1-2-3 rally lifts Indians by O's, 6-4

Majors' hottest team makes short work of 3 deficits to cool O's

R. Alomar has winning RBI

Otanez victimized on several key hits

May 11, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- In a game the Orioles frequently led but never controlled, it took Roberto Alomar only four plate appearances to remind his former team of his worth.

The former Orioles second baseman capped a night of quick comebacks by his new team with a seventh-inning sacrifice fly that broke a tie and sent the Cleveland Indians toward a 6-4 win before 40,615 at Jacobs Field. Alomar insisted before the game there were no hard feelings. So why did the Orioles leave the game bruised?

Ask Juan Guzman.

The Orioles' starting pitcher was given three leads over the American League's most potent offense and dropped them all, eventually taking the loss. Jeff Conine's three-hit night went for nothing as the Orioles lost for only the second time in their last eight games.

While David Justice, Richie Sexson and Wil Cordero crushed home runs for the Indians, it was Alomar who turned the game for good.

Benefiting from long ball, the 22-9 Indians won because of Manny Ramirez's bases-loaded infield single and Kenny Lofton's checked-swing double to start the seventh. The Indians also successfully picked at rookie third baseman Willis Otanez, who was forgiven one error, reacted slowly to Ramirez's hit in the fifth and was caught flatfooted on Lofton's double.

Indians starter Dave Burba (3-1) overcame a bases-loaded walk and a run-scoring wild pitch to gain the win. Indians manager Mike Hargrove gave blanket orders for his staff to pitch around Albert Belle. The plan worked.

"What you've got to do is score runs off their pitching," said Orioles manager Ray Miller. "We did and we had a chance to break it open; we just didn't come up with the hit."

Guzman (1-4) held a two-run lead for only two hitters in the second inning as Justice followed Cordero's one-out single with a mammoth home run to center field.

Conine entered the game a career 1-for-12 (.083) against Burba. He exited the third inning with his third home run of the season. It was the Orioles' 18th home run in their last eight games.

The 3-2 lead was even more fleeting than the 2-0 advantage when Sexson led off the bottom of the third by crushing a home run to right-center. The home run was the eighth allowed by Guzman in seven starts covering 37 1/3 innings.

Burba fell behind a third time in the fifth inning. B. J. Surhoff and Albert Belle singled with one out. A fielder's choice brought up Conine, whose third hit provided a 4-3 lead. The RBI single left Conine with 14 hits in his last 29 at-bats.

Conine has hit safely in six of his last eight games, forcing Miller to contemplate all sorts of possible combinations when Will Clark leaves the disabled list. At the same time, Miller wonders when Belle will see pitches to hit. Belle walked three times last night, jacking his league-leading total to 33.

"I want to get the bases loaded here a couple times with Albert up," Miller said.

Guzman was equally aggressive against the league's most dangerous lineup. He walked three and allowed seven hits in seven innings.

"They've got a great lineup. But I'm not afraid of anyone," Guzman said. "I know what I can do when I have my good stuff. I personally think I didn't have a lot of luck. There were two breaks I couldn't get away from."

Guzman and reliever Jesse Orosco surrendered three home runs totaling 1,224 feet and worth four runs. The other two were what drove Guzman to distraction. Both stemmed from reaction plays that centered on Otanez. One was a four-hop swinging bunt with the bases loaded and the other a checked-swing double by Lofton on a high, inside pitch.

The Orioles damaged themselves offensively as well. They were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position the first two innings and were unable to turn any of six walks into runs. Representing the tying run, Anderson and Calvin Pickering were called out on wide strikes in the ninth inning.

Constantly jeered by the place where he started his major-league career, Belle was picked off first base by All-Star catcher Sandy Alomar in the fifth inning. Belle took two steps toward second when a ball skipped by Alomar but couldn't recover when Alomar quickly retrieved the pitch.

"Sandy did a heck of a job. It looked like the ball got away," Miller said.

Even worse, Guzman couldn't close the fifth inning with a lead, a tendency that has plagued Orioles pitching this season. This time his slippage began with a one-out walk to Sexson and a single by Lofton. Roberto Alomar inherited the situation with two outs and walked, bringing on right fielder Manny Ramirez. Swinging from his heels, Ramirez nubbed a four-hopper at Otanez, who broke late and made a barehanded throw too late to catch Ramirez. Sexson's run forced a 4-4 tie.

"He didn't react to the ball. With a big strong guy there, you have a tendency to rock back when they swing," Miller said.

"I was playing farther back for him," Otanez said. "You don't expect him to hit a ball like that."

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