Indians manager Mike Hargrove doesn't know what he's going to get out of his bullpen. Yankees manager Joe Torre is equally perplexed by his starters and he may have seen the last of David Cone this season.
The uneven pitching in this American League Division Series has New York and Cleveland searching for answers as the teams return to Jacobs Field for Game Three tonight (7:30, Ch. 2).
The best-of-five series is tied at a win apiece. Cleveland blew a 6-1 lead in the opener and lost, 8-6. Then the Yankees frittered away a 3-0 first-inning advantage in Game Two as the Indians rallied behind rookie Jaret Wright for a 7-5 win.
"This thing in my neck is not a goiter but it's my stomach," Hargrove said Friday. "I feel quietly confident we can play well and win this thing. Our guys have faced adversity all year long, but I think the Yankees feel the same way. I don't know anybody can sit down and say how the series will go because I don't think anybody has any clue."
David Wells will pitch for New York tonight against Cleveland's Charles Nagy, and 1997 history shows this could be a high-scoring affair.
Wells is 0-1 with a 6.91 earned run average against the Tribe this year, while Nagy is 0-2, 18.00 against the Yankees.
The game looms as an even bigger one for the Yankees, who have scratched Cone from his start in Game Four Sunday after a flareup of the shoulder tendinitis that sidelined him for a month earlier in the season. The Yankees will start Dwight Gooden in Cone's place.
"We don't know about David except that right below his shoulder, his arm hurts him," Torre said. "He's scratched obviously for Sunday and after that, we're not sure."
Specifically, Torre said Cone's status on the Yankees' post-season roster will need to be re-evaluated if New York advances to the ALCS.
"I felt a couple of pops (in the shoulder during a bullpen workout Thursday), like cracking your knuckles," Cone said. "It's frustrating because I've worked so hard to get back."
While the Yankees fret about the loss of Cone, the Indians hope Nagy can take them deep into the game tonight. They persevered Thursday even though their bullpen nearly blew up again.
Tribe relievers have given up seven runs in 6 2/3 innings in the series, while New York's bullpen has shut out Cleveland in 9 2/3 innings. Cone and Game Two starter Andy Pettitte, however, have been touched for 13 runs in 8 1/3 innings.
Wells struggled this year against Cleveland, but he has been sensational in post-season outings for Toronto, Cincinnati and Baltimore. In 13 games (four starts), he's 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA.
"You get so involved in the playoffs you have to make sure you don't overthrow," Wells said. "That's where mistakes are made. You can't go leaving a ball up in the (strike) zone."
Wells said he won't feel any extra knowing Cone won't be following him.
"It's a big loss for us," Wells said. "But it's something that as a team we have to pick him up . . . There's no added pressure because if you think about that, it will mess you up."
Nagy, meanwhile, doesn't have an explanation for his problems against the Yankees.
"They keep getting hits and scoring runs," he said matter-of-factly. "Each game was different and different things were going on . . . When I make bad pitches to good hitters, I know I'm going to get hurt."
Hargrove revealed that Wright, who blanked the Yankees over his final five innings, was nearly pulled after walking three men in the first.
"Jaret was probably within a hitter or two from not finishing that inning," Hargrove said. "We couldn't allow it to go much more than three (runs)."
The ex-Bison has become a media darling with headline writers at papers all over Northern Ohio having a field day with "Wright Stuff" takeoffs. Hargrove left Wright in to get the win, then earned a late-night save when the 21-year-old's truck wouldn't start when the team returned to Cleveland's Hopkins Airport at 3:30 a.m. Friday.
The manager pulled jumper cables out of his car and helped the rookie out of his jam. Showing how Indians-mad this town is in October, newscasts on all three local network affiliates had video of manager helping pitcher under the car's hood.
The Indians will go with Orel Hershiser in Game Four if they lose tonight, but may start Jeff Juden or Chad Ogea if they take a 2-1 lead in the series. That would leave Hershiser in reserve of Wright if the rookie runs into early trouble in a potential Game Five . . . Torre is expected to insert designated hitter Cecil Fielder into the lineup for the first time in the series and keep Charlie Hayes at third base in place of Wade Boggs . . . Indians outfielder Marquis Grissom should play in spite of a deep shoulder bruise suffered in a freak accident during Thursday's game. While scoring a run on Tony Fernandez's fourth-inning double, Grissom was struck by the mask of New York catcher Joe Girardi, who was tossing the headgear aside in anticipation of a play at the plate.