Just when it seemed as if the game couldn't get any wackier, it did.
One of baseball's strangest postseason games had one of the most bizarre endings in playoff history as the thrill-a-minute Cleveland Indians surged ahead in the AL championship series with a 2-1 victory over Baltimore on Saturday.On an afternoon and evening of numerous missed chances, Marquis Grissom scored on Lenny Webster's passed ball as Omar Vizquel botched a squeeze bunt in the 12th inning.
"He tipped it," Webster said. "I saw contact. I heard contact."
The Indians, who took a 2-1 lead in the series, overcame a record-setting 15-strikeout performance by Mike Mussina and a variety of miscues in the field and on the basepaths. The teams used a league championship record 13 pitchers, and the game lasted 4 hours, 51 minutes - the longest time in league championship history.
But few seats were empty when the winning run crossed the plate.
Grissom led off the 12th with a walk off loser Randy Myers and took third on a single by Tony Fernandez. Vizquel tried to bunt on a 2-1 count, but missed and the ball bounced off Webster's glove as Grissom scooted home.
Orioles manager Davey Johnson argued with plate umpire John Hirschbeck, the same umpire who was spit upon by Baltimore's Roberto Alomar last year. Johnson wanted Hirschbeck to ask the second-base umpire for his opinion, but Hirschbeck declined.
"If any of the umpires saw anything, they would have let me know," Hirschbeck said.
Long after the crowd at raucous Jacobs Field had filed out, the players and managers still were arguing about the final play.
"It looked to me like he fouled it off. Webby didn't even go after it," Johnson said.
"In defense of John, it was pretty loud," said Webster.
Vizquel, meanwhile, said, "I just missed the ball. I was getting ready to kill myself because I missed it."
Long, long before Grissom scored, Mussina was mowing down the Indians with a variety of fastballs and knuckle-curves. His strikeout total set an LCS record and was the most in the postseason since Bob Gibson struck out 17 in the opener of the 1968 World Series.
Mussina allowed three hits and a run in seven innings. He pitched well enough to win most games, but Eric Plunk got the victory by retiring the final two batters in the top of the 12th.
The Orioles loaded the bases with two outs in the 11th before Alvin Morman came in to strike out Rafael Palmeiro.
In their half, the Indians got a runner on third with no outs, but Myers struck out Alomar with the bases loaded and two outs.
The Indians, held to one hit while being struck out 14 times by Mussina in the first six innings, got an RBI single from Matt Williams in the seventh to go up 1-0.
That appeared to be enough offense on a day when pitching ruled. But the wacky ninth inning set the stage for another thrilling Cleveland victory.
A homer by Sandy Alomar helped the Indians rally to win Game 4 of the division series against the New York Yankees, and Cleveland won the dramatic clincher one night later. The Indians then used Grissom's homer in Game 2 of this series to rally from a 4-2 deficit.
Indians vs. Orioles
ALCS Game 4, today
Start: 5:30 MDT. TV: FOX (Ch. 13). Radio: KSL-1160.
Pitching matchup: Baltimore (Erickson 18-7) at Cleveland (Wright 10-3).
Series: Indians lead 2-1.