Mora-mentum shifts to Metropolis with Game 3 comeback
COOK COUNTY -- It may not have been the "Shot Heard 'Round the World," the "Homer in the Gloamin" or "Bucky Effing Dent," but Melvin Mora's home run off Billy Wagner probably needs a nickname of its own. Mora turned around on a 2-2 fastball from Billy Wagner and turned a tie game into a 3-1 Avengers win.
Wagner was in trouble from his first pitch, a slider that Vladimir Guerrero rocketed into the rightfield corner for a double. Guerrero's double seemed to rattle the Maulers' closer, who hit Bobby Abreu with a pitch, putting the go-ahead run on base with no outs. Cook County stuck with the lefty against Richie Sexson, who did all he could to make him pay. Sexson hit a smash just to the left of Cook County third baseman Bill Hall, who entered the game as a defensive replacement. Hall proved his worth, snaring Sexson's liner before it turned into an RBI and momentarily securing his team's lead.
As the ball left his bat, Sexson thought he tied the game.
"Yeah, I hit that thing pretty hard, and I thought it was through the
hole easily," he said after the game. "It almost seemed to hang there
for a second before he picked it. I really thought I had it."
Apparently still rattled, Wagner circled the mound once before
toeing the rubber to face Eric Chavez. Before his first pitch to
Chavez, Wagner jerked his left shoulder ever so slightly and umpire
Randy Marsh quickly called a balk, moving the tying run just 90 feet
away and the go ahead run into scoring position.
While Maulers' manager Kevin Kolb didn't question the balk call, he did say, "I sure didn't see it from where I was sitting. I guess he had a better angle, but he'd better be damn sure to make that call right there."
Avengers manager Superman stayed with hot-hitting Eric Chavez,
despite Wagner's career long dominance of left-handed hitters. Chavez
took a slider for a ball and then turned on a fastball, pushing Johnny
Damon to the wall in right and sending Guerrero home with the tying
run. Many have said Johnny Damon is miscast as a right fielder
due to his notoriously weak throwing arm, and Abreu showed why, easily
advancing to third as Damon's throw came into second base.
Only needing a single to grab the lead, Mora seemed as surprised as the fans that his line drive made it over the left field wall. "I don't know," he admits. "I just tried to hit it hard somewhere. I wasn't trying to hit it out, but I'll take it."
As Mora rounded the bases his teammates exploded out of their dugout to meet him after he crossed the plate, giving the visiting Avengers a 3-1 lead. Not surprisingly, the crowd fell eerily silent and it seemed as though homeplate umpire Wally Bell's voice echoed off the outfield wall as he called Jorge Posada out on strikes to end the inning.
Avengers closer Jason Isringhausen quickly shut the Maulers down in the last of the ninth, getting Andruw Jones on a lazy fly ball to center fielder Vernon Wells to end the game. The Avengers ducked into their clubhouse to celebrate their unlikely win as Cook County fans filed quietly out of the stadium.
Cook County will need to put this difficult loss behind them, as they have to face Avengers ace and Cy Young winner Roger Clemens in Game 4. He dominated Game 1 and is a perfect 5-0 in the postseason. The Maulers counter with John Patterson, who matched Clemens's 18 regular-season wins but not his imposing mound presence.