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 each one, 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.

The 22-9 Indians rallied around three home runs, an infield single and center fielder Kenny Lofton's checked-swing double to start the seventh. The Indians also successfully picked at struggling rookie third baseman Willis Otanez, who was forgiven one error, reacted slowly to a bases-loaded infield single, and was caught flat footed on Lofton's double.

"They've got depth all the way through," manager Ray Miller said of the Indians. "You can't make mistakes; you've got to pitch well. What you've got to do is score runs off their pitching. We did and we had a chance to break it open; we just didn't' come up with the hit."

Having pitched 15 combined innings in his previous two starts -- including one of the AL's 11 complete games -- Indians starting pitcher Dave Burba (3-1) invited the Orioles to kick him around early as he walked three batters and hit a fourth, Brady Anderson, in the first two innings. But instead of being blistered, Burba was only victimized by his own wildness as the Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a wild pitch then forced home another run in the second with a bases-loaded walk.

Guzman was pushing for a second consecutive quality start, something he has yet to achieve as an Oriole. Instead, he proved butter-fingered with a lead.

Consecutive leadoff doubles by Anderson and Conine began the Orioles' first two rallies. Anderson advanced on B. J. Surhoff's fly ball then scored when Burba pitched too carefully to Cleveland outcast Albert Belle, bouncing ball four past catcher Sandy Alomar.

Following Conine's second-inning double, Burba walked Otanez, who had walked only five times in 83 previous plate appearances. With two outs Burba hit Anderson, loaded the bases for Jeff Reboulet, whose first three at-bats produced a strikeout and two popped up bunts. But this time Reboulet walked, forcing home Conine for a 2-0 lead and giving Surhoff a shot at breaking open the game. The chance passed when a jammed Surhoff grounded back to Burba. The Orioles were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position the first two innings.

Guzman (1-4) held the two-run lead for two hitters as designated hitter David Justice followed Wil Cordero's one-out single with a mammoth home run.

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 first baseman Richie Sexson led off the bottom of the third by crushing a home run to right-center field. The home run was the eighth allowed by Guzman in seven starts covering 37 1/3 innings.

Unable to shake Conine, Burba fell behind a third time in the fifth inning. Surhoff and Belle singled with one out. A fielder's choice brought up Conine, whose third hit into right field scored Surhoff for a 4-3 lead. The RBI single left Conine with 14 hits in his last 29 at-bats. He has hit in six of his last eight games, forcing Miller to contemplate all sorts of combinations when Will Clark leaves the disabled list.

Again Guzman couldn't close the 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, a nervous fielder whose problems seem to increase with his recent offensive struggles. Otanez broke late and made a barehanded throw too late. Sexson's run forced a 4-4 tie.

"It concerns you," Miller said of Otanez. "Crow [hitting coach Terry Crowley] has been battling for him to stay compact, but it's affecting his game all over.

"He didn't react to the ball. With a big strong guy there, you have a tendency to rock back when they swing. The guys who drive in all the runs get a lot of cheap hits because when they swing the outfield goes back and the infield goes down," Miller said.

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