08/25/2004 10:25 PM ET
Indians break their losing streak
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
|Coco Crisp's initiative pays off as his drag bunt in the eighth scores the winning run. (Tony Dejak/AP)
CLEVELAND -- Coco Crisp stepped up to the plate with two outs in the eighth inning of a tie game against the Yankees, looked down at Casey Blake on third base and came up with a plan.
These days, wins for Crisp's Indians had been as rare as the perfectly placed bunt. Crisp knew he needed to lay down just such a bunt to give the Tribe the go-ahead run Wednesday night.
And so with one brave, brilliant drag bunt down the first-base side, Crisp legged out an RBI single that propelled the Indians to a 4-3 win over the Yankees in front of 30,605 at Jacobs Field.
"I knew I had to do something," Crisp said of his heroics. "I went up there, (bunting) went through my mind, and I said, 'Hey, OK. Let's show some moxie and get it done.'"
Crisp got it done, and the Indians finally snapped their longest losing streak since 1979.
"That's what you need," a relieved manager Eric Wedge said of Crisp. "Somebody like that to be gutsy and do something like that and make something happen."
Nine-game losing streak aside, Crisp had extra incentive to turn in a clutch play, for an error he committed in the seventh inning helped the Yankees wipe out the Tribe's early 2-1 lead.
A team in the Indians' position could ill-afford to give up any freebies, but they notched a season-high four errors in this game. While single errors in the fifth and sixth didn't lead to any damage, a pair of errors in the seventh allowed the Yankees to take a lead against right-hander Jake Westbrook.
It began when Kenny Lofton launched a deep fly ball to center field that Crisp chased down. He briefly had the ball in his glove before dropping it at the warning track, and Lofton reached second on the error.
"I almost overran it," Crisp said. "I had it right in my palm."
Bernie Williams followed with a double to right to easily score Lofton and tie the ballgame.
That was enough to push Westbrook out of the game. He made way for reliever Matt Miller.
When Derek Jeter, the first batter Miller faced, dropped down a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher's mound, Miller grabbed it and tried to throw Williams out at third. But Miller's throw scooted past third baseman Casey Blake. It allowed Williams to score and gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead.
"We should have taken the out at first," Wedge said. "We got a little greedy there."
In danger of watching the Yankees pull out a late-inning victory for the third straight night, the Indians were desperate to pull off some magic and end their slump.
They did so in the eighth, when Ben Broussard and Casey Blake led off with consecutive walks from reliever Tom Gordon. Jody Gerut moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, and Ronnie Belliard knocked in pinch-runner John McDonald with the tying run on a sacrifice fly to right.
That brought Crisp up to bat with Blake at third.
"I had dropped the ball (in the seventh), and I had the opportunity to redeem myself," Crisp said. "I couldn't ask for more than that."
Crisp and Blake briefly glanced at each other, transmitting a sort of telepathic message of what was to come. No one signaled for Crisp to lay down the two-out bunt. He was strictly in improvisational mode.
"(Bunting) has always been a big part of my game," Crisp said. "My first year, I laid them down a lot, last year was similar, but this year I've relaxed it a bit. I still practice it all the time, though."
That practice paid off, as Crisp neatly bunted Gordon's first-pitch offering toward second baseman Enrique Wilson, who was obviously caught off guard. Wilson threw the ball to first baseman John Olerud, but Crisp beat out the throw with a headfirst slide.
"I looked back to make sure Casey had scored," Crisp said. "Everything else was a blur."
Now Crisp and the Indians are hoping to turn that monster of a losing streak into a blur, as well.
"We've got to start a new winning streak up," Crisp said. "We've got to feed off this game."
Rafael Betancourt fed off the Indians' newfound lead, closing the door on the Yankees in the ninth for his third save of the year.
Anthony Castrovince is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.