We continue our look back at the greatest playoff games in Cleveland Indians history. This one was another from the 1997 ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles.
The Indians won Game 4 (8-7) after Jose Mesa blew the save again, giving us an idea what might happen in the World Series later (too soon?).
Mesa got the win when the Indians used a walk, a bunt and a single to beat Armando Benitez a second time. (Technically the loss went to Alan Mills since he gave up the first walk, but Benitez did all the heavy lifting to get the Indians their win).
The Indians had a three games to one lead at this point. But as we all well know, leading three games to one doesn’t guarantee winning the series. (Too soon?)
The Indians lost Game 5 (4-2). They now had to go to Baltimore and face Mussina again in Game 6.
As good as Mussina was in Game 3, he was even better in Game 6. Eight shutout innings, one hit, two walks and 10 strikeouts.
Charlie Nagy walked the tightrope for seven-plus innings. He scattered nine hits and three walks, and matched Mussina zero for zero.
Finally in the top of the 11th inning, the Orioles turned to everybody’s favorite set up man (everybody in Cleveland anyway), Armando Benitez.
Benitez recorded two outs before giving up a solo home run to Tony Fernandez. Jose Mesa closed out the game in the bottom of the 11th, and the Indians were headed to the 1997 World Series.
RANDOM NOTES ON THE 1997 ALCS:
The Orioles outscored the Indians in total, 19-18, and outhit the Indians 54-40. That and a dollar at the time would get them a cup of coffee.
Benitez gave up seven home runs in over 70 innings pitched in the regular season. He gave up two home runs in three innings pitched in the ALCS.
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Marquis Grissom was the series MVP for his home run that won one game and his steal of home that won the other. His stats weren’t great (.261 BA, .643 OPS), but if the award went for stats, it probably would have gone to Mussina (0.40 ERA).