Extra out lets Indians do in O's in 9th, 6-5

2-out Batista error opens door to 4 unearned runs as Lawton HR foils Julio

Blown 4-0 lead 2nd in 3 games

1st error in 9 games mars Erickson's solid 6 innings

May 15, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- The unthinkable happened to the Orioles for the second time in three games last night.

Taking a multi-run lead into the ninth inning, they had to walk off the field in defeat while the home team celebrated a game-winning home run.

And this one felt worse.

All four of the Cleveland Indians' ninth-inning runs came with two outs, all of them were unearned after the Orioles committed their first error in nine games, and all the big hits came with two strikes.

Matt Lawton hit a two-run homer off Orioles closer Jorge Julio, giving Cleveland a 6-5 victory last night at Jacobs Field.

"These things happen in baseball," said Julio (2-2), who was on the mound for Randy Winn's walk-off home run in Saturday's 6-4 loss at Tampa Bay. "It takes 27 outs to win."

The Orioles took a 5-2 lead into the ninth and turned the game over to Julio, who has converted seven of his 10 save opportunities this season and boasts a 2.70 ERA.

Julio struck out former Oriole Brady Anderson, then got Einar Diaz for the second out on a grounder back to the mound.

It looked like the Orioles had snapped a two-game losing streak when Jolbert Cabrera hit a grounder down the line. Orioles third baseman Tony Batista, who doubled and hit his 10th home run earlier, backhanded the ball then threw across the diamond.

But the throw bounced in the dirt, skipping by first baseman Jeff Conine. "That's an error," Batista said, "a bad throw."

It seemed benign at first, but then Omar Vizquel doubled, Ricky Gutierrez singled and Lawton hit his eighth home run -- all with two strikes.

"This is a tough one to take," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "This is a tough one, I think, for all of us to take.

"There wasn't a whole lot we could do about the one in Tampa," Hargrove added, referring to the infield hits that proceeded Winn's home run. "I thought we had this one in the bag, and we let it slip away."

With sweat running down his forehead, Julio spoke in a quiet, polite voice after the game.

The 2-2 pitch to Lawton was "a fastball, a little up," Julio said. "It's a good swing for him, so game over."

The Orioles went to great lengths to make sure Julio's psyche was OK after Saturday's blown save. That time, he took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning, and walked off the field with a two-run loss.

Hargrove said he would turn right back to Julio to save a game tonight if the opportunity arises. "I don't know that I have any power for it not to affect him," Hargrove said. "That's part of growing up, that's part of developing, that's part of maturing, we'll see.

"I think Jorge will get through this, it's going to be a battle for him, but he'll get through this. He's got good stuff, he throws strikes, and he seems to have a level head."

Hargrove said he would probably wait until today to talk with Julio about it.

"If we have another situation tonight, we'll give it to him," Hargrove said. "I think that's probably the most important thing we can do."

Said Julio: "I'm ready to go tomorrow."

Lawton's hit revived the Indians, who were one out away from their 20th loss in 26 games.

"We needed that," Lawton said. "It's been a long struggle for us. I can't lie, the vibes around here haven't been the greatest."

Starter Scott Erickson was in line for his first victory in eight career starts at Jacobs Field, where he is 0-6 with a 7.40 ERA.

Erickson held Cleveland to two runs on seven hits in six innings in his first start since May 8, when he left after two-plus innings with a slightly strained right groin. In an encouraging sign, Erickson's velocity actually seemed to increase in the later innings, as his fastball readings went from about 88 mph to as high as 91 mph in the sixth.

Indians starter Danys Baez allowed four runs on six hits over six innings. He walked five batters, and that proved costly as two of them scored.

The Orioles built a 4-0 lead on RBIs by Marty Cordova, Geronimo Gil, Batista and Jerry Hairston, but it was by no means insurmountable. They blew a 4-0 lead in Saturday's loss at Tampa Bay, the one that broke the Devil Rays' 15-game losing streak, and they also blew a 3-0 lead in Sunday's loss.

The Orioles went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position after the second inning, but Jay Gibbons provided an insurance run with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Cleveland Indians Site: Jacobs Field, Cleveland Time: 7:05 TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM) Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (5-0, 2.31) vs. Indians' Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.00)

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