The 1997 American League Championship Series (ALCS) pitted the Cleveland Indians, who won coming back against the defending World Series champion New York Yankees in the AL Division Series, and the Baltimore Orioles, who went wire-to-wire and beat the Seattle Mariners in the Division Series. The Indians stunned the Orioles, winning on bizarre plays or remarkable comebacks, and won the Series four games to two, but went on to lose to the Florida Marlins in the well-fought, seesaw, seven-game battle of the 1997 World Series. The Orioles had home field advantage, which was predetermined and assigned to either the East Division champions or their opponents in the Division Series.
Cleveland won the series, 4–2.
Wednesday, October 8, 1997, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland
The Orioles grabbed an early 1–0 series lead on the strong performance by starting pitcher Scott Erickson who gave up four hits, all singles, over eight innings of work. The Indians never threatened, getting only one runner to second base. Baltimore, on the other hand, wasted no time scoring as center-fielder Brady Anderson took Indians starter Chad Ogea's first offering in the bottom of the first out of the park, giving the Orioles a 1–0 lead in the game. In the bottom of the third Anderson's double was followed by a Roberto Alomar home run, giving Erickson a 3–0 cushion. It would be more than enough as closer Randy Myers pitched a clean ninth inning.
Thursday, October 9, 1997, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland
In Game 2, Charles Nagy and Jimmy Key struggled to get a much needed win. Key allowed a two-run homer to Manny Ramírez in the top of the first. Nagy would also allow a two-run homer in the bottom of the second to Cal Ripken, Jr. Then Mike Bordick hit the go-ahead two-run single off Nagy in the sixth that knocked Nagy out of the game. With the Tribe trailing 4–2 in the top of the eighth inning, two walks put two men on with two out. Armando Benítez faced Marquis Grissom and Grissom would deliver a stunning three-run homer that gave the Indians a 5–4 lead. That lead would stand as the Cleveland bullpen kept the Orioles in check to even the series at a game apiece. Grissom's homer would turn the tide in the series.
Saturday, October 11, 1997, at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio
With the Series evened at one-game apiece, a classic pitching clinic unfolded when Orel Hershiser took on Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina at Jacobs Field. In this game, Mussina would set an LCS record with fifteen strikeouts, which would be matched by Liván Hernández in the NLCS the same year. The Indians had a 1–0 lead in the ninth, but José Mesa blew the lead after Marquis Grissom lost a fly ball from Brady Anderson in the lights and the game moved on into the twelfth inning. With Randy Myers on the mound for Baltimore, Marquis Grissom walked, then a single by Tony Fernández moved him to third. With one out, Omar Vizquel motioned to bunt. When the pitch came, it went through the strike zone, Vizquel apparently missed the ball, and the ball got away from Orioles catcher Lenny Webster, allowing Grissom to score. Webster and Myers thought the ball was fouled off and no one did anything to stop Grissom, but the ball was not ruled as a foul ball, and the Indians won the game. Although Orioles manager Davey Johnson argued too that the ball was fouled off, the Indians had already won.
Sunday, October 12, 1997, at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio
With one bizarre play, the Indians had built some momentum. With Scott Erickson back on the mound against Indians starter Jaret Wright, the game was destined to be the swing game of the Series. With an early 1–0 lead, Erickson allowed a two-run homer to Sandy Alomar, Jr., but the Orioles scored four more runs off Wright to build a 5–2 lead. The Indians closed to within two in the fourth, but in the fifth, an even more bizarre play than Vizquel's missed bunt occurred. With Erickson tiring after giving up two more runs, Arthur Rhodes came in the game with two men on and two outs. He threw a wild pitch with Grissom at bat, allowing David Justice to score from third. However, he collided with Rhodes at home, and home plate umpire Durwood Merrill obscured the view of the ball for the catcher Webster. Merrill motioned for someone to get the ball as Sandy Alomar raced for home. He would also score since no one was able to get the ball in time to make an out. The Indians now had a two-run lead. However, the Orioles would tie the game in the ninth again off José Mesa. But Sandy Alomar, having a great postseason thus far, singled in the winning run in the ninth, giving the Indians an 8–7 win, and a three games to one lead in the Series.
Monday, October 13, 1997, at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio
With the Orioles facing elimination they took a 2–0 lead in the third inning when right-fielder Gerónimo Berroa singled with the bases loaded off Cleveland starter Chad Ogea. From there Orioles starter Scott Kamieniecki held the Indians scoreless through five innings. Jimmy Key then turned in three scoreless innings in relief of Kamieniecki, who left the game due to elbow stiffness. Indians reliever Paul Assenmacher allowed four hits and two runs, including a home run by Eric Davis, in the ninth inning to stretch the Baltimore lead to 4–0. Orioles closer Randy Myers made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth by permitting RBI doubles to Matt Williams and Tony Fernández, but the Orioles held on for a 4–2 win, drawing the series closer, three games to two.
Wednesday, October 15, 1997, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland
Another pitching masterpiece occurred. This time it was Mussina against Charles Nagy. It was scoreless baseball until the eleventh. That's when a wondrous Series subplot unfolded. Tony Fernández hit a batting practice ball that bruised Bip Roberts, so Tony took his place at second base. With two outs, Fernandez hit a home run that gave the Indians a 1–0 eleventh inning lead. With two outs in the bottom half of the eleventh inning, Brady Anderson singled to right off José Mesa. With Anderson on as the tying run, Roberto Alomar came up to bat. What to many seemed like a ball inside, as he flinched away from the plate, was actually a called strike. This gave Cleveland the out and the trip to the World Series. Roberto was shocked to hear it called a strike because he shied far away from the plate, thinking he was going to get hit.
1997 ALCS (4–2): Cleveland Indians over Baltimore Orioles