The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on October 26, 1991 · Page 38
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October 26, 1991

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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 38

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Saturday, October 26, 1991
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D-6Baseball THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER Saturday, October 26, 1991 wins Erickson hopes to turn over old leaf I VP GANNETT NEWS SERVICE BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Back in June, Scott Erickson was the young kid who had them in awe. He could do little wrong. He won 12 straight decisions and jumped out to a 12-2 mark. He was 23 and on top of the baseball world. Four months later, he's the old guy. He's the one struggling. Erickson has not been the same pitcher since going on the disabled list at midseason with a strained right elbow. Worse, he has a 5.19 ERA in his two postseason starts. But with Atlanta one victory away from the title, he is the one with the burden in tonight's Game 6. "Scotty was pumped up and had the adrenaline flowing in his first , start and wore himself out," said Twins manager Tom Kelly. "When you're pitching in the World Series, wanted." Certainly, Erickson is not the same pitcher who dominated the AL early in the season, despite finishing 20-8. "He's not the same he was in the first half," said Twins catcher Junior Ortiz. "He's close, but I mean, he was unbelievable. I've been in the big leagues a long time and I've never seen a pitcher like that." you've got to just( pitch. If he just throws the ball like he's knows how, he's fine." Said Erickson: "I guess it's hard to make everyone happy. I wouldn't say I'm confused. I went out (against Atlanta) and tried to be more of a control pitcher. I had 10 days between starts. That's not an excuse, but I tried to pitch with better control instead of just firing it in there. And that's not what they Scott Erickson . . . three days' rest Lemke: Braves' one-man wrecking crew World Series hero spent many years toiling as unknown in the minors V Ik" l 4 i tl W 1 n ninth inning of Game 4. He drove in three runs in Game 5 with a pair of triples. "It doesn't shock anyone on this team that he has hit," said Braves Manager Bobby Cox. "He's paid for his defense, sure, and in that role he can turn the double play as well as anyone. But he can hit. He hit in the minors, he's hit in spots here." Whatever. What Lemke has done has not been ordinary or expected. His two triples in Game 5 marked the first time a player had done that in the Series since Tommie Davis did it for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Yankees in 1963. Lemke's three triples in the Series are one shy of the record four achieved by Tommy Leach of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1903, the first World Series. As further evidence of the remarkable nature of what he's doing, Lemke, who hit only ;219 from the left side this season, has hit .400 left-handed against the Twins. "We've had a game plan to pitch to him," said Tom Kelly, the manager of the Twins. "But if we don't do it better (tonight) in Game 6, he'll bang us all over the place again." Because of all the banging around he has done on the field, Lemke has barely been able to move off it. He's besieged by reporters in the clubhouse, trailed by cameras outside it and caught up in gatherings of relatives and telling of tales deep into the night. "It's an honor to have this many people around me," Lemke told reporters after Thursday night's 14-5 destruction of the Twins. "But I've been so tired after these games, I don't even know how to act." With a bat, though, he has been the picture of casual confidence, a performance that has reshaped the way others on the Braves view him. There was always affection, mind you, but at the moment there is a good-natured awe. "He's a man on a mission," catcher Greg Olson said. BY JOE SEXTON The New York Times ATLANTA The ascent to fame, Mark Lemke insists, has been an arbitrary one, an accident of baseball odds. For Lemke, in a game of unpredictable streaks and inexplicable slumps, it has merely been his chance to be hot. "I waited all season for it," he said with a smile. Truth be told, the second baseman for the Atlanta Braves has endured a lot longer and a lot more than one season in patient pursuit of a period such as he has enjoyed over the last week, a stretch of superb baseball that has happened to coincide with the first five games of the World Series. There were, after all, those endless summer evenings as a boy in Utica, N.Y., learning to switch-hit because of the local field's cramped configurations. There were those five seasons in Class A, the lowest rung on the baseball developmental ladder and one from which he couldn't, for whatever reason, lift himself. There were the additional three seasons shuttling from the minors to Atlanta, unable to stick full-time with the Braves. "I wanted to play this game," said the 26-year-old Lemke. "I'd heard that I wasn't big enough. But I'd always been able to pretty much block that all out." Lemke will never want to block out what he heard over a span of 72 hours this week. It was a non-stop roar, and it was generated by him and then directed at him. The second baseman, whose status with the Braves was still so suspect that he wasn't in the starting lineup for Game 1 of the World Series against the Twins, was the source of both power and inspiration to the Braves in their three triumphs at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Lemke, who hit only .234 during the season, has hit .438 for the Series with a slugging percentage of .875. He delivered the decisive run in Tuesday night's 5-4, 12-inning victory in Game 3. He scored the run that gave the Braves a 3-2 victory in the f need big numbers Series over unless fat laddies swing BY GREGG WONG Knight News Service MINNEAPOLIS Back in the spring of 1985 as the Minnesota Twins were stumbling along, manager Billy Gardner kept telling everyone, "We'll be OK when the 'Big Guy' gets going." Halfway through the season, the Big Guy still wasn't going, but the manager was, fired and replaced by Ray Miller. Today, six years later in the 88th World Series, another Twins manager, Tom Kelly, could be saying almost the same words: "We'll be OK when the big guys get going." ;The original big guy is, of course, Kent Hrbek, the 258-pound first baseman. The other big guy these days is Kirby Puckett, who back in 1985 was a singles-hitting leadoff hitter. ; Together, they are the heart of the Twins' offense. Either one, when hot, can carry the team, just as either one, when in a slump, can drag the rest of the team down with him. Where's the beef? It hasn't been often in their eight years as teammates that the Twins' biggest boppers have been in a hitting funk at the same time. But they are now at a most inopportune time, with their team trailing the Atlanta Braves 3-2 in the World Series. Puckett, a .319 hitter with 89 RBI during the season, is batting .167 with just one RBI (a home run) in the Series; with runners in scoring position, he is 0 for 5. Hrbek, who batted .284 with 20 homers and 89 RBI during the season, is batting .158 with no homers and one RBI and also is 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. These big guys in the Twins' lineup the squat, cannonball Puckett and the burly, lumbering Hrbek have been rally killers rather than igniters in the Series. Had either been able to get a hit or even a medium-deep fly ball in Game 3, we might be talking here about going to the White House instead of Game 6. In the 5-4 loss in Game 3, Puckett struck out with the go-ahead run on third and one out in the eighth inning. At least he went down swinging. : Hrbek looked at called third strikes in successive at-bats in the 10th and 12th innings with one out and a runner on second or third each time. ' Then in Game 5, after the Twins drew within 5-2 and had the bases loaded with one out, Hrbek only managed a chopper to shortstop. It drove in a run, but it wasn't the blow the Twins really needed. In Hrbek's defense, all three of those at-bats were against left-handed pitchers, which he has cited as a reason (an excuse?) for not coming through. : Admittedly, left-handers are tough on left-handed hitters. But Hrbek has hit them before. Remember Game 6 of the 1987 World Series? With the bases loaded, hard-throwing left-hander Ken Dayley came in to pitch to Hrbek.' But the Big Guy jumped on a high fastball and hit it over the center-field fence for a grand slam to seal the victory. Hrbek struggled in that 1987 postseason, batting just .182 (.150 in the ALCS and .208 in the Series). But the Big Guy's big slam made us forget an otherwise dismal performance. Puckett, too, has come up big in the postseason. In this year's AL playoffs, the little big man was only 1 for 7 before getting eight hits, including two home runs, and driving in five runs in the last three games to earn the most valuable player, award. The Twins' big guys, Hrbek and Puckett, have shown they can hit in the clutch in the big games. And they will need to do it tonight or their 1991 season will end. Now, this isn't to say that their poor hitting is the reason the Twins trail the Braves in the Series. Other Twins are struggling, too,' $hane Mack is hitless in 15 at-bats, Greg Gagne is batting .167 and leadoff man Dan Gladden has been on base just six times in 23 plate appearances and is hitting .190. But the big guys, Hrbek and Puckett, are the keys to the offense. If their bats come alive, hope remains. The Associated Press Braves second baseman Mark Lemke, who who hit only .234 during the season, has hit too ror me aeries wnn a slugging percentage of .875. Nixon off roster, out of sight but not mind ENQUIRER NEWS SERVICES ATLANTA He is one of the main reasons the Atlanta Braves are in the World Series. But he's not here and no one knows where he is. Otis Nixon, the Braves' speedster, failed a drug test Sept. 16 and was put on the 60-day suspended list. Since then, Nixon made two statements one a written release telling the kids who looked up to him how sorry he was; the other on his good friend Deion Sanders' radio show. For a while, Nixon was ensconced in Sanders' home. But he has since left and many believe he may be somewhere in North Carolina. No reporter has been able to track him down to get his feelings on watching the World Series in exile. There is so little said about Nixon it's almost as if baseball and the Braves are trying to rinse him out of the equation. But "I don't want to demean the individual," said Atlanta GM John Schuerholz. "But the only thing thats happened since we lost him was beat the Dodgers to win the West, then beat Pittsburgh to win the pennant and now we're 2-2 with a good Minnesota team with a chance to be world champions." Said Justice: "We really have been through a lot of adversity. I was out, Sid was out, Juan was out and Marvin, too. The one thing I think it shows is we have 25 guys , who can play. It's not like we have 10 players and the other 15 are scum." JACKED-UP SALARY: Baseball's money season starts the day after the Series ends and Minnesota pitcher Jack Morris has a tough financial decision to make. Morris, who won 18 games for the Twins, has the option to stay with Minnesota or go into the free-agent market. If he stays, the Twins will have to pay the 36-year-old right-hander $3.65 million next year. The St. Paul native likes pitching in his hometown, but there's a good possibility he could make even more money based on his record this season. RATINGS UP: CBS Sports' telecast of Game 5 of the World Series gave the network an overall prime-time victory for the night and its highest Thursday night rating in more than six years. The game did a 22.9 rating and 37 share. The average rating for five nights is 22.8 and 36, up 5 from last year's four-game average. CBS won the Thursday prime-time race with an average 21.6 rating and 34 share for the 8-11 p.m. EDT time slot, with NBC second at 15.6 and 24, followed by ABC at 10.2 and 16, and FOX at 9.2 and 14. that's tough to do considering Nixon hit .297 and stole 72 bases. It's easy to be seduced by the thought of Nixon in this Braves lineup. He'd be running constantly on the suspect arm of Brian Harper, the Twins' catcher, and be adding a dimension the Braves are certainly lacking. Ironically, Nixon was replaced in left field by Lonnie Smith and on the roster by Jerry Willard. Both Smith and Willard contributed mightily to the Braves' 3-2 victory in Game 4 and Smith has been a strong presence throughout the postseason. It has become the trademark of the Braves to overcome negatives. They fought through injuries to Sid Bream, David Justice and Juan Berenguer and have, so far, shaken off the effects of Nixon's loss. No Interest In A 1992 Saab 9000? Tigers, Tettleton sign three-year pact You've Got It Now! -rN 1 I& Q- i mm v ; (J) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS DETROIT The Detroit Tigers and catcher Mickey Tettleton have agreed to terms on a three-year contract, club president Bo Schembechler said Friday. Tettleton played in 154 games this season. The switch-hitter batted a career high .263. He also had career highs with 31 home runs, 89 RBIs and 85 runs scored. Tettleton joined the Tigers in January after 2 xh seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. Marlins name Rojas FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Cookie Rojas, a former major-league infielder, was named to the Florida Marlins scouting staff today. Rojas, who 'ives in Miami, coached the Chicago Cubs and has scouted and coached for the California Angels organization after playing for Cincinnati, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Kansas City from 1962 to 1977. He played on both American and National League All-Star teams as a second baseman. Chisox appoint Yoakum CHICAGO - The Chicago White Sox on Friday named Dave Yoakum special assistant to Ron Schueler, the team's senior vice president of major-league operations. ; Yoakum, a scout with the Toronto Blue Jays for the past 11 years, agreed to a two-year contract. Schueler said Yoakum will be a "great asset" to the White Sox. Now willi Saab's Flexible finance Plan you can pick your interest - from 10 to 0 Annual Percent age Hale - while enjoying extremely low monthly payments. But hurry, see us for details. This special ends October 31, 19()2. 0 iiiHTCHi I.um',1 mi Sii.il. ))()() iih W down in t i or Iniile i.ii M.S.H.I'. of S2."i.2K."i for -to iiioiiiIh. ih. 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