Orioles' surge in power zaps Indians, 8-6 Ripken HRs lead 6th win in row

O's tie Yankees for 3rd, 2 back

August 08, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

If Cal Ripken was into proving other people wrong, he could have taken care of a lot of them with his performance last night in the Orioles' rain-interrupted 8-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Camden Yards.

Starting with Indians manager Mike Hargrove, who ordered an intentional walk to Harold Baines right before Ripken hit a tie-breaking three-run homer in the third inning.

Ending with about everyone in the Baltimore/Washington area, who thought that his days as baseball's top power-hitting shortstop had come to an end when his home-run swing disappeared midway through the 1992 season.

Ripken hit his 17th and 18th home runs last night to lead the Orioles to their sixth straight victory.The Orioles also pulled into a tie for third place with the Yankees, who lost, 6-5, to the Minnesota Twins, and trail the division-leading Blue Jays by two games.

Ripken was the headline performer in an eventful game, accounting for half of the Orioles' attack on the night that Indians left-hander Bob Ojeda pitched for the first time since being injured in a boating accident that killed two of his teammates.

The game also featured four-hit performances by Orioles right fielder Mark McLemore and Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton, but it was Ripken who made all the difference with a four-RBI game that raised his team-leading total to 67.

If you project his home run and RBI totals over the season, Ripken would finish with 27 home runs and 99 RBI, well above his career averages. That's not bad considering that he had five homers and 23 RBI two months into the season.

"The first 300 at-bats this year were frustrating," Ripken said. "You can't erase what has already happened, but I guess this proves that if you keep pounding away, you'll fight your way through it. It doesn't come back overnight."

Vindication? Ripken didn't seem particularly interested, not even when Hargrove ordered the intentional walk that brought him to the plate in the third inning. "I'm not one of those people that get offended by that," Ripken said. "I look at it as the strategy of the game."

HTC Hargrove should have seen it coming. When he put Baines on, he proved that history does repeat itself.

He had ordered an intentional walk to Mark McLemore to bring Ripken to the plate in a game June 18 at Cleveland Stadium. Ripken answered then as he did this time, hammering a three-run shot to left-center field to break open a tie game.

This one didn't stay open. Ripken's second home run -- another bolt to left-center -- provided a one-run margin in the late innings that was handed from reliever to reliever until the Orioles added an insurance run in the ninth.

It was a wild one from the start. Just ask starter Fernando Valenzuela, who gave up four runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings. He had not had a shorter outing since his first start as an Oriole on April 13 in Texas.

Valenzuela was coming off his worst outing in more than a month. He gave up five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night, but managed to keep his midsummer winning streak intact. The Orioles came back to win that game, so Valenzuela is without a loss since June 19 -- the last time he faced the Indians.

The Indians must have figured something out, because they came into the game with an unorthodox strategy. Lofton started the game with a bunt single that led to the first Cleveland run, and the second and third batters in the Indians order bunted for hits in a one-run rally in the third.

The strategy worked. After a one-out double by Lofton in the third, Wayne Kirby dropped a bunt in front of the plate, and Valenzuela threw the ball wide of first to allow the runner to score.

Perhaps the wet field contributed to the error. Perhaps the wet weather contributed to a tough night all around for both starters. Valenzuela and Indians rookie Julian Tavarez both struggled after a long rain delay in the third inning.

Tavarez looked good in the first two innings of his major-league debut, but the Orioles scored five times in the rain-interrupted third to bring an early end to his evening. The 20-year-old right-hander walked Jeff Tackett to lead off the inning and was a victim of a pop fly by Brady Anderson that fell for a double.

That's when the clouds opened up in earnest, but the rainstorm only delayed the Orioles' bat-around. Tavarez returned 41 minutes later and gave up a game-tying, two-run single to Mark McLemore. One out later, with McLemore on second and a 2-0 count on Harold Baines, Hargrove ordered Tavarez to deliver the intentional walk that set up the three- run home run by Ripken.

The Indians scored two runs on three extra-base hits in the top of the fourth to run Valenzuela out of the game. Third baseman Alvaro Espinoza started the rally with a leadoff double down the left field line, and newly activated catcher Sandy Alomar brought him home one out later with a slicing triple into the right-field corner. The Indians made it a one-run game when Lofton doubled to center for his third hit.

Valenzuela walked Kirby to bring manager Johnny Oates out of the dugout and right-hander Alan Mills out of the bullpen. Mills got out of the jam and went on to pitch three innings to earn the victory.

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