Ripken powers O's to 4-1 win 3-run HR helps McDonald's victory

June 19, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- Mike Hargrove went with the statistics, but against the book here last night.

The book won when Cal Ripken's three-run, seventh-inning homer off Jose Mesa carried the Orioles to a 4-1 win over the Cleveland Indians.

The game's decisive moment was set up when Hargrove, the Indians' manager, defied the adage that insists, given a choice, you never give the opposition's marquee player a chance to beat you in the late innings. Relying on recent averages which supported his decision, Hargrove took the gamble.

With two outs and the go-ahead run at second base, Hargrove ordered the righthanded Mesa to give switch-hitting Mark McLemore an intentional walk and pitch to the righthanded hitting Ripken. McLemore was hitting .292 at the time Hargrove made his move. Ripken had only one hit in his last 19 at-bats, dropping his average to .214.

NB "I don't care if its Superman who's hitting .214, he's the one

you're going to pitch to in that situation," said Hargrove. "Jose had gotten him out three times easy. If I had to do it all over again, I would."

Four pitches after Hargrove made his decision, the numbers were rendered meaningless. Mesa went right after his former teammate and got ahead in the count, 0-and-2, before trying and failing to get Ripken to chase a high fastball.

Mesa's next pitch was another fastball, this one about thigh-high on the inner half of the plate. When Ripken turned on the pitch, sweeping a drive down the left-field line, everyone in the Orioles' dugout leaped to the top step to see if the ball would stay fair.

That was the only question and it was answered in a hurry as the ball whistled into the seats about six feet inside the foul pole. The blast gave the Orioles their 13th win in their last 15 games -- and Ben McDonald (3-6) his first win since April 30.

McDonald allowed seven hits and one run over 6 1/3 innings before turning the game over to a procession of four relief pitchers. Gregg Olson pitched the ninth inning to claim his 18th save.

"I hated like hell to see the ball go out of the park," said Hargrove, "but everything screamed to pitch to Ripken in that situation."

It's been a long time since the Orioles' shortstop faced such a situation, but he wasn't about to question Hargrove's strategy. "It's been a while, but it's not the first time [a hitter has been walked intentionally in front of him], and I'm sure it won't be the last," said Ripken. "It certainly wasn't insulting by any means. Mesa had my number -- he'd been staying inside on me the whole game. I'm aware that I haven't been as productive as I'd like to be, as anybody would like to be, but you have to try and put those thoughts out of your mind.

"When you're going good, it's easy to remember what you're doing that's right," he added. "But when you're going bad you have to get things out of your mind, try to look at each at-bat differently."

Getting the big blow from Ripken may have some long-range significance, but manager Johnny Oates said it didn't make the victory any sweeter. "It just feels good to get the win -- it doesn't matter who does it," he said.

The same might also be said about McDonald, whose record doesn't reveal how well he's pitched, especially in his last eight starts. "I thought he threw the ball outstanding," said Oates. "He had good velocity and he made some adjustments when he had to keep the ball in the infield."

However, finally getting a win could further enhance McDonald's continued improvement. "There were some times tonight when he had to make certain pitches, and he made them," said pitching coach Dick Bosman.

"When that happens it has to bolster your confidence -- and the manager's confidence. A couple of times he had to reach back for something extra -- and he did."

In particular, McDonald faced queasy situations in the third inning, when he got Albert Belle to fly out with the bases loaded, and again in the sixth, when he made a good defensive play on a bouncer by Jeff Treadway with runners on first and third and one out.

But in the end, this one came down to Hargrove's decision to pitch to Ripken. Considering the circumstances, logic was on the side of the Indians' manager, but sometimes you have to at least consider what the book says.

To Hargrove, it made sense to pitch to Ripken with the game on the line, so he did it. But this time, the strategy didn't work.

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