Cleveland Indians pitcher Dave Otto had a shutout in sight and the Orioles by the throat when his manager, Mike Hargrove, came out to relieve him last night.
The dialogue on the pitcher's mound was succinct.
Otto: "Are you taking me out because Hoiles hit two home runs off me last year?"
Otto, who sailed into the seventh inning with a three-hitter, did not protest.
Even with a 4-0 lead, the one batter he didn't want to face in a critical situation was the Orioles' Chris Hoiles, who was hitting a lusty .714 (5-for-7) lifetime against Otto, a lefthander.
With a runner on third and one out, Indians reliever Rod Nichols retired Hoiles on a called third strike. Then he got Leo Gomez to pop out. That represented the Orioles' last gasp -- last baserunner and last scoring threat -- as Nichols finished off the three-hit, 4-0 victory.
"It was a good move," Otto said of the decision to lift him with a shutout in the works. "Hoiles wore me out last year."
Hoiles was 4-for-5 against Otto last season with two home runs. Last night he was 1-for-2.
Said Hargrove, "Hoiles killed us last year. Every time he came to the plate, he hit the ball hard. That was part of the decision [to pull Otto]. The matchup wasn't conducive to Otto being successful."
Thanks in large part to Hoiles, the 6-foot-7 Otto was 0-1 against the Orioles a year ago, albeit with a 1.80 ERA. Despite Hoiles' production, Otto remembered that it was David Segui who delivered the hit that cost him a game.
Last night, Otto got even, more or less. He got Segui to bounce into a rally-squelching double play in the fifth inning after Hoiles and Gomez had singled.
In 6 1/3 innings, Otto got 11 ground-ball outs, mostly with a sharp sinker. He walked one batter, hit one and struck out one in a 79-pitch performance.
"We've got such good fielders, I just wanted to keep the ball down and get grounders," he said. "And we've got guys in the outfield who can go get them."
The Indians got all the runs they needed in the first on Paul Sorrento's three-run home run, the first at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"That picked me up big time because they had to play for the big inning, and fortunately I stayed away from the big inning," Otto said.
Otto also credited catcher Sandy Alomar with calling a good game, conveniently overlooking the fact Alomar almost cost the Indians a run in the seventh. Thinking the Hoiles' strikeout was the third out of the inning, Alomar moved toward the dugout, while holding onto the ball. Nichols raced to the plate so that Randy Milligan, the runner on third, couldn't score.
Nichols retired all eight batters he faced, three of them looking at third strikes.