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's Ramirez 1 homer shy of cycle

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

CLEVELAND -- Mike Mussina gave the Orioles 7 2/3 innings last night and left them with a two-run lead. His reward was to watch from the clubhouse as a frayed bullpen conspired in a three-run eighth inning that brought the Cleveland Indians a 6-5 win and a deflating sweep of their three-game series.

For more than a week, the Orioles have boasted of improved play, competent starting pitching and tighter defense. After last night, the claim sounds hollow as they fell to 12-21.

Mussina left leading 5-3 with two out in the eighth inning. Three hitters later, the Indians had reached closer Mike Timlin for two singles and a walk, sending a Jacobs Field crowd of 42,939 into a frenzy and the Orioles heading to Texas with a brutal hangover.

The Indians attacked Timlin (1-2) with an RBI single by right fielder Manny Ramirez -- who fell a home run shy of the cycle -- a walk to Wil Cordero and a tie-breaking, two-strike single from left-handed hitter David Justice.

As if to compound the loss, the game ended with pinch runner Rich Amaral caught stealing for the game's final out.

The loss was further compromised by the loss of catcher Lenny Webster to a freak ankle injury. Batting against Indians starter Dwight Gooden, Webster fell hard on a brushback pitch 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, the same description given to the earlier injury, which sidelined him for almost a week.

Mussina, consistently critical of his performance this season, again tried to pull the Orioles from a spiral. But having been swept by the Indians, they face a four-game series in Texas, where they have traditionally been pounded.

Mussina saved the bullpen while steamrolling a lineup that had crushed five home runs and scored 17 runs the previous two games. The Indians' 15-game streak with at least one home run ended.

How large has Mussina loomed within his team's catastrophic start?

The Orioles are 6-2 in his starts, 6-19 in all others. He is the only starter in either league to have begun half his team's wins.

This time Mussina was betrayed by a bullpen that was without Arthur Rhodes, who had been burned with his team down three runs the night before.

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.

B. J. Surhoff gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead with his sixth homer, with two out, to left field in the first inning. The Orioles pressed Gooden again in the second when two walks and an error by first baseman Richie Sexson loaded the bases. Indians manager Mike Hargrove didn't see the inning's end after confronting plate umpire Gary Cedarstrom about his strike zone. Trailing Brady Anderson, 2-0, Gooden got out of the jam by freezing Anderson for a strikeout.

Manny Ramirez forced a tie in the bottom of the inning when he sliced a triple past right fielder Albert Belle, who broke late and then slid late after the fly ball. Cordero's ground ball scored the run.

A three-run breakout in the fifth inning gave Mussina a 4-1 lead. Again an error, this one by center fielder Kenny Lofton, stoked the inning.

Delino DeShields' single drove in Anderson, who had reached when Lofton dropped his leadoff fly ball to center for a two-base error. Belle and Jeff Conine added sacrifice flies later in the inning.

The Indians erased two-run deficits in the first two games of the series and threatened to do the same down three runs in the sixth inning.

Mussina entered the inning having allowed one one runner to reach third base while helping himself with two double-play grounders. Shortstop Omar Vizquel began a one-out rally by dropping a bunt toward third base. Jeff Reboulet charged but threw late as Vizquel ended a 1-for-10 skid. Roberto Alomar followed with an opposite-field single that advanced Vizquel one base and brought Ramirez to the plate with the tying run.

Just as he did in the second inning, Ramirez drove a pitch to the opposite field with disastrous results for the Orioles. His slicing shot eluded center fielder Anderson and rolled to the wall, allowing both runners to score easily. Perhaps emboldened by his previous triple, the plodding Ramirez attempted to stretch his double but was easily cut down at third base.

The Orioles countered in the seventh with Surhoff's leadoff double, his seventh hit of the series and sixth in nine at-bats. Again, a situation found Belle lacking.

Replacing left-hander Mark Langston, Steve Karsay handled Belle on one pitch. The cleanup hitter's left-side grounder left Surhoff at second base, which became significant when Conine lifted a fly ball to center field and catcher Einar Diaz was guilty of a passed ball.

Ahead 4-3, the Orioles scored an unearned run in the eighth inning when Reboulet reached second on an infield single compounded by Paul Assenmacher's throwing error. A wild pitch gave Reboulet third base and Anderson's fly ball to center was deep enough to allow Reboulet to beat Lofton's throw with a fadeaway tag to the inside of the plate.

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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