Indians throw out final bump in O's dismal road, 4-2 Miss shots on bases, in race to cap 3-6 trip

September 23, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

CLEVELAND -- The Orioles limped home last night, barely a shell of the American League contender that embarked nine days earlier on the final regular-season road trip of the year.

They left Baltimore just 1 1/2 games out of first place and returned out of range of any reasonable expectation of a division title, thanks in part to last night's 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

The Toronto Blue Jays finally ended their nine-game winning streak with a loss to Boston, so the Orioles missed an opportunity to pick up a game that might have made the situation seem a little less desperate. They remained 5 1/2 games out with only the coming 10-game homestand remaining.

The piecemeal, one-series-at-a-time philosophy that had held the Orioles in such good stead finally failed them when it counted the most. They hit the road to face three teams that were a combined 11-19 against them this year. They closed out the trip against two teams -- the Milwaukee Brewers and Indians -- who had gone 0-7 during an August trip to Camden Yards. It looked like the schedule had fallen right in their laps. . . until they lost each of the three three-game series to go home looking for place money.

"It's over with," manager Johnny Oates said of the road trip. "It was not what we wanted. Not what we would have liked. But it's over. We have to go home and play better the last 10 games at home. We go on.

"We had a couple of leads in Boston we couldn't hold, we had a couple of games in Milwaukee where we didn't hit and we had a couple of games here where we didn't execute."

Last night's loss wasn't the back-breaker, of course, but it was another spirit-breaker. The Orioles gave away a run in the fifth and had two runners thrown out at home plate to leave Ben McDonald out in the rain again.

McDonald cursed the fates for the umpteenth time this year after leaving a tie game in the seventh inning and watching pinch hitter Candy Maldonado deliver a decisive two-run single off reliever Jim Poole.

Shortstop Cal Ripken groused at home-plate umpire Greg Kosc for a disputed tag play in the sixth inning that he felt cost the Orioles at least one run.

Ripken came home on a two-out double by Mike Pagliarulo and thought he had evaded the tag by Indians catcher Sandy Alomar. Kosc was in front of the play, so he would have had a tough time determining whether Alomar's swipe caught Ripken on the back, but he had no problem making a dramatic out call that sent both Ripken and manager Johnny Oates into a rage.

"I didn't think it was that close," Ripken said. "He swiped at me and I didn't feel anything, not even the air. I said he didn't tag me. He [Kosc] said he did. Both of us couldn't be right."

Ripken also got into an animated argument with Kosc over a called third strike in the eighth inning, but the only player ejected from the game was former Oriole Sam Horn -- for a ball-strike argument with Kosc earlier in the game.

The Orioles couldn't blame anyone but themselves for the second out at the plate. Harold Reynolds tried to score the go-ahead run from first base on a seventh-inning double by Brady Anderson, but he was thrown out easily to cost the club a chance at a bigger inning.

They were both pivotal plays, but third-base coach Mike Ferraro did not apologize for either one of them.

"I guess I'm a chance guy," he said. "I'm trying to be aggressive. We weren't doing very much, so you try to make things happen. The play with Cal, I'm going to try to score there because there are two outs. With Harold, I sent him because we had scored the tying run. If we hadn't scored the tying run on the play I might have held him."

McDonald worked 6 1/3 innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits, but watched his record dip below .500 at 12-13. Reliever Jeremy Hernandez picked up for Indians starter Jason Grimsley and was the pitcher of record when Maldonado stroked a 2-2 pitch into left field to decide the game.

"I wasn't real happy about being pulled," McDonald said, "but it was Johnny Oates' decision. I felt I wasn't going to let them score in that situation. I felt like I had a lot left. I had only thrown 100 pitches."

McDonald is trying to salvage a respectable record from a season in which he has pitched much better than the won-lost numbers would indicate. He entered last night's game with the seventh-best ERA (3.14) in the American League, but was looking to move above .500 for only the second time this season.

Perhaps with a little luck and a little more run support, he might be coming to the end of a breakthrough season, but he'll need to defeat the Yankees and Blue Jays in his final two starts to end with 14 wins.

The Indians jumped at the chance to get in his way. Kenny Lofton and Wayne Kirby opened the bottom half of the first inning with singles, setting up the first run of the game. Carlos Baerga brought it home with an RBI ground out, but McDonald got a break when a second Cleveland run was called back by third-base umpire Al Clark.

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