MIAMI - Chad Ogea was made for middle relief. He is an ordinary pitcher on a team built around bats. A journeyman. A mediocrity.
But this being the World Series, Ogea's humble skills have been exalted. The Cleveland right-hander arrived at Pro Player Stadium Sunday night a source of concern, and left it a source of inspiration.
Facing Kevin Brown, Florida's acknowledged ace, and needing a victory to square the best-of-seven, Ogea overcame his overwhelming averageness and throttled the Marlins, 6-1.
Wouldn't you know it?
The World Series is staged to determine baseball's best team, and it is odd how often an improbable pitcher walks in from the wings and winds up a star. The archetype is Don Larsen, who departed from an otherwise undistinguished career to pitch a perfect game in 1956, but the event has historically made heroes of pedestrian hurlers.
Lew Burdette. Johnny Beazley. Moe Drabowsky. Harry Brecheen. Not a Hall of Famer in the lot. Each a World Series star.
In 1929, Philadelphia's Connie Mack surprised the Cubs by starting the obscure Howard Ehmke in Game One instead of the great Lefty Grove. Ehmke struck out 13 - a World Series record at the time.
Stingy as Scrooge
Chad Ogea struck out only four Sunday night, and he allowed seven solid hits in 6 2/3 innings. But after an awkward first inning, and the Marlins' only run, he was as stingy as Scrooge. Florida had four doubles against Ogea, and none of those hitters ever made it to third base.
"I got out of a lot of jams tonight," Ogea said. "Men were all over the bases. In that situation, you just have to take your time and throw it where you want to throw it and just be patient."
Like a lot of pitchers with sub-par stuff, Ogea has learned to use hitters' impatience against them. The only Marlin to take a walk against Ogea was Gary Sheffield, who has now walked in all 11 of Florida's post-season games. The other guys were pretty good at getting themselves out.
"He pitched a great game," Marlins manager Jim Leyland said of Ogea. "He changed speeds. He used all of his pitches. Threw them at any time in the count. . .Ogea pitched outstanding."
To pitch successfully, Ogea must be precise. His fastball was consistently clocked in the high 80s Sunday night, roughly 15 miles per hour slower than Florida reliever Robb Nen registered Saturday. He must make his living on the corners of the plate, by outguessing the hitters, by staying ahead in the count.
"When he locates his fastball in and out, and keeps his changeup down, that's the key to Chad Ogea," said Indians catcher Sandy Alomar. "When he gets his fastball high, he's in deep trouble."
Ogea dabbled in deep trouble in the first inning. With one run in and two men on, he got a pitch too close to Moises Alou's power zone. Alou hit a sky-scraping drive that David Justice caught on the left field warning track for the third out. After that, it was relatively easy.
"I knew coming out of the bullpen that I was throwing the ball well," Ogea said. "After the national anthem, I was sort of overthrowing and I told myself to throw the ball to the catcher, not through the catcher."
Ogea went 8-9 with the Indians this season, and at various stages spent 10 weeks on the disabled list and three months between victories. His earned-run average was an alarming 4.99, but he allowed only one run over his last 18 regular season innings.
"When Chad is on his game and locating his fastball and his changeup and his curve ball, Chad can do very well," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "We're very appreciative of what he did, but it's not surprising."
This is what a manager says when a borderline pitcher comes up big. He acts as if it is nothing out of the ordinary, for he may need another game just as good.
Since it's the World Series, we should not rule that out.
BONUS COLUMN: SELIG SHOULD START ASKING FOR DIRECTIONS
COMPLETE WORLD SERIES COVERAGE FROM ASSOCIATED PRESS