David Cone is getting healthy. Orel Hershiser is ready. Bring on the American League Division Series.
The Indians and Yankees gave us a preview Thursday at Jacobs Field as New York escaped with a 5-4, 10-inning victory. That in itself wasn't all that significant because the focus was on the Cone-Hershiser matchup, which will be replayed Tuesday in the series opener at Yankee Stadium.
Cone pitched five no-hit innings Thursday before being relieved. Hershiser gave up two runs on six hits in six innings.
The Yankees pulled the game out with a three-run 10th, highlighted by Ivan Cruz's two-run single and Cecil Fielder's sacrifice fly.
Five New York pitchers combined on a six-hitter. Ramiro Mendoza (8-6) got the win and Mike Stanton earned his third save despite Jeff Manto's two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th.
The Yankees won the season series, 6-5, splitting six games in Cleveland. The Indians are 84-73 this season, with pessimists noting their record is built largely on a 29-14 mark within the weak American League Central. Against the other three AL playoff teams, the Tribe was just 13-20.
After Cone and Hershiser meet in Game One, New York's Andy Pettitte will battle Cleveland rookie Jaret Wright -- who let the cat out of the bag during batting practice Thursday by telling reporters he would be pitching Game Two instead of Charles Nagy, who is 0-3 with an 18.00 ERA against the Yankees this year.
Neither Hershiser (14-6, 4.47) nor Cone (12-6, 2.82) had particularly good control Thursday. Cone walked five and threw 75 pitches in his stint. Hershiser walked three and needed 95 pitches to get through six innings.
Cone, however, was happy with his second start since coming off the disabled list after a bout of shoulder tendinitis.
"I was a little wild with my fastball, which accounts for the walks," Cone said. "But my stuff was fairly sharp, a little better than last time, and I feel good about it. . . . I was sharper with velocity and movement. I just want to be better with location."
"I thought he was fine," added manager Joe Torre. "We wanted five innings and we got five innings. I thought all his stuff was working: breaking ball, splitter, fastball.
"David Cone doesn't need to throw the ball 95 mph because he has all his other stuff. He can manufacture, create and he's a lot like Hershiser in that he can change speeds on different pitches."
Aside from heavy concentration on the fates of the starting pitchers, the teams played this one largely like a spring training game. A total of 40 players were shuttled into the action, including 11 pitchers.
The Yankees won it on Cruz's single in the 10th off Paul Shuey (4-2). Cruz, a 29-year-old first baseman, hit .312 with 22 homers and 87 RBIs this year at Triple-A Columbus.
Cone and Hershiser were long gone by that time, but remained the focus of post-game talk. Hershiser admitted they were both fine-tuning their arsenals and may have some surprises come Tuesday.
"Pitchers are usually the ones that thrive on surprise," Hershiser said. "You don't want to show everything, but you have to get people out. I think we both were doing the same thing. I felt good after six innings and could have gone more. I'll be healthy for Tuesday."
Fielder had a solo homer for New York in the second inning. All of Cleveland's run were driven in by ex-Bisons. Sean Casey's groundout in the fourth forged a 1-1 tie and Enrique Wilson's single in the seventh drove in pinch-runner Bruce Aven to make it 2-2. Casey and Wilson both recorded their first big-league RBIs.