Like a lot of major league teams, the Cleveland Indians set off fireworks after one of their own hits a home run - and after every victory.
Tim Belcher was in bed just after midnight Wednesday when the raindelayed game between Texas and Cleveland ended, and those fireworks ignited.
“It sounded like they were dropping cars off the roof,” Belcher said after hearing the explosions from the room of his downtown hotel.
He was a lot closer to the source of those explosions Thursday. He was on the mound of Jacobs Field - and every few innings, he had to stand there and watch the pyrotechnic display.
A pair of home runs by Manny Ramirez and another by Albert Belle not only beat Belcher and the Mariners, they nearly deafened them. And with rookie right-hander Chad Ogea silencing Seattle on three hits, Cleveland’s 8-1 victory was neatly wrapped up in 2 hours and 13 minutes.
The only thing faster than the time of game was the way Cleveland piled up runs - and they can do that as quickly as any team in the majors.
“The sound of their bats hitting the ball was a lot louder than the sound of our bats hitting the ball,” manager Lou Piniella said.
Knowing they couldn’t get into a high-scoring contest with the Indians, the Mariners felt going into the series they had to keep the run count down. And for a time, Belcher did that.
“They’re a good-hitting team, especially in their own ballpark, and they don’t miss mistakes,” Belcher said. “At least they didn’t tonight.”
Belcher had retired the first five Indians he faced when Ramirez nuked a fastball 410 feet for his 17th home run and a 1-0 lead. Six Cleveland hitters - and six outs later - the Indians rolled a walk, a single and Ramirez’s 18th home run into a three-run fourth inning.
A home run by Tino Martinez - his third in two games - was Seattle’s only score, and both their other hits, singles, flicked off Cleveland gloves.
“We could easily have been one-hit tonight,” Piniella said. “Ogea pitched well, but a whole lot of pitchers are pitching well against us. We don’t exactly have the ‘27 Yankees.”
The score stayed 4-1 into the eighth inning, where Belcher got one out and then walked Carlos Baerga and left a fastball high in the strike zone to Belle.
Faster than you could look up for the fireworks, it was 6-1. A single and walk later, Belcher was gone, boneweary after 120 pitches. Before he could ice his arm, both the runners he’d left on scored when Rafael Carmona gave up a two-run double to Paul Sorrento.
As far back as 1993, when he went 12-5, Dave Fleming was losing confidence even as he was winning games.
A year later, the winning stopped. The losing got worse and carried into the 1995 season. On Thursday, the Seattle Mariners had seen enough and asked the 25-year-old lefthanded pitcher to accept an assignment to Class AAA Tacoma.
He has three days to decide whether to accept or become a free agent.
A year ago he went 7-11 with a 6.46 earned-run average. In 16 appearances this season, including seven starts, he is 1-5 with a 7.50 ERA.
Left-hander Greg Hibbard, who hasn’t pitched since last June 23, will undergo a second major shoulder operation today and could be lost for another year.
And left-hander Tim Davis underwent minor shoulder surgery on Thursday. He is expected to miss six weeks, then begin rehabilitation, perhaps with the Tacoma Rainiers.
Catcher Chad Kreuter came off the disabled list, sliding into the roster spot vacated by Fleming.