Cuba's passion is O's pain, 12-6

Orioles bats held hitless for 5 2/3 as Cuba legs out 18 hits

Winners a spirited bunch

4-run second inning does in Kamieniecki

May 04, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

The game long over, designated hitter Andy Morales gave the night its lasting image. His three-run homer not only finished Cuba's five-run ninth inning, it provided him the chance to hug the sky, tiptoe over three bases and jump atop home plate.

A team of Cuban all-stars turned an exhibition into a rout last night by delivering an 18-hit, 12-6 blasting at Camden Yards.

The Orioles used the game as a rehab assignment for their starting pitcher and a showcase for nervous first base prospect Calvin Pickering. Scott Kamieniecki delivered four outs, Pickering committed three errors worth two unearned runs and had one hit.

At a morning news conference a Cuban representative stated that many of his country's best players were left behind to prepare for the Pan American Games. Thank you, Fidel.

Still, Cuba reliever Norge Vera made the trip and he held the Orioles hitless for 5 2/3 innings, allowing only two base runners before Delino DeShields' three-run homer in the ninth made the score a little more respectable.

Whatever the night lacked in suspense, it provided in political intrigue. The game was briefly interrupted during the fourth inning as four fans chose to make political statements by running onto the field.

One waved a flag, another a sign and a third wore a shirt proclaiming, Free Cuba! While being led past the Cuban dugout, the man with the shirt taunted the pro-Castro delegation, who answered with their own venom.

A tense situation became ugly in the fifth inning when a fifth protester prompted a "people-to-people exchange" with second base umpire Cesar Valdez. Valdez, one of three Cuban umpires assigned to the game, clotheslined and body-slammed the anti-Castro protester before security arrived.

By then Valdez and left fielder B. J. Surhoff were involved in a confrontation after Surhoff attempted to pull the umpire off the fan.

At least the boisterous Cuban entourage brought some energy to a place recently afflicted with fatalism and apathy. For a night the ring of cell phones was replaced by the shrill staccato of whistle-blowers bouncing behind the third base dugout. Originally, stadium workers cordoned off the area designated for the Cuban delegation with yellow crime scene tape. The impolitic gaffe was rectified before the visitors arrived. Seems they wanted more tickets.

The Orioles did everything possible to show themselves as compliant hosts. Majority owner Peter Angelos banned representatives of the Immigration and Naturalization Service from the ballpark, interpreting their presence as a temptation for possible defectors. While Americanos were expressly prohibited from importing flags into the stadium, Cubanos jubilantly waved their national banner between innings, during pitching changes and after every positive play -- which was often.

And then there was Kamieniecki, the designated fall guy.

A strained hamstring suffered March 19 had landed Kamieniecki on the disabled list, preventing him from facing anyone aside from minor-league hitters. The appearance was Kamieniecki's first at Camden Yards since Aug. 21.

Kamieniecki sounded less than enthused about his recovery a week ago and backed it up with last night's 1 1/3-inning performance. Besides five hits and three walks, Kamieniecki's appearance was interrupted by a 56-minute rain delay and his constant attempts to adjust a sanded mound.

Harold Baines had given the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a two-out double to center field that scored Mike Bordick and Albert Belle. But this being 1999, leads last only minutes, even when the average at-bat becomes its own mini-series.

To the visitors this game was a passion. To the hosts it was a pain.

This was supposed to be a day off but instead it became just another sideshow in a run of 20 games in 20 days. While the March exhibition represented something of a curiosity, the Orioles saw little novelty to this act.

Of course, the Cubans could play giant killers against an $84 million team. Cuban shortstop Danel Castro turned the game into his personal stage when he electrified the crowd by legging out a triple during his team's four-run second inning. His effort stunned DeShields, who double-clutched when he turned to see Castro churning to third.

Conversely, jogging Belle was still tagged out when a wild throw pulled first baseman Orestes Kindelan from the bag.

Kamieniecki retired one batter in the second before collapsing. Six consecutive hitters reached, two on walks, one on Pickering's first error and three on base hits. Castro's triple scored two runs, Pickering's error allowed Castros to score. After nine of 12 hitters reached against him, Kamieniecki left after 53 pitches -- only one of them a swinging strike -- bringing on Doug Linton to force home the fourth run on a four-pitch walk to Orestes Kindelan.

So much for international goodwill. A disgusted crowd turned on Miller, Kamieniecki and Linton.

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