One Moises Alou swing sent a baseball soaring through the night sky Thursday. Livan Hernandez pitched. And pitched. And pitched some more.
That capsulizes Game Five of the World Series, an 8-7 victory for the Florida Marlins over the Cleveland Indians that has the fifth-year team one win away from baseball's ultimate prize.
Alou belted his second three-run home run of the series off Cleveland's Orel Hershiser, a drive to center field in the sixth that wiped out a 4-2 deficit and put the Marlins up for good.
It stunned a Jacobs Field crowd of 44,888 and sent a jolt of momentum through the 22-year-old Hernandez, who lasted two batters into the ninth and threw an astonishing 142 pitches.
Hernandez survived despite walking eight, the most in a Series game since Baltimore's Jim Palmer walked eight in a 1971 win over Pittsburgh. He became just the first rookie to win four postseason games in a single year and the first rookie since Spec Shea of the Yankees in 1947 to win two Series games. "This kid is tough," said manager Jim Leyland. "He's been one of our best and I think you have to stay with your best."
Hernandez issued six walks in the first three innings and Sandy Alomar's three-run homer in the third put him into a 4-2 hole. Visibly upset on the mound and in the dugout, Hernandez finally regained his composure and allowed just three singles the rest of the way.
"I had (pitching coach) Larry Rothschild and every Spanish-speaking guy I had on the team talk to him when he came in the dugout," Leyland said. "I don't know which one of them it was, but one of them hit home."
Injured pitcher Alex Fernandez and catcher Charles Johnson both put in their two cents worth with Hernandez.
"When I get angry like that, it helps me concentrate better," Hernandez said through an interpreter. "Charles Johnson helps me concentrate when I'm doing something mechanically that's not right. Same with the infielders. Even though some people may not agree, that helps the pitcher out a lot. It relaxes them and it also gives them more courage."
If the Marlins win this series, Alou's home run will likely stand as its defining moment. We'll find out this weekend as the scene shifts back to Miami with the Marlins leading, three games to two.
The teams are off today and Florida sends ace Kevin Brown to the Pro Player Stadium mound for Game Six Saturday night against Cleveland's Chad Ogea. Game Seven, if necessary, would be Sunday night.
The Florida sixth began and ended with strikeouts by shortstop Edgar Renteria, giving him the dubious distinction of becoming the first player in Series history to whiff twice in an inning.
In between was a stunning reversal of fortune.
With one out, Gary Sheffield singled and Bobby Bonilla walked. Darren Daulton lined out to Brian Giles in left and Hershiser was an out away from getting back to the dugout with the Indians' lead intact. He never got it.
With the count at 2-1, Hershiser left a slider up. Alou crushed it, sending it an estimated 416 feet into a camera bay over the 19-foot wall in deep center. Alou, who pumped his fist rounding first base as if he recognized the significance of the blast, admitted afterward it probably was the biggest hit of his life.
"But hopefully I can have a bigger game Saturday," he said. "But sure, I was very excited. It's the first time I've played in the World Series and I was happy to put my team ahead."
"Everybody we've talked to has told us that Moises Alou is a very good fastball hitter, so obviously you stay away from throwing fastballs to him," said Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove. "You hang something and they'll 'cripple-shoe' you and that's what he did."
Alou had popped out and struck out in his first two at-bats, so bench coach Jerry Manuel offered him the subtle tip of staying back and waiting for Hershiser to make a mistake.
"Jerry said, "Become a hitter instead of a swinger,' " Alou said. "I stayed back, trusted my hands and got a good pitch to hit."
"It got us all excited and it helped me out a lot," Hernandez said. "The whole dugout screamed a lot for Moises."
Now with the lead, the Marlins rolled on. After two more singles off Hershiser and a walk issued by Alvin Morman, they capped a four-run sixth with Devon White drawing a bases-loaded walk from Eric Plunk.
Florida added single runs in the eighth and ninth -- on RBI singles by Johnson and Alou -- to give Hernandez even more of a comfort zone.
They were needed thanks to some baffling umpiring at first base by Ken Kaiser, who ruled Hernandez missed the bag on Bip Roberts leadoff grounder in the ninth after catching Jeff Conine's routine flip.
When Omar Vizquel singled, Hernandez was finally removed for Robb Nen. The Florida closer gave up David Justice's two-run single and Jim Thome's RBI single that pulled Cleveland within a run.
Not until Alomar's fly ball to right just shy of the warning track was hauled in by Sheffield had the Marlins escaped.
They were hardly fish out of water in chilly Cleveland, where they won two of three despite the temperature never climbing over 50 degrees. Now it's back to sunny Florida, where more than 67,000 fans will attempt to watch them make history.