CLEVELAND -- Finally, after 68 games, the Orioles have a four-game winning streak, but nobody is accusing them of making it look easy.
They started with a 1-0 win over Kansas City last Saturday night -- and have now played 34 innings in three successive extra-inning games. Last night's 12-inning, 5-3 victory over Cleveland marked the first time since 1977 that the Orioles have played three straight overtime games -- and the first time since 1973 that they've won three in a row in extra innings.
"The game is meant to be played in nine innings and that's the way you prefer to do it," said manager John Oates. "But I'd be happy to stay here all night if it meant getting a win."
And speaking of spending the night -- the Orioles have played a total of 12 hours and 12 minutes in their last three games (3:44, 4:27 and 4:01). In those three games Oates has used 18 pitchers, six in each game. They have given up 44 hits and 16 walks over that period and have still managed to escape defeat.
The irony of this latest run is that the Orioles had not even scored a run in extra innings this year before Sunday's double-OT experience in Kansas City. They are now 3-5 in extra-inning games.
* INDIANS, JONES SLIDING: Since beating Detroit four in a row three weeks ago, the Indians have lost 17 of 20, including 11 of their last 12. In the process they are wasting a lot of good pitching (Cleveland's 3.70 earned run average is third best in the AL).
However, Doug Jones, who is supposed to be the bullpen stopper, is not among the pitching contributors. Jones (1-6) was the losing pitcher last night, giving up two runs in the only inning he pitched. He came into the game with a 7.59 earned run average and left with an 8.06 mark.
* LAST TUNEUP FOR BEN? Ben McDonald is on a program that will position him to move into the No. 1 spot in the Orioles' starting rotation after the All-Star break. The big righthander is scheduled to make a second rehabilitation start at Triple A Rochester tonight.
The best case scenario would have McDonald passing this test and then starting against Detroit Monday in Baltimore. McDonald is scheduled to throw about 80 pitches tonight. "Then we'll talk with Greg Biagini and Dick Bosman [Rochester manager and pitching coach] and evaluate whether Ben is ready to pitch up here," said Oates.
If it is determined that McDonald needs another start at Rochester (which would be on Monday), Oates said he would still use him for one start before the All-Star break if possible. "I want to keep him on that schedule so he'd be ready to pitch the first game in Oakland [after the break]," said Oates.
* JOHNSON NEXT TO REHAB: Dave Johnson is scheduled to pitch three or four innings under simulated game conditions before tomorrow night's game. It is possible that the righthander will follow McDonald on a rehabilitation assignment pending the results of that workout.
"I think that would be the normal thing," said Oates. "Dave probably thinks he's ready to pitch here now, but we found out with Ben it's better to go out and face some hitters."
Johnson, who was 1-3 with a 9.23 earned run average before being sidelined with a groin injury, has been on the disabled list since May 19.
* MILD FLAREUP: Home plate umpire Terry Cooney acted quickly last night to prevent a possible brushback battle between the Orioles and Indians.
On an attempted bunt, Joe Orsulak was hit by a pitch from Rod Nichols in the second inning and wasn't too happy about it. In the bottom half of the inning Jeff Robinson aggravated Chris James by plunking him in the back and Cooney issued a warning to both sides.
It didn't stop the wildness -- several of Robinson's pitches ended up against the backstop, and Cal Ripken had a pitch glance off his helmet as he contemplated an attempted bunt -- but there weren't any more incidents.
* WORTHY REPORT: While Leo Gomez is trying to put the clamps on the third base job with the Orioles, Craig Worthington is doing his part to make the decision interesting.
"The reports are that he's playing very well," said Oates. "He took himself out of a couple of games early because of tightness in the hamstring, but otherwise he's been fine."
In 11 games, including last night's 8-7 win over Syracuse, Worthington is hitting .341 (14-for-41), with two home runs and eight RBIs.
* THIS 'N THAT: The Indians, who have been playing with 24 players, announced last night they have recalled Albert Belle. The outfielder will be in uniform for tonight's game.
Cal Ripken, whose 15th home run enabled the Orioles to send last night's game into overtime, went 2-for-4, raising his league-leading average to .352.
En route to stranding 16 baserunners, the Indians left the bases loaded twice and two runners aboard on two other occasions. They were retired in order only once, when Gregg Olson got all three batters he faced in the 12th inning.