Gomez guesses right, gives O's a winning ride

SIDELIGHT

July 31, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

In the seventh inning last night with Toronto leading 5-4, the Orioles' Leo Gomez stepped to the plate as the contestant in the popular baseball game show, "Guess That Pitch."

The Blue Jays brought on a ringer of sorts, reliever Mike Timlin, to act as quiz master to Gomez, who had to do some quick thinking.

With two outs and the Orioles' Cal Ripken on first base, Timlin's first offering, a fastball, was a ball. Gomez fouled off Timlin's second pitch, also a fastball, and then the real guesswork began.

"I knew he threw a sinker and a slider. I didn't think he would walk me. I was just looking for one pitch inside," Gomez said.

Gomez guessed low, inside fastball. Timlin threw what was supposed to be a low, inside fastball. Gomez guessed correctly and parked the pitch just inside the left-field foul pole for a two-run home run that helped spark the Orioles to a 7-5 victory.

"[Last night] I put my mind into getting us a win," Gomez said. "I had a good swing. We got a good win, and maybe we can get a win [today] and get something going on the road trip."

Timlin, who took the loss, didn't quite see it as simply as Gomez, who was hitting .429 off the reliever.

"It was supposed to be a straight fastball. It ended up a change-up because my landing foot slipped. It went right down the middle, and he crushed it," Timlin said.

Toronto manager Cito Gaston brought in Timlin to face Gomez after Dave Righetti had walked Ripken, gotten Rafael Palmeiro to ground out and Harold Baines to strike out.

"A manager's got to do that [make the move]," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "[Gaston] brought the guy in a situation he thought he'd get him out. At times, that move works. Fortunately for us, Leo got the hit, and it stays fair."

For the season, Gomez is batting .377 (29-for-77) with six homers and 19 RBI in the final three innings.

"I think Leo's been considered a streak hitter, but more than that this year he's been a clutch hitter," Oates said. "He's had a lot of big hits late in ballgames, and he's hit a lot of late home runs."

Gomez's homer, which gave the Orioles a one-run lead, couldn't have come at a more important time for the club. It faced the prospect of losing another game in the American League East race to the New York Yankees, who beat Cleveland earlier yesterday.

Just as important, the Orioles, who had lost eight of their previous 10 games, needed something, anything, to turn around their fortunes.

"It's good to win, but we've done this often this year," Oates said. "We've stayed away from the long losing streak, but we haven't had the long winning streak."

With the season effectively reduced to 13 games with a proposed players strike date of Aug. 12, the Orioles could hardly afford to lose another game and another day.

"We needed this win. You've seen the clubhouse the last couple of days. It was down and quiet. Now, we come back and win," Gomez said. "We knew what the Yankees had done, and we don't want to get too far away from them."

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