Splitting town: Indians tie series Late home run yielded by Benitez defeats Orioles

Game 2, Indians 5, Orioles 4

October 10, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The Orioles were halfway to heaven, or so they thought. They were just four outs away from a quick two-game lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series when the Cleveland Indians offered a not-so-subtle reminder that it's never over until it's over.

Center fielder Marquis Grissom launched a three-run home run to the deepest part of Camden Yards to shock the usually dependable Orioles bullpen and quiet the sellout crowd of 49,131. The Indians held on to score a 5-4 victory in Game 2 and headed home on the upbeat side of a much-needed split in Baltimore.

That kind of thing doesn't happen very often around here. The Orioles reached the playoffs largely on the strength of their six-man bullpen and had lost only four games during the regular season that they led after seven innings. But setup man Armando Benitez served up the dramatic home run and the chemistry of the series changed as the ball sailed over the center field fence.

"It's just another loss, but it's a tough loss," said Orioles manager Davey Johnson. "I can't think of another time this year that Armando has not held them in the eighth inning when he's throwing well. But he (Grissom) can be very good. Obviously, he was swinging the bat good tonight."

To that point, it was looking like another perfect evening at Orioles Park. Left-hander Jimmy Key struggled in the early innings, but right-hander Scott Kamieniecki bailed him out in the fifth and pitched three hitless innings before turning the game over to the all-but-unbeatable short relief staff.

The formula after that is fairly simple. Benitez pitches the eighth and closer Randy Myers pitches the ninth and the Orioles win. They have done it that way all year, so Johnson was surprised to be second-guessed afterward for removing Kamieniecki while he was overpowering the Indians.

"He did his job," Johnson said. "He got us to Armando. That's the way we've done it all year. I'm not going to second-guess myself."

Benitez came within a full-count check-swing of getting out of the inning without incident. He took pinch hitter Jim Thome to a full count with two outs and thought he had him struck out. So did everyone else in the Orioles dugout, but third base umpire Larry McCoy disagreed, and failed to call the third strike on appeal.

"I thought he (struck out), the Indians didn't and the umpires agreed with the Indians," Johnson said.

The volatile Benitez threw his glove in the air after he watched the ball sail into the grassy area behind center field, but there was room to wonder if he let his emotions get the best of him when he didn't get the call on Thome.

"I think everybody did," Johnson said, "but that's no excuse for not making good pitches to the next guy."

Early rally

It came just that close to being another feelgood night at the Yards. The Orioles had played a near-perfect game to defeat the Indians in Game 1 on Wednesday and rallied from an early two-run deficit to get in position to sweep the first two games at home.

Third baseman Cal Ripken had brought them from behind with a two-run home run in the second inning and shortstop Mike Bordick put them ahead with a two-out single off Indians starter Charles Nagy in the sixth, but the series will be dead even when it resumes tomorrow night with the first of three games at Jacobs Field.

If the loss was disheartening, it was not disastrous. The Orioles still hold a decided pitching advantage going into the road portion of the playoffs. Right-hander Mike Mussina, who dominated the Seattle Mariners twice in the Division Series will face veteran Orel Hershiser tomorrow night, and Game 1 winner Scott Erickson will go against rookie Jaret Wright in Game 4.

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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