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GOODEN SEEKING FIRST POSTSEASON WIN

Yankees left-hander Dwight Gooden has a career record of 177-97 and 2,067 strikeouts. Believe it or not, he also has no postseason victories.

Gooden hasn't even appeared in a playoff game since 1988. He'll finally get his chance tonight against the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field. It will be like an '88 reunion when Gooden meets Cleveland's Orel Hershiser. Nine years ago, Hershiser won one game and saved another as the Dodgers beat the Mets, four games to three, in the National League Championship Series.

"I've been able to do everything that I've pretty much been possibly able to do," said Gooden, who tossed a no-hitter for the Yankees last season. "Getting a win in postseason is one thing that would look good for me to do."

Gooden was 0-2 with an 8.00 earned-run average for the Mets in the '86 World Series against Boston, and is 0-1, 2.04 in five LCS appearances.

His biggest downer came in the '88 NLCS, when he gave up Mike Scioscia's two-run homer in the ninth inning of Game Four that pulled the Dodgers even in a game they won in 12 innings. That squared the series at 2-2 after the Mets were two outs away from a 3-1 lead.

"I still think about that once in a while," Gooden said. "You always play the game of what-could-have-been. Even if I pitch well (tonight), it will still be brought up because it was such a dramatic moment for the Dodgers."

Gooden is getting his chance this year because of David Cone's recurring shoulder tendinitis. As backups go, he is a good choice. Gooden is 5-0 in his career against Cleveland and 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA against the Tribe this year.

Indians manager Mike Hargrove said Gooden's success lies in his breaking pitches. Even behind in the count, Gooden has been able to spot his off-speed deliveries in the strike zone and the Indians haven't been able to adjust. It's a sign of Gooden's development from fireballing phenom to 32-year-old veteran.

"At that time (the late 80s), I considered myself more of a power pitcher," Gooden said. "I still can be that way in strikeout situations. I'm a smarter pitcher now. In the past, when I fell behind, everybody in the ballpark knew a fastball was coming.

"In the early years with the Mets, I knew I'd get chances for a long time to participate (in the playoffs). I'm honored to be in this situation now and I just want to take advantage of it.
The Cleveland roster has undergone a stunning turnover from last year. Thirteen Indians from the '96 Division Series loss to Baltimore are not around for this series, headed by Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton.
Cleveland's roster for the series includes four players who spent time in Buffalo this year -- pitchers Jaret Wright and Alvin Morman and infielders Enrique Wilson and Jeff Manto.

Ex-Bison pitchers Paul Shuey and Jason Jacome are not on Cleveland's Division Series roster, but are eligible for the postseason. Former Buffalo players remaining in uniform for the Tribe but not eligible are pitchers Brian Anderson and Bartolo Colon, catcher Einar Diaz and outfielder Bruce Aven.
The Yankees' 96-win regular season (four more wins than last year) made them the first defending World Series champion to improve their record since the 1990 Oakland A's. No Yankee champion had improved since 1963, when New York went 104-57 after going 96-66 the previous year.

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