CLEVELAND -- The Orioles headed back to Baltimore last night, their faded pennant hopes lifted by a string of surprising performances that carried them to a 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Jacobs Field.
There will be a game tomorrow at Camden Yards because right-hander Scott Kamieniecki threw five scoreless innings with a sore elbow and Jimmy Key turned in a clutch relief appearance with a bruised ego. Factor in an inspirational and decisive ninth-inning home run by Eric Davis, and the Orioles suddenly look very much alive in the best-of-seven playoff.
They return home with a decided pitching advantage, but they still have to win both games at Oriole Park to advance to the World Series. It's a tall order, but with pitching ace Mike Mussina set to go against Charles Nagy in Game 6, the Orioles appear to have an excellent chance to push the series to the limit.
"The mood has never changed," said Kamieniecki. "We got a little down after the last three games, but that was to be expected because of the way we lost those games. We've always felt confident. As little a chance as it might be, we feel we still have a chance until they deep-six us."
Credit Kamieniecki with coming up very large at just the right time. He had not started a game since Sept. 24, but showed little sign of the inactivity. He gave up just four hits and carried a shutout through five innings before he was removed from the game with stiffness in his elbow.
Key was a surprise arrival in the sixth, especially after the way he struggled in Game 2 at Camden Yards, but he turned in an outstanding relief effort. He pitched to 10 hitters and retired nine, the only exception being a two-out walk to Matt Williams in the sixth. He was throwing so well that manager Davey Johnson left him in to pitch the eighth, a job usually reserved for setup man Armando Benitez, who has struggled in the series.
"I knew I'd get a stellar performance from Kamieniecki, and we did," said Johnson. "The bonus tonight was Key coming up big. And we all were very happy about Eric's home run. It was a big run. It ended up being the winning run, and all of us were thrilled that he made a big contribution."
The stubborn Indians, who had won each of the previous three games in dramatic, late-inning fashion, threatened to do it again in the bottom of the ninth, when closer Randy Myers struggled to hold a four-run lead. Davis' first home run of the postseason didn't seem particularly important when it landed in the left-field bleachers in the top of the ninth, but it became much bigger when Myers gave up two runs and brought the tying run to the plate.
The game finally ended on a big defensive play by Roberto Alomar, who went far to his right to rob Omar Vizquel of a game-tying single.
The Orioles had taken the lead in the third inning, when outfielder Geronimo Berroa punched a single through the middle of the infield with the bases loaded to score Chris Hoiles and Brady Anderson. That was all that Cleveland starter Chad Ogea would give up in a strong eight-inning performance, but Davis homered off left-hander Paul Assenmacher to lead off the ninth and the Orioles went on to score another important insurance run before the Indians made it interesting against Myers in the bottom of the inning.
The late-inning rally may have stunted the Orioles' momentum as they prepared to return to Baltimore, but Indians manager Mike Hargrove was not talking tough as his team got ready to face Mussina in the twilight at Camden Yards tomorrow afternoon.
"As crazy as this series has been, I don't think that anybody can feel confident about anything," Hargrove said. "Certainly, I feel better about our situation than the situation that they're in, but it's going to be tough in Baltimore. They have a very good ballclub."
Pub Date: 10/14/97