The decision boiled down to dueling bullpens last night at Memorial Stadium. And, on paper, the Baltimore Orioles clearly had the edge.
Going into the game, Orioles relievers had not allowed a run in 17 1/3 successive innings and only one to the Cleveland Indians all season.
The Indians mustered three consecutive singles off Mike Flanagan with two out in the 11th inning and outlasted the Orioles, 6-5, in the third straight one-run game of the series.
Joel Skinner started the rally with a single and Alex Cole and Mark Lewis followed with hits to break a string of 25 straight scoreless innings by Orioles relievers. Cleveland has scored two runs against the Baltimore bullpen in 36 1/3 innings.
Former Oriole Eric Bell -- in his second appearance with the Indians -- pitched 1 2/3 perfect innings and gained his first major-league victory since Oct. 4, 1987. That was at New York as a member of the Orioles.
Steve Olin finished to gain his 12th save.
"The bullpen pitched great and kept us in there," said manager John Oates. "They gave us a chance to score."
Todd Frohwirth again was virtually untouchable after entering in the sixth. He allowed one hit and two runners the next three innings, and just one Indian reached scoring position.
Oates made a visit to the mound in the eighth after Carlos Martinez singled and stole second, but kept Frohwirth in the game with pinch hitter Jerry Browne at the plate. Browne struck out and Skinner grounded out to end the threat.
Flanagan replaced Frohwirth with one out in the 10th and retired four straight hitters before encountering the decisive trouble.
A sensational diving catch by Indians third baseman Jim Thome deprived the Orioles of the go-ahead run in the seventh. Thome speared Cal Ripken's two-out line drive that appeared headed for the left-field corner with Luis Mercedes on base.
The Orioles already had been eliminated from the American League East race when Bob Milacki took the mound and ZTC proceeded to toss in a rare poor start.
He was combed for eight hits and five runs in 2 2/3 innings, as the Indians forged ahead, 5-2. Milacki was bidding to throw his third straight complete game, something an Oriole hasn't done in six seasons.
"I guess we all have to have a bad one once in a while to appreciate the six good ones," said Oates.
Ripken established a professional high with his 29th homer, a two-run shot in the first, and Randy Milligan homered for the first time since Aug. 12, in the fourth.
Then, the Orioles got a big call from third-base umpire Tim Tschida after Greg Swindell apparently had picked off Mercedes to end the fifth inning.
Most of the Indians were halfway to the dugout when Tschida called a balk, putting Mercedes at second. Mike Devereaux singled him home, and Ripken doubled Devereaux home to tie the game, 5-5.
"I think he [Swindell] did get upset," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove. "He felt he didn't balk, but Tim Tschida thought he saw him step toward the plate. I didn't agree with the call, but he's a good umpire."
Swindell said: "Evidently, I stepped toward the plate. But it's not his call to make. That wasn't even a pickoff; it was just a throw over."
Then, the bullpens took over, matching zero for zero until Flanagan was charged with the Orioles' 29th one-run defeat of the season, 23 under Oates.