Boston manager Jimy Williams' first questionable pitching decision kept the Red Sox in the game. His last one helped the Cleveland Indians reach the AL championship series.
After being shut out on two hits by starter Pete Schourek for 5 1-3 innings, the Indians rallied to win Game 4 Saturday when David Justice hit a two-run double off Tom Gordon in the eighth for a 2-1 victory.
Gordon, who finished the season with a major league-record 43 consecutive saves, had not been brought in to start the eighth all season.
The defending league champion Indians won the series 3-1 and moved into the ALCS for the third time in four years. The opponent: the seemingly invincible Yankees starting Tuesday night in New York. Last year, Cleveland beat New York in the first round of the playoffs.
"They've got a great ballclub from top to bottom, but I feel confident we can play on the same field with them," Justice said. "But we don't have any advantage over them."
"We have a lot of veteran players. We have a lot f guys who have been in the postseason," Jackson said. "That means a lot of guys don't panic."
| Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel is congratulated by teammates upon his return to the dugout after scoring the go ahead run on a Dave Justice's double. (AP) |
Gordon, who led the AL with 46 saves, took the loss.
"Right man, right spot," Williams said. "He certainly has come in and got five outs before."
Schourek has been with the Red Sox less than two months since being obtained from Houston. But Williams, standing firm amid growing criticism, started him rather than his ace Pedro Martinez, who would have pitched on three days' rest for the first time this season.
The move worked as Schourek left with a 1-0 lead thanks to Nomar Garciaparra's third homer of the series in the fourth inning. Schourek had to be sharp considering how well Bartolo Colon pitched in his first postseason game. The winner of this year's All-Star game left trailing 1-0 after allowing five hits in 5 1-3 innings.
It stayed that way after seven innings as Derek Lowe, who replaced Schourek, retired all five batters he faced.
Then Williams handed the ball to Gordon. The reliever who may have been the team's most valuable player threw the game away.
"I didn't change my approach and I didn't change a thing. I was ready," Gordon said of coming into the game earlier than usual.
Lofton stole third and both runners scored on Justice's double to center field.
That magnified Boston third-base coach Wendell Kim's decision in the sixth to test the arm of Justice.
"David did everything that you could ask him to do," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said.
John Valentin led off the sixth with a double. One out later, Mike Stanley singled sharply o left. Kim waved Valentin home and Justice, who already had made several strong throws in the series, easily threw out Valentin at the plate.
"He hasn't been playing (left field) hardly at all," Kim said of Justice, who started 20 games in the outfield and 116 as designated hitter. "It's a tough throw. If it was 2-0 their favor, I wouldn't have sent him."
Before Gordon entered, Williams' gamble in starting Schourek had paid off.
Martinez won last year's NL Cy Young Award with Montreal, was traded to Boston after the season and went 19-7 after signing a record $75 million, six-year contract with the Red Sox. But he was 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA in September.
Schourek had struggled in his first four starts with Boston, posting a 7.64 ERA. But in his last four, he was 1-0 with a 1.90 ERA as the Red Sox won three of those games. And he was runner-up to Greg Maddux for the NL Cy Young in 1995.
"Each manager has to handle his club the best way he thinks he has to handle it," Williams said before the game. "So if I come under scrutiny - is that a good word? -- so be it."
That's sure to happen; his decision to bring in Gordon early kept the Red Sox from returning to the ALCS for the first time since 1986.
Gordon hadn't blown a save chants since April 14 in Fenway Park against Oakland, and had pitched at least two innings five times.
Gordon, converted from a starter late last season, was dominant the rest of this year after that game against the A's.
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved