Losing O's behind 8 ball 2nd loss in row, 6-3 to Indians, leaves O's 8 back with 34 to play

Kamieniecki yields 4 in 2 2/3

Ripken breaks record of B. Robinson for hits

August 22, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Cal Ripken got a ball. The Cleveland Indians had one.

The combination resulted in a 6-3 Orioles loss tinged by history but more profoundly colored by poor starting pitching, mental lapses, a brilliant defensive play by the Indians center fielder and a four-man five-hitter.

At least Ripken and his elevated game provided something to remember. The Indians' brilliance and a fall-down Orioles pitching performance made the rest of the night something for locals to forget. The Orioles also lost another sliver of precious momentum, falling eight games behind Boston with 34 to play.

Before a record regular-season crowd of 48,374, Ripken made the loss a memorable one when he singled through the infield's right side with two outs in the seventh inning. The hit was No. 2,849 of Ripken's Hall of Fame career and pushed him past Brooks Robinson on the Orioles' all-time list.

"Tonight was a personal moment. To get a hit that will push you past Brooks Robinson and the ovation you get from the crowd is unbelievable. But again, it's hard to get happy when you don't win," Ripken said.

Ripken asked for the ball, before acknowledging a lengthy standing ovation. The record-breaker came in Ripken's 2,671st game, 225 fewer than Robinson played. The hit also kept alive a two-out threat that pulled the Orioles within 4-3 on right fielder Willie Greene's two-run, opposite-field home run, his first since arriving from Cincinnati on Aug. 10.

The Indians buried the game with a two-run eighth that featured two walks by Alan Mills and a bizarre balk by Jesse Orosco, who misread a sign before making a phantom throw to first base.

"I saw something that wasn't there," said Orosco. "I messed up."

The same might be said of the receding AL wild-card race. Should the Orioles lose any more ground to the Red Sox, it won't be there.

Two days ago the Orioles had an opportunity to pull within six games of the defeated Red Sox and fell to the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Now they sit nine back in the loss column -- and are on the brink of having the necessary mathematics for stealing the wild card seem absurd.

If the Red Sox go .500 the rest of the way, finishing 93-69, the Orioles would need to answer with a 25-9 rush to tie.

"I don't think there's a sense of urgency yet because there are over 30 games left," Ripken said. "Are we going to go 35-0? Probably not. Are we going to go 30-5? Probably not. But if we put together a 25-10 stretch and have a chance [in Boston] the last weekend "

Ripken continues to do his part. He is riding a season-high 10-game hitting streak and has hit in 24 of the past 26 games. Last night he played a tight defensive game that included a leaping relay to trap Indians catcher Pat Borders off third base during a potentially ruinous sixth inning.

So much for the heads-up parts.

The Indians scored one run by surprising the Orioles with a third-inning double steal. They took one away when center fielder Kenny Lofton went vertical to bring Roberto Alomar's sixth-inning would-be home run back.

The 68-60 Orioles surrendered two runs during the eighth inning by (pick one or all) issuing three walks, committing a bases-loaded balk and allowing a sacrifice fly by Indians No. 9 hitter Omar Vizquel. Jaret Wright (11-7) pitched 6 2/3 tough innings for the win.

Problems arrived early and late for the Orioles. Pitching with a bulging disk in his neck, starting pitcher Scott Kamieniecki (2-6) couldn't get beyond 2 2/3 innings. His excruciating 87-pitch start may be his last of a horrific season.

Manager Ray Miller won't need a fifth starter again until Aug. 29. By then Doug Drabek may be activated from the DL or Miller may opt for a four-man rotation.

"Obviously, we needed a better pitching performance to get us set today," Miller said. "I think Kammy gave us all he had. I'm not sure if his neck's still bothering him or not, but 87 pitches in an hour, 15 minutes and we're in the top of the third. That isn't good. You've got everybody on the field asleep.

"There were a couple times that he got two strikes and then let out a yell and the ball would be two feet over the guy's head. That tells me he's not quite able to do what he wants to do."

A year ago Kamieniecki was the invisible glue that held together a dominant starting rotation. He tied a career high with 10 wins and was rewarded with a two-year, $6.3 million contract.

This season he has constantly struggled with injuries, twice landing on the disabled list, and now attempts to pitch through a condition that likely will require surgery this winter.

Kamieniecki remains winless since April 18, a span of nine starts. When asked about his ongoing problems, he turns the conversation toward Miller's office.

"Ask Ray," snapped Kamieniecki, who no longer answers

questions about his health. "He seems to know what the problem is."

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