Johnson's hit in 10th wins it, 6-5

Down by 4 to Royals, Orioles tie on Belle's eighth-inning homer

Victory is 6th straight

Ripken homer, single raise average to .336

June 16, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The Orioles got only a couple of innings from the starting rotation and quickly fell behind by four runs last night, but this apparently isn't the same team that departed Baltimore in disarray 10 days ago.

Obviously, somewhere between Miami and Atlanta the club stopped off for a heart transplant, because something has to account for the steady beat that the Orioles have developed over the past week.

They shook off the early trouble last night and climbed back to score a 6-5 extra-inning victory over the Kansas City Royals, extending their season-long winning streak to six games before a crowd of 41,377 at Camden Yards.

Catcher Charles Johnson singled home Albert Belle with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, winning the game with a soft line drive off reliever Scott Service that completed an uplifting rally that included Belle's fourth hit of the game and Will Clark's 2,000th career hit.

"I think that was big," said manager Ray Miller. "To have a streak going, be down 5-1 and come back with everybody participating, that's a big lift for this ballclub."

The final rally, which carried Orioles reliever Mike Timlin to his third victory of the season, kept the Orioles on a roll, but it was a strong middle relief effort by Scott Kamieniecki, an inspired all-around performance by Belle and a crucial 10th-inning pickoff throw by catcher Charles

Johnson that made it all possible.

Kamieniecki pitched 4 1/3 scoreless inning in relief after fifth starter Jason Johnson couldn't get through the third. Belle made a rally-killing catch early in the game and hit a towering home run in the eighth to complete the club's late-inning comeback.

The Royals might have made it all irrelevant after Joe Randa led off the 10th with a double for his fourth hit of the game, but Charles Johnson caught Randa off second base with a lightning quick throw that ended the Kansas City threat before the second baseman Carlos Febles could get down a sacrifice bunt to set up the potential winning run.

Jason Johnson had tried to pick up where his veteran rotation mates left off, but he surrendered a run in the second inning and let a dubious umpiring call undo him in the third.

The Royals took advantage of a leadoff single and a two-out walk to set up their first run, tying the game in the second on an RBI single and missing out on at least one more run when Belle made a great diving catch to rob Rey Sanchez of a bloop single.

Belle, whose level of effort has come into question on a number of occasions this year, also displayed great hustle after he singled home the first run of the game in the first inning. He beat a close play at second to get into scoring position on the throw to the plate.

But Royals starter Chris Fussell eventually got out of trouble when Jermaine Dye ran down Will Clark's line drive in the right-field corner to end the inning.

Jason Johnson was not so fortunate in the third. He walked leadoff hitter Scott Pose to open the inning and allowed the next three batters to reach base after a questionable call at second cost the Orioles what would have been a very important out.

Charles Johnson appeared to gun down Pose on a steal attempt, but didn't get the call from second base umpire Dave Phillips, even though Pose's foot pinned Mike Bordick's glove to the bag. The video replay also favored the Orioles.

But the Royals parlayed the fortunate call into their second run and went on to knock Johnson out of the game with a four-run rally.

Maybe a week or two ago, that would have been enough to overwhelm the underwhelming Orioles, but not anymore -- not with the club batting a combined .336 in the month of June and riding an unprecedented offensive wave that recently included a record 22-run performance against the Atlanta Braves.

Fussell, the erstwhile Orioles prospect who was traded to the Royals for Jeff Conine, tap-danced through three innings before Cal Ripken started a three-run rally in the fourth with his eighth home run of the year.

Before the inning was over, Charles Johnson had delivered a key double, Brady Anderson brought home a run with a single and Mike Bordick made it a one-run game with a long sacrifice fly.

The Ripken roll continues. The home run was his seventh in the 28 games since he returned from the disabled list and it pushed him up a couple more all-time lists. The RBI gave him 1,540 and moved him into a tie with Willie Stargell for 30th place. The run was his 1,532nd and moved him into a tie for 46th all-time with Frankie Frisch.

Going 2-for-5, Ripken raised his average to a season-high .336.

Belle completed the comeback in the eighth, leading off the inning with his 11th home run of the year to tie the game. The towering shot to left -- off newly promoted reliever Tim Byrdak -- was only Belle's second home run in his last 20 games.

"It's been awhile since he hit a meaningful home run, but he's been getting a lot of hits," said Miller.

"Baseball is a game of peaks and valleys. Guys like him stay at the peaks longer than everybody else. Albert Belle is a good player and we're all playing good right now."

Orioles today

Opponent: K.C. Royals

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 3: 05 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Royals' Jose Rosado (4-5, 2.91) vs. O's Sidney Ponson (6-4, 3.99)

Tickets: About 6,000 remain Pub Date: 6/16/99

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