Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2001

Indians flipped ‘on’ switch in opener

Cleveland coasted for weeks but turned it up against Mariners

October 11, 2001


— Since opening day, the Cleveland Indians have been two teams wrapped in one.

There are the lackadaisical Indians, who coasted for weeks, lost games against no-name pitchers and didn't decide until July that it was time to catch the Minnesota Twins.

And then there's the focused and feared Indians, whose All-Star-at-every-position lineup rallied from a 12-run deficit to win in August and can beat anybody.

Looks like that's the one visiting Seattle.

With Bartolo Colon pitching eight shutout innings, the Indians played one of their most complete games in months and startled the Mariners, 5-0, in Game 1 of their AL division series.

Cleveland's easy win against a team that won 116 games during the regular season seemed to surprise everyone, but not the Mariners.

"Maybe you guys underrated them," Seattle shortstop Mark McLemore said of the AL Central champions. "We've played them before. We knew what they were capable of."

Both teams prepared for today's Game 2 by holding optional workouts under a closed roof at Safeco Field on Wednesday. When the best-of-five series resumes, Chuck Finley, who hasn't pitched in the postseason since 1986, will start for the Indians against 20-game winner Jamie Moyer, who went 2-0 this season against Cleveland.

The off-day didn't sit well with some of the Mariners eager to put Game 1 behind them.

"We all understand the job that we have to do," said Seattle center fielder Mike Cameron. "We can't let one game shatter all of our hopes."

Coming back to win a series is nothing new for the Mariners. They dropped a series opener 15 times this season and came back to win or tie the series 10 times.

Now they'll need to win three of four or their historic season will be over.

"They're all important," said Moyer. "If you don't win the series, you're done. During the season, if you don't win the series, you can move onto the next series."

In Game 1, the Indians were the ones who looked more like a record-setting machine than the Mariners. Seattle managed just six hits off Colon and were shut out at home for just the second time this season.

Cleveland got the big hits and made the big defensive plays behind Colon, who took advantage of Safeco's afternoon shadows and used his 99 mph fastball to blow away the Mariners.

The all-around performance was somewhat surprising since the Indians had played so poorly in the final week since clinching their division, and it underscored the club's maddening ability to turn it on only when it needs to.

"As a player, I don't like that," said Indians third baseman Travis Fryman. "I never played with guys who could do that, but I never played with guys who possessed as much talent as some of these guys.

"We've turned it on and off all season, and I know that's frustrating to the manager and the coaches, but that's the way we play."

Manager Charlie Manuel doesn't deny that his team has intensity lapses, but says it's directly related to whom the Indians are playing.

"I think we play better against higher-caliber teams," he said. "The better the competition, it looks like the more spark we have."

The Mariners are the ones looking for a spark now.

Seattle hasn't scored a run in 22 consecutive postseason innings against Cleveland dating to the 1995 playoffs, and Finley has owned the Mariners during his 16-year career.

The 38-year-old Finley is 19-8 against Seattle, his second most wins against any club.

The Indians signed Finley to a three-year, $27 million deal before last season to pitch in games like this. The left-hander spent two stints on the disabled list this season, limiting him to 22 starts. But for the second straight year, he finished strong and has gone 9-2 the past two Septembers.

And after 15 years, he's never been more ready to pitch in October.

"This is one of those things that you should cherish and enjoy," he said. "Because you never know when it might come again."

The Mariners may start viewing their season the same way.

Following Game 1, Seattle's clubhouse was filled with "We're not going to panic now" sentiments. But another loss and the Mariners may change their tune.

"Everybody is going to have to be hungry," said reliever Jeff Nelson. "It's a must-win game."

Notes: OF Jay Buhner, who missed most of the season with an injured left foot, will start in left field for Stan Javier. Seattle manager Lou Piniella wants Javier, a switch-hitter, available to pinch-hit. ... Moyer entered the season just 3-7 vs. the Indians but had a .064 ERA in 14 innings against them in 2001. "I don't really have an answer to why that happened." ... The Indians are 13-9 in division series play since '95, including 5-5 on the road.

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