Indians top Seattle, will face Braves in Series

The Associated Press

SEATTLE The Cleveland Indians overcame it all Randy Johnson, the Kingdome and history.

The epitome of bad baseball for four decades, the Indians reached the World Series for the first time since 1954, beating the Seattle Mariners 4-0 Wednesday night to win the AL playoffs 4-2 behind seven shutout innings from Dennis Martinez.

''I think that the people of Cleveland have suffered long,'' said Indians manager Mike Hargrove, who played on some of Cleveland's terrible teams. ''This is something you can never count on.''

The Mariners, for the fourth time in 16 days, asked Johnson to save their season. Relying on his slider more than his overpowering fastball, he kept his team close until Carlos Baerga's homer capped a three-run eighth, and Johnson left to a standing ovation that included the applause of Indians pitcher Orel Hershiser.

''They come back so many times. They got us scared,'' Baerga said. ''They've got guys that can beat you any time.''

Martinez matched Johnson pitch for pitch, holding the Mariners to four hits in seven innings. At 40, he finally won for the first time in the postseason and became the oldest pitcher to win a league championship series game.

Now the Indians, who won 100 times in the regular season and swept Boston in the first round of the playoffs, will take on the Atlanta Braves, the team with the best record in the National League.

The World Series starts Saturday night in Atlanta. Greg Maddux, likely to win his fourth straight NL Cy Young Award, will start Game 1 for the Braves. Orel Hershiser, 7-0 in the postseason, will likely pitch for Cleveland.

The last time the Indians went to the World Series, they were wiped out in four games by the New York Giants. The lowlight of that event in 1954 was Willie Mays' catch against Vic Wertz.

Cleveland last won the World Series in 1948, beating the Boston Braves. Bob Feller was the star of that team, and the Hall of Fame pitcher was at the Kingdome on Tuesday night to see the pennant clincher.

Since those days, not much has gone right for Cleveland. As recently as four years ago, in fact, they lost 105 games. This Indians team, however, was the most dominant club in the majors this season.

They proved against Johnson and the Mariners, a team that had won four games this years when a loss would have meant the end of the season.

A two-base throwing error by second baseman Joey Cora in the fifth set up an RBI single by Kenny Lofton for a 1-0 lead. Cleveland broke open the game at last in the eighth on a passed ball by Dan Wilson that allowed two runs to score, and the homer by Baerga that finished Johnson.

''He's an unbelievable trooper out there,'' Hershiser said. ''He went as hard as he could for as long as he could. Tonight we finally got to him.''

The crowd of 58,489, which had cheered the ''Refuse To Lose'' Mariners through a remarkable run in which they overcame a 13-game deficit in the regular season and an 0-2 hole in the first round against New York, gave the team one final standing ovation when Jay Buhner ended the game with a groundout. Some kept applauding until a few Mariners came back on the field.

Despite the loss, it was a great season for Seattle, which made the playoffs for the first time in its 19-year history. The fans' enthusiasm, meanwhile, may have helped get the city a new stadium and keep the team in town.

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