirmed a ticket to their first All-Star games, too.

    "That is one of my goals," said Colon (8-4), who allowed two runs and five hits in eight innings and lowered his ERA to 2.51.

    Vizquel, a five-time Gold Glover who has never made an All-Star team, saved a run and subdued a rally in the ninth with an incredible barehanded play on Derek Bell's grounder deep in the hole.

    With Sean Berry on second and no outs, Bell sent a chopper between third and short. Vizquel, cheating to his right because Mike Jackson told him he was pitching Bell inside, snatched the ball with his throwing hand and planted his right foot near the outfield grass. His long, accurate throw to first was just in time to get Bell, who had slipped in the batter's box and had his 14-game hitting streak snapped.

    "I was amazed, too," Vizquel said. "I didn't think I was going to throw the guy out."

    Jackson got Jeff Bagwell to fly to left and struck out Moises Alou -- the former Florida player who hit three homers against Cleveland last fall in the World Series -- for his 17th save.

    The NL Central-leading Astros had won 12 of 19 coming into their first trip to Cleveland, but dropped to 10-14 against AL clubs. The Indians improved to 15 games above .500 for the first time since the last day of the 1996 season.

    "If you like baseball, you had to love this game," Houston manager Larry Dierker said.

    Somehow, Vizquel made everyone forget about Mark Whiten's tiebreaking, two-run single in the seventh off Mike Magnante (3-3). With the bases loaded and two outs, Whiten grounded the decisive hit past diving third baseman Bill Spiers. It scored Jim Thome, who walked, and Sandy Alomar, who tied it with an RBI double.

    Vizquel had surgery on his throwing shoulder after the '96 season, when Albert Belle played behind him in left field instead of Whiten. Without the operation, the ninth-inning throw and his current streak of one error in 110 games wouldn't have been possible.

    "I don't think any shortstop who's ever played the game plays the position the way Omar plays it," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove, who has a chance to name Vizquel to his first All-Star team as the AL skipper. "He's better than Ozzie Smith, he's better than every one who's played this game. I really believe that."

    Colon (8-4) is another gem, and he pitched another one. He walked one, struck out seven and was cruising to his AL-leading sixth complete game until he ran into Ricky Gutierrez, who fouled off 13 of 20 pitches leading off the eighth.

    A frustrated Colon was laughing on the mound before striking out Gutierrez swinging on the 20th pitch.

    "It was no laughing matter," Gutierrez said. "I wanted to get a hit and he struck me out."

    Colon, a 23-year-old Dominican in his second season, won his fourth straight start to give Hargrove another reason to pick him as an All-Star. He waved to the standing crowd -- Cleveland's 250th straight sellout -- as he left in the eighth.

    "I have no problems with my arm," said Colon, who threw 139 pitches in his last start because Hargrove lost track of his pitch count. "I feel stronger every time I go to the mound."

    The Indians, whose one glaring weakness is base running, ran themselves out of several scoring chances until Alomr finally tied it at 2 with an RBI double in the seventh against Magnante.

    Shawon Dunston made an aggressive play after hitting a one-out single in the seventh against Reggie Harris. He made a wide turn and forced a throw to first from shortstop Gutierrez, who threw wildly for an error allowing Dunston to go to second.

    But the veteran inexplicably took off for third on Manny Ramirez's grounder to short and was tagged out by Gutierrez. Magnante walked Thome, but Alomar doubled to right-center to score Ramirez and tie it at 2.

    The glaring blunder came in the fourth, when David Justice got doubled off second on David Bell's liner for an rally-killing double play.

    Craig Biggio gave Houston a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the third. Brad Ausmus, who singled, scored on Spiers' double-play grounder to make it 2-0.

    After Ramirez's RBI groundout in the third, the Astros retired Thome with a shift that only they use on the left-handed slugger. Thome grounded to shortstop Gutierrez, who was playing to the right side of second base. The ball caromed off Gutierrez right to Biggio, who threw Thome out at first. Alomar struck out to end the inning.

    Notes

  • Whiten is 2-for-2 with four RBIs with the bases loaded. Cleveland had the bases loaded and nobody out in the first, and but starter Pete Schourek retired Thome, Alomar and Justice without allowing a run.
  • Kenny Lofton, who began his career in the Astros organization, did not start. Lofton, the only Indians player to appear in every game, came in as a defensive replacement in the eighth.
  • Indians right-hander Jaret Wright has dyed his hair platinum-blonde, a la Roger Clemens and Chuck Finley.
  • Thome's ode to Mark McGwire, who hit two homers at Jacobs Field this week: "It's like the Empire State Building standing there with a bat in his hands."

    © 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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