The juggernaut that was the 1995 Indians clinched the AL Central title two years ago Monday. They did it with Orel Hershiser on the mound, against the Baltimore Orioles, with Jose Mesa getting the save.
On Monday night, the Indians beat Baltimore 2-1 _ with Hershiser on the mound and Mesa getting the save. The victory didn't clinch anything, except maybe suspicions that the Indians are still dangerous despite a modest 76-63 record.
"It's that time of year," said Hershiser, who quickly pointed out that many of the players on this team weren't even around two years ago.
"I don't think anybody in this locker room is really going to romanticize that as an anniversary," Hershiser said. "It's great that we clinched back then. But we clinched and won by a lot last year and got sent home early in the playoffs."
Baltimore, the wild card entry, eliminated favored Cleveland in four games in the playoffs last year.
With all the new names in the lineup this season, it was ol' reliable Omar Vizquel who came through with the go-ahead hit. Vizquel's two-out single off Alan Mills (2-2) in the seventh drove in Pat Borders to snap the 1-1 tie in a tight game played in a playoff atmosphere.
AL East-leading Baltimore could not score against four Cleveland relievers. Mesa pitched the ninth for his 100th career save. He got 46 of them in 1995.
Mesa only has 13 saves this year, but hasn't given up an earned run in 17 appearances. He has made a remarkable comeback from a rocky start that included his acquittal on a rape charge.
"To come back from that much stress takes time," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said.
When the Indians clinched the Central Division two years ago, their first title in 41 years, they were an astounding 49 games above .500 at 86-37. They finished 100-44 in the strike-shortened season and lost to Atlanta in the World Series.
No, the Indians are not running away with the division this year. But they have won nine of 11 and improved to a modest 13 games above .500 for the first time all season.
They remained 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Milwaukee Brewers, who beat fading Chicago Monday night.
Baltimore, with the best record in baseball, would be even more formidable if second baseman Roberto Alomar can get back in the lineup _ and stay there. Alomar was 0-for-2 and was hit by a pitch in his first start since Aug. 26, but left in the sixth inning.
"Robbie said he didn't hurt anything, but he felt a little stiff," Orioles manager Davey Johnson said. "He should be fine tomorrow."
After Hershiser and Scott Kamieniecki dueled brilliantly for six-plus innings, the game was entrusted to the bullpens.
Cleveland's did the job. Baltimore's didn't.
Paul Assenmacher (5-0) struck out Brady Anderson on three pitches with two on to end the seventh. He combined with Mike Jackson and Alvin Morman on a scoreless eighth.
Assenmacher, who began the season shakily, has allowed only one earned run in 27 1/3 innings.
"I just tried to do what I could to get the guy out," the left-hander said of Anderson. "The pattern I have is, I try to have no pattern."
Hershiser, crafty as ever and armed with a nasty sinker, allowed one run and three hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out five. He did not allow a hit between Mike Bordick's leadoff single in the third and two-out single in the seventh.
"He didn't give us anything good to hit," Anderson said.
Kamieniecki allowed one run and six hits in six innings with two walks and four strikeouts.
Mills started the seventh and gave up a one-out double to Borders. Marquis Grissom struck out, and Vizquel stroked a single that scored Borders easily, even though he stumbled around third.
Notes: Cleveland's Matt Williams extended his career-high hitting streak
to 24 games with a single in the eighth. ... Grissom robbed Rafael
Palmeiro of at least a double with a runner on third in the sixth,
making an outstanding leaping grab at the wall. He made the catch at the
exact spot where Kenny Lofton robbed B.J. Surhoff of a homer with one of
last season's most memorable catches. ... Cal Ripken was 0-for-4 and is
0-for-16 in his career against Hershiser. ... Vizquel stole third in the
seventh to become the second Indians infielder with 40 steals. Ray
Chapman had 52 in 1917. ... Bip Roberts, who collided with Chicago's
Robin Ventura in the basepath Sunday, sat out with a sore knee. He is