1995 League Division Series
It had been a five-year wait for the Red Sox to get back in the postseason and try to overcome the two times they’d been swept in 1988 and 1990. They were 86-58, but found themselves atop the AL East. For the Cleveland Indians, it had been a far, far longer wait; the Tribe hadn’t been in the playoffs since being swept in the 1954 World Series. This time, the Indians had won an even 100 games – a true accomplishment in a season that was only 144 games, due to a late April 27 start following the prolonged 1994 labor stoppage. The Indians had hit a remarkably high .291 as a team. Six of their nine regulars in the lineup hit over .300. Power figures were dominated by Albert Belle, with 50 homers and 126 RBIs. Second in both categories was Manny Ramirez with 31 homers and 107 RBIs. The Red Sox hit .280 – unusually good, too. They had two 11-RBI men as well: Mo Vaughn homered 39 times and drive in the same number of RBIs as Belle. John Valentin hit 27 HRs and had 102 RBIs.
Vaughn beat Belle in the MVP voting, 308-300, despite Belle having more homers and a better batting average. It was a fairly clear case of a more gregarious player getting a few more votes than one the media perceived of as, at best, “difficult”. Were the voting done after the playoffs, instead of before they began, Belle would likely have taken the close vote. He hit .273 in the best-of-five Division Series, with one homer and three RBIs, whereas Vaughn was 0-for-14, with seven strikeouts.
Indians fans were thrilled to see postseason play for the first time in over 40 years. Red Sox fans felt burdened by their team’s consecutive postseason losses. Dennis Martinez was determined to pin another loss on them, but gave up the first two runs in the game, when Valentin hit a two-run homer in the top of the third. Roger Clemens was cruising; he’d only allowed two singles and had two outs in the bottom of the sixth when he walked a man, then surrendered a single, and then saw Belle hit a two-run double, and Eddie Murray drive him in. The Indians had a 3-2 lead.
The under-appreciated Luis Alicea was having himself a 4-for-5 day, and he homered to tie the game leading off the eighth. Both starters were gone by then. As it happens, both teams used seven pitchers as the game continued on into extra innings. In the top of the 11th, the Red Sox took a 4-3 lead when Tim Naehring homered off Jim Poole. But Belle led off the bottom of the 11th with a homer off Red Sox reliever Rick Aguilera. It went into the 12th, and then the 13th. With two outs, Zane Smith threw three straight balls to Cleveland catcher Tony Pena. He certainly didn’t want to walk him, but his next pitch sailed out of the park for a walkoff home run.
In Game Two, Orel Hershiser of the Indians faced lefty Erik Hanson of the Red Sox. No one scored for half the game, but the Indians batted in the bottom of the fifth and worked a pair of walks, then scored two runs on the only hit of the inning, an Omar Vizquel two-base hit. Hanson pitched the whole game, while Hershiser had three others who followed, but it was a combined 4-0 shutout for the Indians while Eddie Murray homered with Belle on base in the bottom of the eighth. 4-0, Cleveland.
The third game wasn’t even close. Tim Wakefield started for Boston. He’d had a 16-8 season with a 2.95 ERA - a better season than Clemens, or Hanson. But he was down 3-0 after three innings, thanks to Jim Thome who hit a two-run homer in the second and walked to force in a run in the third. The Red Sox got one back in the fourth, after three singles and a sacrifice fly off Charles Nagy, who then shut the door. Cleveland pounded out five runs in the top of the fifth, putting the game out of sight, driving Wakefield out of the game and being unkind to Rheal Cormier, too. The final score was 8-2, and Boston now held a 13-game postseason losing streak.
The Mariners beat out the Yankees, taking three games to two, and it was Cleveland vs. Seattle in the ALCS.By Bill Nowlin