O's pull power play in 12th, 7-4 Palmeiro's homer in 12th overwhelms stricken Cleveland

Anderson HR starts rally

Bullpen provides lift 7 1/3 scoreless innings

August 14, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Motivated by a complex mix of contract status, personal achievement and his club's tenuous reach for the postseason, Rafael Palmeiro threw the Orioles a lifeline last night with a 12th-inning, three-run homer that gave them a comeback 7-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

The Orioles can recall much bad history at Jacobs Field, dating mostly to last October's failed AL Championship Series.

But last night's rally from an early 4-0 deficit represented one of their most satisfying wins of a rapidly condensing season.

Not only did Palmeiro's 37th homer raise the Orioles to 25-7 since the All-Star break and maintain their eight-game deficit behind wild-card leader Boston, it made him only the second Oriole to produce 100 RBIs in four consecutive seasons. He entered the game with 99.

Palmeiro's 388-foot blast came with none out against Steve Reed (1-1) after the Orioles bullpen had produced 7 1/3 scoreless innings. Pete Smith, the fourth former starter used in the game of hold 'em, took the win (2-3). Armando Benitez pitched the 12th for his 17th save.

Held to one hit for three innings by a pitcher running on fumes, the Orioles recovered with a two-run sixth and an eighth-inning breakout against left-hander Paul Assenmacher and Paul Shuey.

While the Orioles mashed eight hits from the sixth through the eighth innings, their rally would have meant little without the shutout relief behind an ineffective Sidney Ponson.

For four innings, the Orioles swung early and did nothing against Gooden while the Indians hit Ponson like a pinata.

Ponson trailed 1-0 before getting his first out. Kenny Lofton's leadoff single was followed by Omar Vizquel's triple to center field. He then scored on a one-out grounder by Manny Ramirez.

The 2-0 deficit grew a run in the third inning with the help of a leadoff walk, a balk, a wild pitch and a groundout. Ponson couldn't get through the fourth after he walked Travis Fryman to lead off, then surrendered a one-out RBI double to Sandy Alomar. It was the second time in Ponson's past three starts that he has trailed 4-0. In both cases he escaped without a loss.

Trailing Gooden badly, the Orioles turned his shutout into an exit within a span of five hitters. Brady Anderson continued a recent power surge by lining Gooden's fifth pitch into the right-field stands for his 14th home run.

Davis followed with a double to left field, tying him with Anaheim Angels outfielder Garret Anderson for the majors' longest hitting streak this season. It marked the sixth time Davis had waited until at least the seventh inning to extend his streak. Last night represented the 14th time during the streak Davis has extended it with one hit.

Designated hitter Harold Baines, a .406 hitter with runners in scoring position, extended his blistering run with a single that scored Davis. When Gooden followed with his second walk of Ripken, Indians manager Mike Hargrove answered by going to his bullpen. What had been a shutout after five innings became his third outing of less than six innings in his past 10 starts.

The Orioles now fare well in a matchup of bullpens. Doug Johns and Doug Jones matched up in relief with Jones holding a 4-2 lead until the eight. Johns finished with 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

Hargrove lifted Jones to begin the eighth, favoring the left-handed Assenmacher against left-handed bats Palmeiro and Baines. The response was consecutive singles that evicted Assenmacher for Shuey.

The Orioles gained a run on a double dare with Ripken hitting. After a conversation with third-base coach Sam Perlozzo, Ripken squared to bunt but did not offer. He punched the next pitch through the left side of a constricted infield. Perlozzo sent Palmeiro on what first appeared a suicide mission to the plate; however, Brian Giles' throw short-hopped catcher Sandy Alomar, allowing Baines to take third.

With one out, Miller was faced with the option of letting catcher Lenny Webster bat or using his last remaining left-handed bat, Willie Greene, to pinch hit. In a close game, Miller refrained from removing his strongest catching arm and was rewarded when Webster grounded a single through the middle to tie the game at 4, scoring pinch runner Rich Becker.

What might have been an even more powerful rally was defused by two incidents, one an error of judgment by Webster and the latest in a series of questionable umpire calls to riddle the Orioles.

On Webster's single, center fielder Kenny Lofton's throw went to third on a futile attempt to catch Ripken. Webster tried to take an extra base behind Ripken but was cut down on the relay to second base. The out was huge as it removed the chance of Ripken scoring the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly.

With two outs and only Ripken left on base, Roberto Alomar added another forgettable moment to a forgettable game. Facing Shuey, he chopped a ground ball in front of the plate. The ball spun wildly while Alomar took two steps toward first base then stopped, claiming the ball had hit him. Plate umpire Dale Scott made no move and received no help from any base umpire. Alomar remained at the plate as his brother retrieved the ball for an easy out.

Ripken and Miller protested the call along with Alomar. Ripken even ran down the ball, showing evidence of shoe polish on the ball to Scott. The call stood.

Alomar's night began poorly with a first-pitch groundout and went downhill.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Cleveland Indians

Site: Jacobs Field, Cleveland

Time: 7: 05

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Mike Mussina (10-6, 3.49) vs. Indians' Charles Nagy (10-7, 5.24)

Pub Date: 8/14/98

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