O's short of arms, time Erickson labors

Indians have wild time with O's 'pen, go up 3-1

Alomar beats Benitez in 9th

Cleveland scores two on Rhodes' wild pitch in rally back from 5-2

GAME 4 Indians 8, Orioles 7

October 13, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Short on bullpen, staying power and now desperately short on time, the Orioles fell hard in an 8-7 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series last night.

Technically, they lost in the bottom of the ninth when catcher Sandy Alomar drilled a two-out single into the left-center-field gap against Armando Benitez, scoring Manny Ramirez from second. Actually, the Orioles let their chance to even a maddening series escape four innings earlier because of a bad combination of bullpen and chaos at home plate.

Tonight manager Davey Johnson hands the ball and his team's season to Scott Kamieniecki, whose last start came Sept. 24. The Orioles still draw breath, but it is shallow. A team that couldn't win Saturday despite 15 strikeouts from its starting pitcher gave another lesson in waste.

Never mind that the Orioles received home runs from Brady Anderson, Harold Baines and Rafael Palmeiro in the same inning. It wasn't enough as Scott Erickson, pitching on three days' rest, couldn't hold a 5-2 lead.

The Orioles saved themselves by tying the game in the ninth inning for a second straight day. Offensive enigma Palmeiro hit a one-out come-backer off Indians closer Jose Mesa to score Roberto Alomar. But it wasn't enough.

They are creating heroes by the inning on the home side. The Orioles are manufacturing reasons to still believe.

"There have been only a few teams that have come back from a 3-1 deficit, but the way this series is going, I wouldn't be surprised with anything that happens," Anderson said.

The Orioles began this series believing themselves kissed by fate. How else to explain a steamroll through the Seattle Mariners and Randy Johnson? How else to explain their ability to seemingly raise the level of their play at will?

"Somebody's messing with fate. That's what I figure right now," Johnson said.

Indians manager Mike Hargrove has little use for such talk. He takes such questions as a slight to his underdog club that has often won in spite of itself this postseason. "I don't know about fate. But if it's there, we'll take it," Hargrove said.

Johnson remained typically defiant in the face of adversity. "There's a lot of strong backbone on this club. I know that losing 3-1 in games is tough," he said. "I believe in this ballclub. Momentum can change with a well-pitched game. Then we can get back home. I've seen stranger things happen. I've been two runs down with my last strike and seen things happen. Don't tell me about fate yet."

The game turned on the Indians' four-run fifth inning as Johnson went to left-hander Arthur Rhodes and stayed away from Terry Mathews. The break point came against right-handed hitter Marquis Grissom.

Mathews was warm and Rhodes in the game when Grissom approached. Rather than go with the conventional matchup, however, Johnson stayed away from a pitcher seen as jinxed. When approached about his interpretation, Mathews balked.

"You can write no comment on that. Because if you do [write something] I won't be around anymore," Mathews said.

Rhodes entered the series as a health risk. He suffered a strained flexor tendon near his left elbow during Game 3 of the Division Series and left the game unable to throw a slider, his second pitch. Rhodes hadn't attempted the pitch when he entered last night after having thrown 28 pitches Saturday. Staying with a hindered left-handed pitcher, Johnson displayed his absence of confidence in Mathews, who was hooted unmercifully from his last appearance by the Camden Yards crowd.

"I was feeling OK. I'm still feeling OK. I threw [the slider] tonight. It was good," Rhodes said.

Rhodes got ahead of Grissom with two quick strikes then fed him a high fastball for a ball. Trying to throw a changeup away, Rhodes bounced the ball in front of Webster, who deflected it to his left side.

Johnson said he had "closed the book" on Saturday's wild ending to a 2-1 loss in which a botched squeeze play translated into a run when catcher Lenny Webster failed to hold onto a Randy Myers slider. It took only five innings to happen upon the same chapter, the same page, the same line again.

David Justice scampered home as Webster awkwardly palmed a throw to Rhodes covering. The ball, Justice and Rhodes arrived at the same time with the ball bouncing off Rhodes and trickling about 10 feet away.

By now, Justice was tangled with Rhodes, who eventually escaped to retrieve Webster's error. Webster found himself in no man's land between Rhodes and the plate as third baseman Cal Ripken covered. Rhodes had to throw both over his catcher and a retreating Justice as Sandy Alomar scored from second base.

Jacobs Field danced. The Orioles, a veteran team so confident in itself that it dismissed a 13-16 September, again saw itself unraveling as a 5-2 lead had become a 7-5 deficit.

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