2-man outfield throws another late thrill to O's

Anderson cuts down Indians in 10th

Lunar lifts O's in 11th, 4-2

April 08, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND - They already have overcome the game's best pitcher, lost a no-hitter and been beaten by four walks in an inning following a fog delay. They may still prove to be dreadfully bad or inspirational overachievers, but these Orioles are anything but boring.

In a game that threatened to underscore their early-season shortcomings, the Orioles instead stole a 4-2 win over the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field yesterday by using a dazzling play from a two-man outfield, a rookie's first major-league run and an offensive project's well-placed double.

The Orioles no longer play games; they stage events.

Backup catcher Fernando Lunar's one-out, two-run double in the 11th inning against Indians sidearmer Rick Reed accounted for the two-run win. How the game got to him defied belief.

Right fielder Brady Anderson's inspiration, his conversation with center fielder Melvin Mora and his left arm saved a game the Orioles seemed destined to lose.

"With a young team, any game you win like this increases your confidence," said manager Mike Hargrove. "Being able to play and compete with the Indians and Red Sox says a lot about our ability."

Facing a one-out, bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the 10th inning, Hargrove decided to call upon left fielder Delino DeShields as a fifth infielder. The arrangement left Anderson and Mora alone in the outfield gaps. Anderson, once considered among the game's elite left fielders, approached Mora about changing sides, allowing him a more comfortable throwing angle.

"It doesn't matter to me. I'll throw from anywhere," Mora said. When the two switched, it technically put the Orioles' right fielder in left and their center fielder in right.

Pinch hitter Jolbert Cabrera then lofted Mike Trombley's fifth pitch toward the left-field line, causing Anderson to sprint about 25 yards while trying to line up for a throw. Anderson circled and caught the pop slightly behind his left shoulder and unleashed a strike that beat the tagging Ellis Burks.

"With two outfielders, I'm playing the gap in left-center and I'm playing pretty shallow," said Anderson. "All I'm trying to do is use my legs to get me behind the ball and have some momentum going toward the plate. ... My mind-set was to run down any ball, no matter where it was."

The Orioles now find themselves 3-2 thanks to a pair of 11-inning wins and a game-ending walk on Thursday. For a second time in as many outings, Opening Day starter Pat Hentgen gave them a solid effort, lasting eight innings while surrendering only a two-run homer to Burks among six hits.

Hentgen, winless despite a 1.62 ERA and major-league-high 16 2/3 innings, conspired with four relievers to allow only two hits after the second inning. Still, four walks and an error made the last two innings nothing less than a thrill ride.

Willis Roberts began the 10th inning by sandwiching walks to Burks and Wil Cordero around a strikeout of Indians whiff king Russell Branyan. Hargrove then summoned Buddy Groom, who immediately got pinch hitter Marty Cordova to beat a double-play grounder to second baseman Jerry Hairston. But Hairston boxed the grounder in his haste to start the play, loading the bases for Cabrera against Trombley.

Hargrove set up a picket-fence infield alignment by summoning DeShields to play just to the third base side of second. During the break, Anderson sought out Mora, without Hargrove's input.

"I came back to the bench afterward and he told me he wanted to do that anyway," said Anderson. "I think he realized it's better that you do what you're comfortable doing. If Melvin hadn't been comfortable with it, I wouldn't have switched."

"That," said Hentgen, who watched on a clubhouse television, "was a great play. That was a big-league play. To know the game's on the line and to know if your throw is off-line a little bit it's the game ... that's a great defensive play."

"How about Brady Anderson's cannon?" joked DeShields.

"That's right, a cannon," Anderson answered wryly.

At .150 after an 0-for-3, Anderson has yet to hit, giving him something in common with most of the Orioles' slumping clubhouse. But he is thriving under Hargrove's loose rein. He singled home the game-winning run in the season opener when convention called for a bunt. He advanced a runner Thursday night and has refused to pout over his exile from his preferred position, center field.

"A play like Brady made today makes everybody feel better," said Hentgen. "There were a couple walks in there and I know Jerry wanted to make that play. But when you make a play like [Anderson's] you can overlook it. What matters is you win."

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