Belle, Indians drop Orioles to .500, 10-7 Slugger gets 2 HRs, 5 RBIs to offset O's extra effort

6th loss in past 7 games

Alomar's 2 HRs, 32nd by Anderson wasted

July 26, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

The Orioles played last night like 3-year-olds flush from too much chocolate. Manager Davey Johnson provided the motivation after Wednesday's loss, and, responding, they ran and ran hard against the Cleveland Indians.

Everybody from Roberto Alomar to Chris Hoiles to Bobby Bonilla looked to take an extra base. They hustled to first, and to second, third and home. They looked like -- dare we say it? -- the Minnesota Twins.

And still Cleveland dismissed the Orioles, 10-7, Albert Belle teaching rookie pitcher Rocky Coppinger something about hitting in the major leagues. Booed lustily by the Camden Yards crowd of 47,025, Belle had two homers, a single and five RBI in three at-bats against Coppinger.

Roberto Alomar had two homers among four hits and scored four runs, but the Orioles lost their fourth straight and sixth in their past seven games and are 50-50, at .500 for the first time since May 8.

Johnson called the Orioles' aggressiveness "a pleasure to see, taking extra bases. We knew we had to play hard. Just too much Albert Belle."

Johnson met with owner Peter Angelos, general manager Pat Gillick and assistant GM Kevin Malone before the game, and while the Orioles continue to explore trade possibilities, they agreed to wait a little longer before deciding which direction to go, to dump or be dedicated to veterans like Bobby Bonilla and David Wells.

"We just talked about some things that we need to do to improve the ballclub," Johnson said, "We might do something [before the trade deadline], but I don't know what."

Should the Indians blitz the Orioles this weekend, that would spur trade talks. It's sort of like the pictures in the "Back to the Future" movies -- with each Albert Belle hit and RBI, the image of Bonilla as an Oriole fades a little more. Give Belle a few more at-bats against Coppinger and he could be held personally responsible for delivering Bonilla to San Diego or Florida.

The Indians already had done some damage when Belle batted in the first. Kenny Lofton had fisted a looping shortstop leading off and stole second on the second pitch. Jim Thome ripped a single to right, driving home Lofton, and Thome took second when Bonilla fumbled his hit in right field.

Belle walked to the plate, his reputation as a slugger preceding him; naturally, Coppinger wasn't going to start him off with a fastball. He threw a slider, and it was a bad slider. Belle unloaded, driving the ball over the wall just right of dead center field. As Belle neared third, he stutter-stepped, and, smiling, dropped a fist on the extended fist of Cleveland third base coach Dave Nelson. The Hammer.

Given all that happened in the Minnesota series, all that has happened since Boston's Mo Vaughn hit that heart-breaking, ninth-inning homer before the All-Star break, the Orioles could have rolled over. They didn't.

Alomar talked after the Twins' sweep about how the Orioles have lacked fire and played without that look in their eyes, as if they knew they were going to win. For whatever reason, Johnson's Wednesday tirade or personal pride, they played a different sort of game.

"We played aggressively today," Alomar said. "You could see the difference."

Alomar singled to open the first, and Brady Anderson bashed a two-run homer, his first since July 13th and his 32nd of the year. Rafael Palmeiro tried to steal after singling.

In the second inning, Hoiles slapped a ball into the left-center-field gap and tried, unsuccessfully, to stretch his hit into a double. Alomar hustled a single into a double in the third inning. Later in the game, Bonilla slid into third with a triple on a ball that probably should have been a double. Cal Ripken beat out an infield single, and Palmeiro nearly did.

They had the fire. But they don't have Albert Belle.

His second at-bat came in the third, with two outs. Coppinger got ahead in the count, no balls and two strikes, and the right-hander tried elevating a fastball, hoping Belle would chase it. Belle did, but Coppinger didn't get the ball high enough, and Belle mashed it into the right-field stands, his 34th homer. The Hammer, Part II.

Lofton singled to start the fifth, the beginning of the end for

Coppinger. Omar Vizquel dropped a bunt and beat B. J. Surhoff's throw to first. First and second, and on a 2-0 pitch to Thome, Lofton and Vizquel stole third and second, respectively.

Coppinger completed the walk to Thome, and, all around Camden Yards, the rumbles of anticipation could be heard. Belle, bases loaded, nobody out.

He ripped a single to left, driving home two more runs, and two batters later Cleveland designated hitter Brian Giles hit the second of his three doubles. Cleveland led 7-3 at that point, and Coppinger was finished.

The Orioles added single runs in each of the last four innings, but the Indians put them away with two runs in the ninth.

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