All that's gone wrong for the Cleveland Indians in the World Series might be hard to believe, except for one thing - it's happened before.
The last time the Series came to town, it was 1954 and Cleveland was the best team in baseball. Thought so, anyway.But after winning an AL-record 111 games in the regular season, those heavily favored Indians broke down in October. They lost two close games on the road and, struggling at the plate, wound up getting swept by Willie Mays and the New York Giants.
Now, these Indians find themselves in an 0-2 deficit after a pair of one-run losses in Atlanta. Once again, the bats are the big problem.
"Well, it is similar," Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon, the ace of that staff 41 years ago, said Monday from his home in Long Beach, Calif.
"It's just one of those things that can happen in a short series," he said. "In this case, it's doing like it did to us. There's no way you can figure the thing out. It just happened."
The Indians will try to make it closer tonight when Charles Nagy starts Game 3 against John Smoltz. It will be the first World Series game in Cleveland since Lemon lost Game 4 to the Giants more than four decades ago.
So far, Braves pitchers have held Cleveland, which led the majors in hitting, scoring and home runs while winning 100 games, to a team average of .125.
Albert Belle, who hit 50 homers and drove in 126 runs, has been held to one single in six at-bats. Carlos Baerga, who batted .314, is 0-for-8. Overall, the Indians have had more broken bats (six) than runs (five), and have a grand total of seven singles and one home run.
Besides Eddie Murray's homer, Cleveland's other three runs have scored on two errors and a groundout. The Indians are 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. They've struck out only nine times, meaning they're hitting the ball, just not very well.
Kenny Lofton has caused the most trouble for Cleveland. He's gotten two hits and twice reached on errors, stealing four bases and scoring three times. Other than that and Murray's homer, not much.
Maybe many of the Indians are tight in their first World Series, or perhaps some sluggers are trying to do too much. Whatever, whether it's chasing bad pitches or simply missing good ones, it's not working.
"We just haven't performed,"
Lofton said during Monday's workout at Jacobs Field. "And because it's the World Series, it's a big deal."Behind Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and the Braves bullpen, the best staff in baseball has shut down the game's best lineup - so
To repeat again: Good pitching stops good hitting.
"I guess there's a reason why everybody says that. There has to be a reason to prove that theory, and I think this series hasn't been any different," Glavine said.
Then again, it was that way in 1954.
Power hitters Larry Doby, who led the league with 126 RBIs, and Al Rosen did not drive in a single run against the Giants.
American League batting champion Bobby Avila hit just .133, and the team that topped the league in homers batted only .190.
Lemon, who went 23-7 that season, lost the opener - the game when Mays made his famous catch against Vic Wertz - in the 10th inning on Dusty Rhodes' pinch-hit home run.
Lemon also lost the last game, the final disappointment for a staff that included Hall of Famers Early Wynn, Bob Feller and Hal Newhouser, plus Mike Garcia. Kind of like what's happening these days.
"Yes, they can come back. We thought that, too, until it was over," Lemon said. "It's just a case of doing it."
That Indians staff was considered one of the best in history. At this rate, Atlanta's pitchers might join them.
Braves manager Bobby Cox said Maddux, the three-time Cy Young winner who pitched a two-hitter in the opener, would be moved back to Game 5. Instead, Steve Avery will start Game 4 on Wednesday night.
"Av is throwing too good not to pitch," Cox said. "I think it's best, if you can, to have healthy, rested pitchers."