As the 1997 Fall Classic shifts from balmy south Florida to frigid Cleveland with the Series tied at a game apiece, the remaining few games will be decided as they have been in the past, with pitching and defense. After watching the first two games, I give the two young pitchers a lot of credit for the way they matched up against their two much more experienced counterparts. Livan Hernandez out-pitched Orel Hershiser in Game 1 to give the Marlins a victory in the opening game, 7-4 over the Tribe. Hernandez showed the poise of a seasoned veteran, pitching with the pressure of a World Series game and the knowledge that his family and friends back home in Cuba could only follow his exploits through a scratchy radio broadcast.
On the following night, it was young Chad Ogea who out-dueled veteran Kevin Brown and came to the rescue for the Indians in Game 2. Ogea's 6.2 innings pitched of one-run ball gave Cleveland a much needed 6-1 win and a split on the Marlins' home turf.
Here was a kid who missed a good portion of the regular season with an injury, and with his once-ailing arm, came up big to win a critical game for Cleveland. Now the Indians have some momentum as they return home for Game 3 in familiar Jacobs Field, tied instead of being down 0-2. Youth was served and the kids really came through for their respective ballclubs.
Two veterans go at each other tomorrow night in Game 3: Charles Nagy for the Indians and Al Leiter for the Marlins. It should be a good matchup. Much has been made of the chilly temperatures in Cleveland that should get down into the low 40s according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures could also dip into the 30s, with the possibility of some snow! The Indians may have the advantage there, but remember that the Marlins swept the Cubs in a three-game series with the temperatures in the 30s and a wind chill factor near 0, back in April. Both teams plan on staying warm by running around the bases as often as they can. Again, that depends on Nagy and Leiter and how well they pitch.
From a historical standpoint, these two teams are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. The Marlins have made baseball history by getting to the World Series in only their fifth year of existence, faster than any team in the major leagues. Florida surpassed the previous record set by the Miracle Mets of 1969, who got to the Fall Classic in only their eighth season ... and they won it! In the meantime, the Indians are in the Series for the second time in the last three years, but it was a long drought from their previous appearance. That was back in 1954, when they lost to the New York Giants. The last time the Indians won a Series was 1948, nearly 40 years ago.
Pitching and defense, Nagy and Leiter and their solid bullpens will decide tomorrow night's game, along with a big play or two from flashy shortstops Omar Vizquel of the Indians or Edgar Renteria of the Marlins.
It also helps to throw in a key base hit ... just ask Bip Roberts or Moises Alou.
Bob, what do you look forward to in this Fall Classic and what surprises can we expect to see?