O's spin a loss, not a record

Orosco sits, stays on brink in lone drama as Indians sweep, 5-1

August 16, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- As the Orioles plodded toward another defeat last night, their 66th of a trying season, the only intrigue that remained was the possible insertion of reliever Jesse Orosco in the late innings.

Would he break Dennis Eckersley's record for most games pitched on national television and before a collection of fans who wouldn't truly appreciate the moment, or achieve the milestone at home later this week and be showered with affection?

In a move far less predictable than the Orioles' latest dud at Jacobs Field, Orosco remained in the bullpen as the Cleveland Indians completed a series sweep with a 5-1 victory before 43,020, assuring that he'll surpass Eckersley's total of 1,071 during a six-game homestand that begins tomorrow.

Miller had used his other two left-handers, Doug Johns and Arthur Rhodes, during Saturday's 7-1 loss. Johns threw 61 pitches in three innings, making him unavailable. Rhodes needed 19 to get through one, making him a risk. With starter Sidney Ponson finding trouble at just about every turn in the early innings last night and unable to build on his league-leading six complete games, Orosco stood a greater chance of being exposed.

Ponson (11-8) went five innings, allowing five runs and nine hits and walking a season-high five. Included in the wreckage was Jim Thome's bases-empty homer in the fifth, the 25th allowed by Ponson this year. Al Reyes, Rhodes and Scott Kamieniecki finished, with Kamieniecki escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the ninth, as the Orioles fell to 0-6 against the Indians this season and 9-24 at the Jake.

Miller let Kamieniecki face left-handed-hitting David Justice with the bases full and one out. Right-handers Mike Timlin and Jim Corsi warmed. Orosco never stirred.

"If it happened tonight or the next, it would have been a good situation either way with this one being national," Orosco said. "Sometime, I'd just like to win some games. It makes things sweeter when you're winning."

Ponson was seeking his 12th victory and better results against the Indians. In four career appearances, he was 0-2 with a 10.26 ERA.

"There's something about this team," he said. "I can't get guys out. It was like I was throwing BP. I just didn't have it."

In the first inning, rookie Dave Roberts scored with two outs when Manny Ramirez fought off an inside pitch and dumped it into right field for his major-league-leading 121st RBI.

Justice and Thome walked to load the bases and bring pitching coach Bruce Kison to the mound. With the bullpen remaining quiet, Ponson struck out Richie Sexson to keep the damage at a minimum.

His struggles continued in the second inning. Omar Vizquel grounded a run-scoring single into right field with one out, but helped the Orioles' cause by getting thrown out trying for second. The hit scored Enrique Wilson, who had halted an 0-for-26 skid by blooping a leadoff single into center field and stealing second.

The Indians added two more runs in the third, making Miller pay for a strategic gamble. With runners on second and third and two outs, Miller ordered Wilson intentionally walked to bring up catcher Einar Diaz. Wilson, playing with a jammed thumb and admitting after Saturday's game to being "lost at the plate" in the midst of a horrid slump, never had received an intentional walk in 119 major-league games.

Wilson was hitting .239 with runners in scoring position, .212 when there were two outs. Diaz was batting .329 with runners in scoring position, .421 when there were two outs. Predictably in a season where so little has gone right for the Orioles, he lined a single for a 4-0 lead.

"I just wanted to give [Ponson] a right-hander," Miller said of Diaz. "I'm just trying to give him a chance to get out of the inning. We can't afford to give up two more there, and we did."

Ponson was prepared to face Wilson but didn't second-guess Miller. "He thought I had a better chance against Diaz," Ponson said. "I thought I had a good chance against Wilson, but it was Ray's decision to walk him. I know he thought right-hander against right-hander would be better, but I threw a bad pitch."

The Indians should have had runners at the corners with Wilson at the plate, but Sexson advanced to second after lining a single to center when Brady Anderson's throw bounced past Delino DeShields. Anderson initially was charged with his second error of the year, but a scoring change left DeShields with his seventh.

"That's happened too many times where the ball's thrown in and it gets away," Miller said. "That's what the guy's supposed to do, get it in quick and get it in low."

Another problem was the Orioles again ran into a hot pitcher. Bartolo Colon has lost just once since June 10 and was coming off a seven-hit shutout in Anaheim. He has been particularly strong since the All-Star break, posting a 1.83 ERA in six starts before last night. It also didn't hurt that the Indians were averaging six runs for him.

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