Hitting, not spitting, on stage R. Alomar's surge in postseason continues with two-run homer

October 09, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

It's back in the spotlight again.

Last October, Roberto Alomar felt the glare of the national media and Miss Manners. Not because of his slick glove, but some slippery stuff he sent the way of umpire John Hirschbeck in the last series of the regular season.

When the American League began to pare down in the postseason this time around, Alomar found himself in an unfamiliar place, on the bench. That's where he began games 1 and 4 of the Division Series against the Seattle Mariners when Davey Johnson went with his JV against Randy Johnson.

Alomar opened the American League Championship Series in a featured role. His two-run home run in the third inning gave Scott Erickson more than enough cushion in the Orioles' 3-0 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 last night.

Down 3-1 in the count, Alomar smacked a Chad Ogea curveball 341 feet to right field.

"I was just looking for a ball up in the zone," Alomar said. "It's a situation where I can drive in runs, and I like the challenge."

Did he know it was gone on contact?

"There was no doubt about it," Alomar said. "Sometimes you feel confidence against a pitcher, against others you don't. He [Ogea] pitched real well tonight, and he's pitched well against me in the past. Chad pitched a good game. The only difference was, we scored for him [Erickson]."

Brady Anderson had started the third with a double to left, and Alomar's blast padded a lead that had been 1-0 on Anderson's leadoff homer in the first.

"We put some pressure on them [Cleveland] to score some runs," Alomar said. "It let Scotty pitch his game. That's how you win games in the postseason. You have to get on the board as early as you can."

It was the second straight postseason game against Cleveland in which Alomar victimized the Indians. In Game 4 of the Division Series last year, Alomar tied the game with a two-out single in the ninth inning off Jose Mesa, and won the series with a home run off Mesa in the top of the 12th.

"So far, I've been good in the postseason, not just against Cleveland, fortunately," Alomar said. "It seems I always do good against Cleveland, but it was only one game."

This postseason began with Jeff Reboulet, not Alomar, at second base. Alomar still appeared in all four games of the Division Series, with a huge double in Game 2 and two other hits in batting .300 against Seattle.

Last night's home run, his fourth in postseason play, just continued the surge he began in September. Alomar batted .500 (35-70) over his last 19 regular-season games, with four home runs and 17 RBIs. He finished with a .333 batting average.

It would have broken Ken Singleton's Orioles record of .328, but Alomar didn't have enough plate appearances. A groin pull, a right shoulder strain, a sprained left ankle and a five-game suspension at the start of the season for the 1996 spitting incident with Hirschbeck limited him to 112 games in the regular season. Hirschbeck worked second base last night.

"I don't want to talk about the injuries," Alomar said. "I just want to go out and play baseball."

That was the case last night. When he returned to the plate in the fifth, he said he didn't even mention his homer to his brother Sandy, Cleveland's catcher.

The two became only the fifth pair of brothers in major-league history to meet in the postseason, but it was a forgettable affair for Sandy, who went hitless in three trips. Did Sandy make a mistake on the gopher ball, too?

"The pitcher threw the ball," Roberto said. "It's not my brother's fault."

Pub Date: 10/09/97

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