Orioles bloop in 7-6 win, but drop tick on East clock Jays' 9th in row offsets Segui's hit

September 22, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- The Orioles tried to keep hope alive last night, but the situation no longer is in their hands. Their dramatic 7-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians may have been re-affirming, but it did nothing to alter the course of the AL East race.

The first-place Toronto Blue Jays have taken all the fun out of the scoreboard watch with a nine-game winning streak that has all but put them into the playoffs. The Orioles and New York Yankees remain within mathematical range, but you don't need a calculator to figure out the odds against them are prohibitive.

Nothing that happened at Cleveland Stadium last night was going to change that. The Orioles blew another early-inning lead and then came back to win the game in the ninth inning on a tie-breaking bloop single by slumping David Segui, but the clock is running out.

This dismal nine-game road trip ends tonight when Ben McDonald faces Jason Grimsley in the series finale, but nothing that happens in that game can reverse the damage already done during the final three road stops of the 1993 season. The Orioles have gone 3-5 on the trip that began with them trailing Toronto by 1 1/2 games. The Blue Jays have gone undefeated. When does spring training start?

Taken out of the context of the division race, it was an entertaining game, not to mention the longest nine-inning game (3:58) in Indians history. Veteran pitcher Rick Sutcliffe came back from knee surgery to make his first start in five weeks, but his duel with Indians veteran Bob Ojeda had turned into a battle of the bullpens by the fifth inning.

Harold Baines had three hits, including his 17th home run of the year, and fill-in first baseman Jack Voigt had three hits and two RBI to carry the Orioles into the eighth inning with a one-run lead. The Indians rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth, but the Orioles tied the game when Cal Ripken scored from first base on an abortive sacrifice bunt attempt by Chris Hoiles and a throwing error by Indians third baseman Alvaro Espinoza.

Enter Segui, who had been benched by manager Johnny Oates after going hitless in his previous 15 at-bats. He entered the game in the seventh as a defensive replacement and came up in the ninth to loop a single to left that put the Orioles back on top.

Substitute Orioles closer Alan Mills had given up a game-tying single and a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth, but finished up to record his fifth victory in eight decisions. Indians stopper Jerry DiPoto took the loss and fell to 4-3.

"It's not like we've won anything," Oates said, "but I think that gives us a little pick-me-up for tomorrow."

The Orioles will take what they can get at this point. The brief performance by Sutcliffe didn't pop anybody's eyes out, but Oates felt that it went better than anyone had a right to expect. Sutcliffe gave up three runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings, but there were enough fluky hits to make the evening more encouraging than the pitching line might indicate.

"I thought he threw the ball extremely well for a guy who hadn't been to the mound since Aug. 22," Oates said. "I wouldn't have been surprised if he hadn't gotten out of the first inning."

No one had any idea what to expect when Sutcliffe took the mound. He had thrown on the side several times since he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 24, but there had been no opportunity to work in a competitive situation.

If it had been earlier in the season, he could have gone on a rehabilitation assignment, but the minor-league season ended before he was ready to throw in a game.

Nevertheless, Oates put him back in the starting rotation when it became apparent over the weekend that right-hander Mike Mussina was too sore to make his scheduled start. Sutcliffe made that decision look pretty good for three innings, but appeared to run out of steam in the fourth.

He gave up just one hit through the first two innings and then worked out of a serious jam in the third that was more the result of bad luck than poor pitch selection. The Indians scored a run on four hits, but two were of the infield variety and the one that scored the run was a soft fly ball that fell in front of Lonnie Smith in left.

It still added up to a very tough situation for Sutcliffe, who was left with the bases loaded and one out with Indians home-run leader Albert Belle at the plate. One good swing would have turned this game the other way, but Sutcliffe got Belle on a shallow fly ball and retired third baseman Jim Thome on a liner to right to end the inning without further damage.

The Orioles had scored a run in the first inning on a leadoff single by Brady Anderson and a run-scoring hit by Mike Devereaux. They opened up a more significant lead with three runs in the third, one of them on a bases-loaded single by Tim Hulett and the other two on a solid double by Voigt.

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