Alou, who helped crush Cleveland's half-century-old World Series

By Ken Berger Associated Press Published:

Alou, who helped crush Cleveland's half-century-old World Series hopes last fall, hit an RBI single in the 11th off Mesa on Saturday as the Houston Astros outslugged the Indians 9-5.

"The Indians are not much different from us offensively," said Jeff Bagwell, who tied it at 5 with his 15th homer in the eighth. "Maybe they have a bit more, but we have a lot."

After Alou's decisive hit, Carl Everett added a three-run homer off Mesa (3-4) to punctuate a home-run derby with three long balls by each team. The four-run inning snapped Houston's three-game losing streak and denied the Indians a chance to win seven straight for the first time since winning nine in a row in August 1995.

"What I did against Cleveland last year is past," said Alou, who hit three homers for Florida against the Indians in the 1997 World Series. "But I do have good memories of playing here."

Alou drove in Derek Bell with a two-out single off Mesa _ who blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the Series as the Indians lost to the Marlins in the 11th.

As thunderclaps rumbled in the distance and boos intensified in the stands, Everett added his eighth homer to right. Billy Wagner (2-2) struck out three in 1 1-3 innings, including Pat Borders with Mark Whiten on second in the 10th. Reggie Harris pitched the 11th.

"It was a solid victory for us," Houston's Craig Biggio said. "They have a great team, but we believe in our ability."

Bill Spiers, who had three hits and reached base five times, grounded a single with one out off Mesa. Spiers was thrown out trying to steal, but Bell lined a single off Mesa's glove. Bagwell walked on a 3-2 pitch bringing up Alou, who grounded a single to center.

Mesa wasn't the only Cleveland reliever to falter, but the poor outing signified the continued downward spiral of his career. He saved 46 games in 48 chances in 1995, but has faltered since late in '96.

He first lost his closer's job last spring and has struggled to regain his form since being acquitted of rape charges in the opening days of the '97 season. He has one save and a 4.63 ERA in 38 relief appearances, rarely entering the close games he used to thrive on.

"I fully, honestly believe that Jose Mesa will be a good pitcher for us again," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "We just have to get him some successful appearances."

Mesa was the only Cleveland reliever who didn't face reporters.

"He has to prove himself again," shortstop Omar Vizquel said. "He has to make it happen himself. We need Jose. We need him bad."

Bagwell's homer off Paul Shuey in the eighth tied it at 5 and negated David Justice's solo homer in the seventh off Jose Lima that snapped a 4-4 tie.

Justice's 12th homer and first in 80 at-bats came gave Cleveland a 5-4 lead. It came after Brad Ausmus tied it at 4 with a three-run homer off Eric Plunk in the Houston seventh after having a squeeze bunt roll foul.

"I didn't think it was going out when he hit it," Plunk said. "That's what you get for thinking."

Whiten hit a two-run homer, and Manny Ramirez added a solo shot, his 15th, to give the Indians a 4-1 lead. Whiten drove in tiebreaking runs for the second straight day with his fifth homer, a 412-foot blast to dead center off Lima in the fourth.

Plunk blew the three-run lead for Dwight Gooden, who allowed three runs _ two earned _ and six hits in six innings, walking one and striking out three.

Lima allowed five runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings. Doug Henry pitched two shutout innings before giving way to Wagner, who gave up a two-out single in the ninth to Justice but struck out Jim Thome in a spitting rain to send it to extra innings.

The Indians tied it at 1-1 in the third on Justice's sacrifice fly to center scoring David Bell, who reached on an infield single when second baseman Biggio lost his popup in the sun. Everett caught Justice's drive to center on the dead run and crashed hard into the wall.

His counterpart, Kenny Lofton, made a nice recovery on a sliding trap of Alou's liner in the fourth. Alou tried to stretch it to a double when Lofton short-hopped the ball, but the center fielder threw him out from his knees.

Notes: Cleveland is 2-6 in extra innings, while Houston is 3-5. ... The Astros had allowed only two homers in 80 innings to AL teams. ... Justice's homer was his first homer since June 3 at Minnesota, a span of 20 games. ... The Indians are the only team in the majors with at least one extra-base hit in every game. ... Houston has an NL-high 81 stolen bases while allowing only 30.

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