O's drop Red Sox again, 6-5, in 12 Alomar's all-around play helps push Boston 9 1/2 back

Surhoff drives in winner

Rhodes gets victory with 3 shutout innings

April 18, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

All the other stuff Roberto Alomar accomplished in his first two weeks with the Orioles, the touch passes with his glove to start double plays, the series of clutch hits, it was all preliminary.

Last night was the main event.

After the Orioles blew a three-run lead in the seventh, Alomar tied the game with a homer, staved off the Red Sox in the ninth with an incredible defensive play, and in the bottom of the 12th, he scored the winning run in the Orioles' 6-5 victory. B. J. Surhoff ended the four-hour, 24-minute marathon at Camden Yards with a bases-loaded single off Boston reliever Mike Maddux.

Arthur Rhodes pitched three scoreless for his second victory, matching his total of 1995. The Orioles are 11-2 and have built a 9 1/2 -game lead over the Red Sox, losers of seven straight games and in the midst of the worst start in club history, at 2-12.

The Orioles will go for a three-game sweep today, with ace Mike Mussina -- who has a 10-2 record and 2.24 ERA in day games in '95 and '96 -- on the mound.

"Of all the people I've played with," said right fielder Bobby Bonilla, "and this is just in April, he [Alomar] has the best instincts for the game I've ever seen."

Orioles manager Davey Johnson said, "Baltimore's going to get to loving this guy."

Baltimore already does, judging from the reaction of those still around at 12: 02 a.m., when Alomar crossed home plate to end the game.

Alomar singled to center leading off the bottom of the 12th against Maddux, his fourth hit of the game that improved his average to .367. With the Red Sox holding Alomar on first, Rafael Palmeiro singled through the hole in the right side, Alomar scampering to third.

The Red Sox intentionally walked Bonilla to load the bases, setting up force plays all the way around. Cal Ripken struck out, but Surhoff hit a long drive off the wall in right, Alomar trotting across into the arms of teammates.

"I was just looking to get the ball to the outfield," Surhoff said. "I knew if I did, Robbie would score."

Why not? He did everything else. Alomar's stunning play in the top of the ninth kept the Red Sox from taking the lead and inspired words of praise from all corners of the clubhouse.

John Valentin doubled against Orioles closer Randy Myers, and advanced to third on a passed ball by Gregg Zaun. The Orioles' infield came in, Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn at the plate.

Vaughn grounded to second, and Alomar fielded the ball and looked at Valentin, who had taken a several steps toward home before freezing. Knowing that Valentin wasn't going home, Alomar could've thrown to first for the second out. The easy out. The safe play.

Lo and behold, Alomar turned and fired across the infield to third, and Valentin -- shocked, along with 40,258 fans and a handful of participants -- was nabbed. An extraordinary, daring play by a great player.

Alomar said, "It was a do-or-die decision, but we got him out. . . . Don't expect me to make that play again."

No. Just expect the unexpected.

Bonilla said, "I'm in right field going, 'You got to be kidding me.' A lot of people don't throw it there, I guarantee it."

Ripken: "That takes a lot of guts to make that throw across."

Surhoff: "Instinct. A heads-up play from a very competent player. That's why he's probably the best second baseman in the game.

"You saw a stolen base from him, a home run, great defensive plays. He's the whole package."

The Orioles needed the whole package, after nearly blowing the game and a potential sweep.

The Orioles had comfy 4-1 advantage after six innings. Scott Erickson had struggled early, but he had settled down and the game seemed well in hand, particularly with the Orioles' bullpen, sporting an 0.32 ERA, well-rested.

But Erickson walked Reggie Jefferson to start the seventh, and matters got progressively worse for the Orioles.

Bill Haselman hit a cinch double-play grounder to Ripken, who couldn't get a grip on the ball and lost it amid his feet. Ripken finally gained control and threw in desperation to second, but Jefferson beat the throw. It was Ripken's second error in his last eight games, after playing 74 straight games without a defensive miscue.

Jim Tatum singled through the left side, filling the bases, and manager Johnson called for help from the bullpen, right-hander Roger McDowell. Wil Cordero pinch-hit for Esteban Beltre and drilled a single over short, scoring a couple of runs.

Troy O'Leary hit a grounder to first baseman Palmeiro, who fumbled and bobbled and suddenly the bases were loaded again. Valentin flied to short left, and Tatum, representing the tying run at third, had to hold.

Vaughn was next and Johnson called for his left-hander Jesse Orosco, who lasted four pitches. Ball one, ball two, ball three, ball four. The walk to Vaughn forced across the tying run.

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