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Metropolis Avengers at Cook County Maulers
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E    
MET - 4) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3   3 6
CC (7 - 2) 0 0 0
0 0 1 0 0 0
  1 4 0  
W: A Otsuka (1-0) L: B Wagner (0-1) SV: J Isringhausen (1)
Recap Box Score
Mora-mentum shifts to Metropolis with Game 3 comeback
Game 3 breakdown
OtsukaUnsung Hero
Middle relievers are often overlooked, but Akinori Otsuka was a key to this shocking win. Replacing Andy Pettitte in the sixth, Otsuka was great over 2 2/3 innings, retiring seven Maulers in a row at one point. He kept the Mauler lead to a single run, setting up the exciting finish.

For a guy that throws serious gas, Billy Wagner has long been susceptible to big home runs at the least opportune times. It wasn't just the homer, though, as allowed a clean double, hit a batter, committed a balk and recorded outs on a line drive smash and a fly ball to the wall. With a little more luck, Metropolis could have scored five runs in the ninth.

Turning Point
Vladimir Guerrero's double on the first pitch Wagner threw was a lighting bolt, and both teams felt it. Wagner was rattled and the Avenger bench got on their feet. Wagner's next seven pitches included a hit batter, a hard hit out and a balk. At that point, it was clear the Avengers had the momentum and Wagner was simply trying to hold on. 

On Deck
The Cook County players were in visible shock as they walked off the field. They need to recover from this loss quickly, as they face Avengers' ace Roger Clemens in Game 4 in what is likely a must-win game. That's a tall order under the best circumstances, and these are far from ideal.

Series at a glance
Avengers lead series 2-1
Wed 11/1
@MET 5, CC 2
Thu 11/2
CC 3, @MET 0
>Sat 11/4
MET 3, @CC 1
Sun 11/5
Metropolis @ Cook County
Mon 11/6
Metropolis @ Cook County
Wed 11/8
Cook County @ Metropolis (if necessary)
Thu 11/9
Cook County @ Metropolis (if necessary)
Scoring Summary MET CC
6th M Ramirez sac fly, J Damon scored
9th E Chavez sac fly, V Guerrero scored
1 1
9th M Mora homered, B Abreu also scored
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.

Billy Wagner

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.

Melvin Mora stepped in to face Wagner with two outs. Mora had a difficult regular season, collecting a dozen home runs and an even 50 RBIs. He's been hot in the playoffs, though, and had two hits in the series opener. Wagner quickly jumped in front of Mora with two fastballs on the outside corner. Mora battled for the next five pitches, fouling two off and evening the count at 2-2. Toby Hall set up inside and called for a fastball, but Wagner missed by fewer than six inches, leaving it over the middle of the plate. Mora didn't miss it, connecting on a line drive homer that snuck over the left field wall. Left fielder Carl Crawford initially looked like he might have a play on the ball, but could only watch as it sailed into the bleachers filled with stunned Maulers partisans.

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.

For most of 2006, Billy Wagner was his reliable, gas-throwing self. Something happened on September 1, though. Wagner seemed unable to do anything right in September, collecting three losses in eight games.  His September line read like this:

IP     H     ERA   R   ER  BB   K  HR   W  L   SV   BSV
8.1   15   10.84  10   10   2  11   4   0  3    3     4

Cook County has stuck with Wagner, despite the closer's September swoon.  While Wagner has been better in the playoffs, he picked the worst possible time to resume surrendering homers. Wagner is as tough a competitor as you'll find, but this will be a hard night for anyone to shake off.

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