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For one night, magic returns



Published: Tue, August 7, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



CLEVELAND -- Over the course of a 162-game season, one game doesn't usually make much of a difference.

The Indians hope Sunday's come-from-way-back victory over Seattle is an exception.

If their stunning 15-14 extra-inning thriller does the trick, there could be a lot more smiling faces at Jacobs Field.

Heaven knows, the Indians' 30-29 home record hasn't provided the pleasures of past seasons.

A spark: The Tribe certainly needs something to spark it out of its summer doldrums -- since June 9, it has stumbled with a 23-29 record after a 39-20 start.

Instead of pulling away from the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox, the Indians have allowed the Oakland Athletics and Anaheim Angels to join the wild-card chase.

If nothing else, the Tribe rebounding from a 12-0 deficit in a nationally televised game against a team that beat it out of last year's wild-card playoff berth had baseball fans in Northeast Ohio buzzing Monday.

Many of them weren't watching the game live -- that clicking sound you heard Sunday about 9 p.m. were disgusted Indians fans switching channels or shutting their sets off as Seattle jumped out to a huge lead in the third inning.

Who could blame them?

Rough week: It hadn't been a good week for Tribe fans. The Indians ended their series in Detroit with two losses, then came home to lose two out of three games to the Athletics.

Then came the Mariners, the best team in baseball. At 50 games above .500, the Mariners simply don't blow games.

Finally, the Indians had a chance to show how well they match up against a team they very well could meet if they make the playoffs.

No wonder Mariners skipper Lou Piniella blew a gasket after his bullpen suffered a rare meltdown.

After Seattle won the first two games of the four-game set, including a 2-1 nail-biter over Bartolo Colon, the mood of Tribe fans was far from sunny.

Surprise: Imagine the surprise of Indians fans who turned in early Sunday night when they awoke to find out that the Tribe had rallied to tie the score at 14-14 before winning it in the 11th inning when Jolbert Cabrera's single scored Kenny Lofton.

It was as if Christmas had arrived four-and-a-half months early.

It's probably the best Tribe fans have felt about their heroes since the Indians took a 2-0 series lead to Boston in the 1999 playoffs.

Mood swing: Cabrera certainly noticed the mood swing at his apartment complex when he was cleaning up about 8:30 a.m. Monday.

"I was taking out the garbage and a neighbor who was going to work shouted to me 'Incredible -- I can't believe you won that game.' He was smiling, he was shouting."

Cabrera, who replaced Roberto Alomar back in the sixth inning when the game appeared to be a lost cause, wouldn't call his winning hit his best moment in the majors.

"No, that would be my first hit," the utility infielder-outfielder said. "But this was special.

"Today, you could see it on the face of just about everyone in this city," Cabrera said. "The light on their faces was very special."

Sensed it: Cabrera said the team sensed it had a chance in the ninth inning when Einar Diaz "got that hit off [ace reliever Jeff] Nelson. He's pretty tough on righties."

The Diaz single drove in a run to cut the gap to 14-11. Later in the inning, Omar Vizquel connected for what he called his biggest hit of the year, a three-run triple off Kazuhiro Sasaki that forced extra innings.

In the major leagues, just about every team is going to win 60 games and lose 60 times.

It's what they do in the other 42 that determines who plays in the postseason and who sits at home and watches on television.

In his second full season with the Tribe, the 28-year-old Cabrera is hoping for a chance at his first playoff experience.

"Hopefully, this win is going to be a turning point in our season," Cabrera said.

XTom Williams covers Major League Baseball for The Vindicator. Write him at williams@vindy.com.




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