Alomar takes off for the run of it Wild pitch, steal fuel Jays' rally

June 30, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

The box score will tell you that the Orioles got beat last night on a broken-bat hit by John Olerud and a ground-ball single by Tony Fernandez. But in reality, it was Roberto Alomar who stole the game.

His leadoff single put the Blue Jays in business in the ninth inning, and the talented second baseman kept them in motion long enough to produce a 2-1 victory. The game's turning point came on a wild pitch that never left the area of home plate.

"I thought that was the key to the inning," said Paul Molitor, who at the time was in the midst of a tantalizing eight-pitch duel with Ben McDonald. "It changed the way he [McDonald] was pitching to me and set everything in motion."

Ultimately, Molitor walked on a 3-and-2 slider that broke outside the strike zone. When Brad Pennington replaced McDonald, it gave Alomar even more of a license to continue exploiting the defense -- and force the Orioles into a strategic deployment that contributed to the runs that decided the game.

When Alomar proceeded to steal third base, on a 1-and-2 breaking ball from Pennington to John Olerud, the Orioles were faced with what amounted to a lose-lose situation. Olerud has the American League's top average (.405) -- not the kind of hitter who is best defended against with the infield drawn to the edge of the infield grass.

But the count dictated that move for Orioles manager Johnny Oates. "You have two strikes on Olerud and you want to get out of the inning without a run scoring -- I didn't want to tie the game."

On the next pitch, Olerud hit a broken-bat liner that barely cleared the glove of second baseman Harold Reynolds, and from that point it was all downhill for the Orioles. Fernandez rolled a single through the rightside, making it academic that Gregg Olson came on to prevent more damage. Enough had been done.

Alomar was asked if he thought the Blue Jays had stolen the game. "What do you think?" he said with a smile. "I think we did."

On the wild pitch, actually a breaking ball in the dirt that never left the shadow of catcher Chris Hoiles, Alomar needed only an instant to make his move. "I knew he didn't know where the ball was," Alomar said. "As soon as I knew that, he didn't have a chance."

The reason Hoiles lost sight of the ball was because of his preoccupation with Alomar. As soon as the ball landed at his feet, Hoiles looked at the runner. As he did, he inadvertently kicked the ball slightly. That's when Alomar left for second base and didn't draw a throw.

"I knew he didn't know where the ball was," Alomar said. His next move admittedly was something of a gamble -- had Pennington thrown the fastball Olerud hit one pitch sooner, it might have been a double play. But such possibilities don't deter Alomar, or his manager.

"We have to stay aggressive in our play," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "If Alomar gets thrown out, we would just come back tomorrow and try to win. We can't play afraid, we have to take the chances -- as long as they are within reason, you have good chance to win the game."

Alomar acknowledged his stolen base, with a left-handed batter of Olerud's stature at the plate, was a gamble -- but a calculated one. "He [Pennington] was paying attention, but he was slow [delivering the ball to home plate].

"I watched him four times and then decided to go. I said, 'Why not try?' We always have to play aggressive," Alomar said.

Last night, he did it all. He made a play up the middle in the first inning that turned a hit into an out at third base, and he made all of the key plays offensively in the ninth inning. "He does something every night," Molitor said.

Sometimes the things Alomar does are spectacular. Sometimes they're routine. Sometimes they're disruptive. And sometimes they're a combination of the three. Just ask the Orioles.

GOING TO WASTE

The Orioles were 1-for-13 with men in scoring position in last night's 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays. A look at the wasted innings:

1st -- McLemore thrown out in rundown between third and home after Baines' grounder didn't get through infield.

2nd -- Devereaux stranded after leadoff double.

3rd -- With bases loaded and one out, Baines flied out and Devereaux struck out.

4th -- With runners at first and third and one out, Reynolds flied to left and McLemore flied to center.

7th -- Reynolds led off with a double and was advanced to third, but Ripken struck out and Baines popped out.

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