Cleveland outlasts Atlanta to tie Series

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND Cancel that missing persons report. The real Cleveland Indians have shown up.

Eddie Murray singled home the winning run in the 11th inning last night and the Indians, masters of the last-inning comeback, saved their season by rallying past Atlanta 7-6 and cutting the Braves' lead in the World Series to 2-1.

No team in baseball postseason history has overcome a 3-0 deficit, and the Indians made sure they wouldn't have to either by winning the first World Series game played in Cleveland in 41 years.

Keyed by Kenny Lofton, who reached base in all six of his at-bats, the Indians scored a run in the eighth to tie it 6-6. Then in the 11th against Alejandro Pena, Carlos Baerga led off with a double, Albert Belle was intentionally walked and Murray hit a sharp single to center that easily scored pinch-runner Alvaro Espinoza.

The win was the Indians' 29th in their last at-bat this year and made them 22-2 in one-run decisions and 15-1 overall in extra innings.

Cleveland stopped a six-game World Series losing streak dating to 1954. The Braves, meanwhile, had their seven-game winning string in this postseason snapped.

The Indians will try to even the Series tonight in Game 4. Ken Hill is likely to start against Atlanta's Steve Avery.

Jose Mesa was the winner, pitching three innings in his second-longest stint of the season. Braves closer Mark Wohlers went 2 2-3 innings in his longest outing of the year before Pena took over to start the 11th. Pena tried out for the Indians in spring training but was not kept.

The Indians, who led the majors in hitting, scoring and home runs, were limited to two earned runs and eight hits during a pair of one-run losses in Atlanta. But back at home, before the 58th straight sellout at Jacobs Field, they scored four times on six hits in the first three innings against John Smoltz.

After Atlanta scored three times in the eighth for a 6-5 lead, the Indians struck back after a one-out walk to Manny Ramirez and a single by Paul Sorrento. Wohlers relieved Greg McMichael and gave up a tying double to Sandy Alomar, but following an intentional walk to Lofton, preserved the tie by striking out Omar Vizquel and getting Baerga on a grounder.

Mesa kept it 6-6 in the ninth by retiring Chipper Jones on a grounder, picked up nicely by rookie first baseman Herbert Perry with two runners on. In the 10th, Baerga went behind second base to glove a grounder by Javier Lopez and throw him out to end the inning with a runner on second.

Lofton was intentionally walked in the bottom of the 10th to put runners at first and third with two outs, but Vizquel grounded out. Lofton had three hits, walked three times and scored three runs.

Indians starter Charles Nagy seemed to be fading, but manager Mike Hargrove stuck with him as he took a 5-3 lead into the eighth. The move almost cost Cleveland the game right there.

Marquis Grissom led off with a double and, with a 2-0 count on Luis Polonia and the crowd groaning, Hargrove went to the mound. Again he stayed with Nagy and paid for it as Luis Polonia hit an RBI single.

This time, Hargrove was booed as he brought in lefty Paul Assenmacher, and switch-hitter Jones turned around and drew a walk. Fred McGriff, who earlier hit a home run and an RBI single, sent a fly ball to center that Lofton caught on the warning track with his back to the plate.

Looking a bit like Willie Mays against Cleveland's Vic Wertz and the Indians in the 1954 Series, Lofton whirled and made a strong throw to second, although both runners managed to tag up. David Justice drove in the tying run with a grounder that second baseman Baerga fumbled for an error.

Hargrove again went to his bullpen, again without success, when NL playoffs MVP Mike Devereaux hit an RBI single on the second pitch from rookie reliever Julian Tavarez for a 6-5 lead.

Perhaps fired up by their fans, or maybe inspired by an unusual pregame team meeting, the Indians showed their bats were not as cold as the temperature it was 49 degrees, the chilliest World Series start in 13 years.

Lofton led off the first with a single, Vizquel tripled and Baerga's grounder made it 2-1. Lofton did it again in the third, leading off with a double that set up run-scoring singles by Baerga and Belle off Smoltz.

Ahead 4-1, the Indians had a chance to break it open later in the third, loading the bases with one out.

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