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INDIANS 5 BRAVES 4 // Indians battle back

You'll have to excuse the Indians for messing up the weekend in Atlanta. It's just that they weren't done playing.

Facing Atlanta ace Greg Maddux with their season one loss from expiration, the Indians responded Thursday night with a 5-4 victory over the Braves.

They extended the World Series to at least a sixth game, which will be Saturday night in Atlanta.

"I've said for four years that this team has a lot of character, and nothing has changed my mind about that," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "This club has never quit."

The Indians, held by Maddux to two opposite-field singles in Game 1 Saturday night, roughed him up Thursday _ banging out seven hits and four runs in seven innings.

And, even better for the Indians, the big hits came from the previously quiet big bats in their lineup.

Albert Belle hit a two-run home run in the first. Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez produced back-to-back run-scoring singles with two out in the sixth. And Thome added a 436-foot home run in the eighth, off reliever Brad Clontz, that proved to be the winning margin.

But the biggest Cleveland hero was starting pitcher Orel Hershiser. The 37-year-old right-hander, who suffered his first career post-season loss Saturday and walked into controversy when he walked off the mound of his own volition, was back in special form Thursday. He held the Braves to two runs (one earned) on five hits through eight innings.

"I have to say this was the most at peace I felt before a big game in my life," Hershiser said. "There were a lot of autograph-seekers before the game _ even our own teammates wanted autographs. Those are the unspoken autographs, that if we lose we won't be here to sign it tomorrow. The whole team was signing, but nobody asked why. That relaxed me. . . . I felt very, very strong and very, very at peace throughout the game."

After his fielding miscues contributed to an Atlanta run in the fifth, Hershiser made a key defensive play in the eighth, snaring Marquis Grissom's line-drive and doubling Mike Mordecai off first.

"I was just protecting myself," Hershiser said. "I was fortunate I caught it and we got the guy out at first."

The Indians, playing the last game of the season at Jacobs Field, did not wrap things up easily in the ninth. Usually dependable reliever Jose Mesa gave up a two-run home run to Ryan Klesko, but struck out Mark Lemke to end the game.

Cleveland is trying to become the seventh team to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Series. Atlanta is trying to avoid the infamy of losing a third World Series in five years.

Thirty-three of the 39 teams that have held 3-1 advantages have gone on to win. The last to come back from down 3-1 was the 1985 Kansas City Royals, over St. Louis.

"I think the pressure is on them," Hershiser said. "They definitely have something to lose. They lost the last two World Series they participated in, and the Atlanta fans are probably wondering what's going on."

The Indians started the night by showing the wacky John Belushi pep-talk scene from the movie Animal House. Things got wilder from there.

With Omar Vizquel on second and two out Belle, the subject of scrutiny because of his run-ins with the media, hit the first pitch he saw over the rightfield fence to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead.

"I'm not surprised he hit the ball that way," Maddux said. "I was surprised he hit the ball that far."

The next batter was Eddie Murray, and Maddux's second pitch came in high and tight. Murray bailed out safely, then glared and pointed at Maddux. The two exchanged words, and players raced onto the field from both benches and bullpens.

Maddux said he wasn't trying to throw at Murray: "It was an unfortunate incident. I guess emotions were running high at the time."

Murray, from his reaction, appeared to disagree.

"I think the deal with Eddie got us a little fired up," Thome said.

There was more between Maddux and Murray. In the fourth, Murray lined a bullet right up the middle that Maddux somehow gloved. Then in the sixth, with Carlos Baerga on second, Maddux intentionally walked Belle to get to Murray, who advanced Baerga to third with a fly ball to right. Baerga eventually scored.

The Braves, held to one hit by Hershiser in the first three innings, scored their first run in the fourth, when Luis Polonia led off with a home run to right.

The Braves tied the score at 2 in the fifth as Hershiser lent a hand. After Klesko led off with a single to right-center, Lemke hit a chopper toward the mound. Hershiser gloved it but threw wide of second, pulling shortstop Vizquel off base. Charlie O'Brien bunted the runners up a base, and the Indians walked pinch-hitter Dwight Smith to load the bases.

Grissom then hit a squibber between the mound and third base. Hershiser tried to make a barehanded play but could not grasp the ball as Klesko raced home with the tying run.

But Hershiser escaped the inning when Polonia hit a hard ground ball into a 6-4-3 double play. "The game changed in the fifth inning," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "That ball goes one way or the other it doesn't take much."

The Indians went back on top 4-2 in the sixth as they continued to hit Maddux hard. With Baerga on third and Belle on first with two outs, Thome singled up the middle to score Baerga. Ramirez followed with another run-scoring single.

In the eighth, Thome crushed a two-out home run 436 feet to straight-away center.

"Jimmy did tonight what he did all year for us," Hargrove said.

Maddux was masterful in throwing a two-hitter Saturday, but he was not the same Thursday.

"His command wasn't quite as good as it has been," Cox said. "He didn't quite make all the pitches he wanted to tonight, I don't think."