Orioles clear fences, Indians, 14-4 6 homers, sloppy play by Cleveland cap sweep, 7-1 start

April 12, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Thumping the small-market Kansas City Royals last week, the Orioles almost had to feel guilty. Whipping the defending AL champion Cleveland Indians . . . now that's an entirely different story.

Completing a sweep of a two-game series, the Orioles embarrassed Cleveland last night, 14-4, before 43,189 at Camden Yards, mashing six homers. More to the point, the Indians embarrassed themselves, their shoddy defense costing them a handful of runs.

Brady Anderson hit two homers and Tony Tarasco, Jeffrey Hammonds, B. J. Surhoff and Rafael Palmeiro had one apiece for the Orioles, and Scott Erickson pitched six innings.

Last season, the Orioles didn't achieve their second series sweep until July 9. This year, it took them little more than a week, and in winning their first two games against Cleveland this year, they've already matched their total number of victories vs. the Indians in 1995.

A different story entirely. The Orioles' 7-1 start matches their second-best start ever, in 1971. They opened 1966 by winning 12 of their first 13 games.

Somebody asked manager Davey Johnson if he could've written a better script for the start of the year. "Yeah," he said. "Eight wins."

Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove had a team meeting after the game, the Indians' fifth loss in seven games, and when reporters surrounded him in his office, he asked, jokingly, "What are you going to ask me about this game? We didn't pitch well, we didn't play well [defensively], we didn't hit well. Bottom line . . . we had defensive problems, and you can't do that against a team like the Orioles. They're going to score 14 runs every time."

The Orioles are in full attack mode, running the bases hard and unnerving the defense and swinging with a game plan. The Orioles hacked at Orel Hershiser's first pitch seven times last night: Twice Bobby Bonilla swung and missed, and the other five times the Orioles had hits, including Anderson's first homer of the year.

It was, Johnson said, the worst he's ever seen Hershiser pitch, in all the years he's watched the former Cy Young Award winner.

"It was sad, really," Johnson said of the 37-year-old veteran. "He was really laboring there at the end, changing his motion for changeups. He's been such a great pitcher. . . . He got the ball up all night. He struggled all night, and I kind of felt sorry for him."

It was perhaps the only mercy the Orioles showed all night. The Orioles turned a couple of double plays and played errorless for eight innings -- their only error coming long after the issue had been decided -- and made the Indians look terrible by comparison.

But Cleveland would've looked bad by any standard. As the Orioles scored four runs in the third inning, the Indians had defensive mistakes from four of their six members of the infield, shortstop Omar Vizquel and catcher Sandy Alomar being the exceptions.

The Indians' third-inning Gong Show began with Anderson hitting a single, taking a wide turn as he rounded first, challenging right fielder Manny Ramirez. Roberto Alomar dragged a bunt past Hershiser; Indians second baseman Carlos Baerga tried to barehand the ball and throw to first baseman Julio Franco. Instead, he barehanded it and threw to the tarp along the right-field line, and Anderson and Alomar rambled around the bases -- speed, what a thing -- and Anderson crossed the plate and Alomar reached third. But a ground rule forced both runners back a base.

Anderson scored on Palmeiro's fly to left and Alomar came across when Bonilla singled. Cal Ripken flied out and the Indians could've finished the night with some dignity if the next hitter had struck out or something.

But Surhoff walked, and Chris Hoiles hit a slow roller toward third. Indians third baseman Jim Thome rushed in and hurried his throw to first as if Hoiles had developed sprinter-style speed.

He bounced the ball in the dirt, and Franco couldn't dig it out, the throw caroming out of play. Ugly.

Franco fielded Tarasco's grounder cleanly, and underhanded the ball to Hershiser covering first, surely the last out of the inning.

Not quite. Hershiser failed to touch first, allowing another run to score. Hershiser turned and asked first base umpire Chuck Meriwether about the call, and apparently realizing that he had, indeed, missed first, Hershiser nodded.

Palmeiro said: "He wasn't really in control. I've seen him when he puts the ball anywhere he wants to. Tonight he was struggling."

Hargrove didn't argue, his countenance never changing. Only the baseball gods know what he was really thinking then, and subsequently, as the Orioles poured it on, their lead growing from two runs to six and ultimately to 12 runs.

Besides Johnson's feelings for Hershiser, the Orioles offered none whatsoever. Before the four-run rally in the third inning, Tarasco had hit a two-run shot in the second, crushing a high and outside 3-0 fastball from Hershiser that probably would've been ball four.

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