Speedy O's beat throw, Indians, 4-3

Conine legs out win in 10th after Ponson, Julio turn up the heat on Cleveland bats

Five infield hits aid comeback

Conine `runs a lot better than people think'

muffed Matthews bunt helps tie it

May 08, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The Orioles came back to defeat the Cleveland Indians in 10 innings last night, but anyone who blinked probably missed it.

With two pitchers consistently throwing the ball faster than 95 mph, and their hitters legging out five infield hits, the Orioles enforced the notion that speed indeed kills in their 4-3 victory before 26,455 at Camden Yards.

Jeff Conine beat out a potential double-play ball to score Jerry Hairston with the winning run in the 10th inning and later stood by his locker, proudly wearing a black T-shirt advertising Cris Carter's Fast Program.

Carter, the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver, runs his six-week speed course each winter, and Conine has attended the past three years, dropping his time in the 60-yard dash from 7.2 seconds to 6.8 seconds.

"I don't wear this shirt for nothing," Conine said.

The Orioles (17-16) needed their speed to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the eighth inning. Sidney Ponson was in line for the loss, even though he held Cleveland to three runs on five hits over eight innings.

Ponson and Jorge Julio (2-0) combined to retire the final 16 Cleveland batters, with Ponson throwing 96-mph fastballs and Julio later coming with 99-mph gas.

Former Oriole Brady Anderson struck out all four times he batted.

"Both of those guys have tremendous stuff," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "Sidney hung some breaking balls, but after that he was golden. And Julio - we really pushed him to pitch two innings."

Indians starter Chuck Finley held the Orioles to one run on seven hits over seven innings, leaving it up to his bullpen to finish the job.

Hairston, who finished with two infield hits, led off the eighth with a little roller down the third base line off Indians reliever Paul Shuey. That raised Hairston's average to .220.

"The last three-four ballgames Jerry has slowly but surely started to come around," Hargrove said. "He's getting into good hitter's counts again, and he's keeping the ball out of the air for the most part. ... When he does that, he allows his feet a chance to make a difference."

Melvin Mora moved Hairston to second with a single and Gary Matthews came to the plate, trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt.

Matthews failed to get the bunt down, but with two strikes, he stroked a single to right field, scoring Hairston and moving Mora to third base.

"It's a play where you almost look like a bonehead, even though you get a hit," Matthews said. "It's disappointing not to get the bunt down because hitting in the second slot, it's my job to get the runners over.

"But I got a split-finger up and got the bat on the ball. The baseball gods were with me."

The Orioles tied the game on another near double-play ball from Conine. This time, he grounded to third baseman Travis Fryman, who threw to second base for the first out but Ricky Gutierrez dropped the ball, allowing Mora to score.

With Julio cruising, the Orioles had a chance to win it in the ninth, but Indians reliever Mark Wohlers retired the side.

Wohlers struck out Geronimo Gil to start the 10th, and then Hairston singled to left. Keeping the game of small-ball going, Mora reached on a slow grounder and Matthews singled to left field, loading the bases.

For the game's final at-bat, Conine said he was trying to hit the ball in the air, but he wound up hitting a ball on the ground between second and third. Shortstop Omar Vizquel moved to his right and grabbed the ball, throwing to second for the first out.

But Conine beat the relay throw to first and Hairston crossed the plate, greeting his teammates in celebration. "Omar made a great play," Hairston said, "and Rickey did a good job turning it. Niner [Conine] runs a lot better than people think."

Conine also brought home Matthews with an infield hit in the first inning. Then in the 10th, he showed his speed again.

"It was a nasty forkball. I've faced Wohlers for a long time, and he's got one of the best forkballs I've ever seen. But I thought I got a great part of the bat on it, and I thought it was going to go through."

On Monday night, the Orioles erased an early four-run deficit but caught a couple bad breaks as the Indians pulled away, 9-4.

The Orioles won for the 13th time in 18 games to move back over .500. Tonight, they send Scott Erickson to the mound looking to win another series.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Cleveland Indians

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Indians' Danys Baez (3-3, 4.50) vs. Orioles' Scott Erickson (3-2, 3.45)

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