Timlin, O's swept away by late rally

Justice's hit off closer in 8th gives Indians 6-5 win, 3-game sweep

Mussina effort wasted

Cleveland overcomes 4 errors, shaky Gooden

May 13, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- The Orioles were handed an embarrassment of opportunities last night by the Cleveland Indians but left town only embarrassed. Whatever optimism they cultivated in the previous week was punctured in a 6-5 loss that represented a rip-off of starting pitcher Mike Mussina, more waste from an offense without a clutch and more questions about a bullpen that was overextended in the previous night's loss.

Unable to protect an earlier three-run lead, the Orioles were undone by the Indians' three-run eighth inning, capped by David Justice's two-out, two-strike, two-run single off closer Mike Timlin (2-1). Before a Jacobs Field crowd of 42,939, the Orioles stifled whatever momentum they had recently discovered.

The 24-9 Indians committed a season-high four errors, trailed 4-1 after five innings and went without a home run for the first time in 16 games. Still, the Orioles suffered their first regular-season sweep against the Indians since Sept. 8-10, 1995.

"They gave us chances. They kicked the ball all over the place. We didn't take full advantage of it," Mussina said. "It seems like every time they're in a position where a big hit will do it for them, they get a big hit. That's why they are where they are and why we are where we are."

The Orioles are 12-21 and unable to finish a tight game vs. championship-caliber teams. Mussina gave them 7 2/3 solid innings but was punished for turning over a 5-4 lead to a frayed bullpen. Denied his sixth win, he dressed slowly, spoke carefully and gave the impression of someone frustrated by six weeks of absurdity.

"It's a pretty good club. There's not much margin for error," said Mussina, who struck out five and walked two. "They gave us every chance in the world to win this game, and we couldn't win it."

Groundwork for the loss was laid Tuesday night during an 11-6 defeat. Though three runs down, manager Ray Miller opted to use Arthur Rhodes, leaving him all but unavailable last night. Instead of turning over the eighth inning to a whipsaw arrangement of left-hander Rhodes, right-hander Mike Fetters and left-hander Jesse Orosco, Miller tried to push Mussina through his longest outing this season.

"He was available, but it goes back to yesterday," Miller said of Rhodes. "He threw 30-some pitches."

The Indians rallied after No. 9 hitter Eimar Diaz's double that eluded center fielder Brady Anderson. Diaz scored on the inning's second out to force a 5-4 game. After a single by Roberto Alomar, Miller lifted Mussina for Timlin to face Manny Ramirez, who had scored once and driven in two runs with a second-inning triple and sixth-inning double.

"The decision was made before he came out there," Mussina said of Miller. "I kind of knew if it got to Ramirez in that inning, he would come out. It didn't take a genius to see that."

Nor did it take a fortune-teller to guess the rest. Ramirez slashed a single, Wil Cordero battled for a walk, and designated hitter David Justice, who had homered the previous two nights, exploited a favorable matchup with a single through the middle, scoring Alomar and Ramirez for a 6-5 lead. Orosco had held Justice hitless in five previous at-bats but was not summoned.

"I don't know what it is about this place, but there is some kind of karma here working for them," Timlin said.

Said Miller: "We had them by three or four hits and two runs heading into the eighth inning. We look up and they've got more hits and more runs. But I would think if you come in here and score 15 runs, you should win a game."

The Orioles punctuated the loss with pinch runner Rich Amaral being thrown out on a steal attempt to end the game.

After leading all three games by at least two runs, the Orioles traveled last night to Texas confronted with another losing streak. During this 2-4 trip, they've lost when hitting four home runs and lost when repeatedly given extra outs behind shaky pitching.

"Playing a team this good, you've got to play at your peak," Mussina said. "If you don't do that, then most times you're going to come up short."

Said Anderson: "It's just like against the Yankees. We play well but not well enough to win."

The loss was made worse by the loss of catcher Lenny Webster to a freak ankle injury. Batting against Indians starter Dwight Gooden, Webster fell hard on a brushback in the fourth inning, straining a tendon in his right ankle, which buckled beneath him.

Webster was playing for the first time since injuring his right hand on a throw May 6. He is listed as day-to-day.

Offensively, the Orioles again did little with a lot. Gooden walked three in the first two innings and was further handicapped by the first two of four Indians errors.

Indians manager Mike Hargrove was ejected in the second inning after confronting plate umpire Gary Cedarstrom about his strike zone.

In the three nights' first four innings, the Orioles reached on 11 walks, two errors and a hit batter. One scored. Cleanup hitter Albert Belle went 1-for-9 with one RBI against his former club. He is batting .232 overall, .231 with runners in scoring position.

Speaking of a larger problem, Miller said, "It boils down to having the bases loaded early in each ballgame and not getting the big hit."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Texas Rangers

Site: The Ballpark in Arlington

Time: 8: 35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Scott Kamieniecki (0-1, 32.40) vs. Rangers' Mike Morgan (5-2, 4.12)

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