Gil blasts O's to win in 14th with HR, 6-5

Catcher's first since June knocks off Twins after O's get, blow lead in 9th

O's mind game foils Guardado

Bauer finishes off Twins with 4 innings of relief

O's 8-2 in extra innings

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

MINNEAPOLIS - Orioles manager Mike Hargrove insisted he wasn't using gamesmanship on Minnesota Twins closer Eddie Guardado last night. Hargrove said he was simply doing his job when he asked the umpires to check the large soiled spot on the left hip of Guardado's uniform for pine tar.

The umpires let Guardado stay in the game, but he blew a rare save chance as the Orioles scored two ninth-inning runs. Instead of getting angry, the Twins got even, capitalizing on a throwing error by Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston to send the game into extra innings - always a dangerous proposition for visitors to the Metrodome.

The Orioles needed Geronimo Gil's first home run since June 18 and four scoreless innings of relief from Rick Bauer to pull out a 6-5 victory in 14 innings.

With two outs in the 14th, Gil smashed a fastball from Twins reliever Tony Fiore into the left-field seats. It was Gil's ninth homer of the season, but he had gone 48 games since hitting his last one.

"When the tying run scored in the ninth inning, I don't know that I've ever felt worse at a sporting event," Hairston said. "But I've got great teammates, and we pick each other up."

With the Twins three outs from victory in the ninth, Hargrove begrudgingly had the umpires check on Guardado.

"The last thing in the world I would ever think about Eddie Guardado is cheating," Hargrove said. "He doesn't. The thought has never crossed my mind before, and even when I went out there, I didn't believe there was anything on there.

"I've seen those spots before and a lot of times those are pine tar spots. I felt like if I don't go out and at least ask about it, then I'm not doing my job. I don't believe in gamesmanship, I really don't. But sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do."

Guardado has become a fixture in the bullpen of the American League Central leaders, and the dirt spot has become a fixture on his uniform. Other teams have checked him, too. He had converted 34 of 38 save opportunities this season, becoming an All-Star and a fan favorite, but this time he was ineffective.

He threw a first-pitch strike to Tony Batista, drawing huge applause, but Batista drilled the next pitch into the left-center gap. Jay Gibbons followed with a double down the right-field line, scoring Batista with the tying run.

Jeff Conine flied out to deep right field, allowing Gibbons to tag and reach third base. Hargrove had Chris Singleton run for Gibbons, and Singleton scored when Gil broke his bat on a grounder to Twins third baseman Corey Koskie.

Koskie had to dodge the barrel of Gil's bat, giving him no time to throw home or start an inning-ending double play.

It was Guardado's first blown save since July 12 against Texas.

"I don't cheat; I don't even know how to cheat," Guardado said. "I guess he tried to distract me, and it worked. I just didn't do the job, but you've got to blame it on something."

Orioles closer Jorge Julio, who had converted 24 of 29 save opportunities, came on to pitch the ninth inning with the Orioles clinging to a one-run lead.

With one out, Hairston fielded a routine grounder from Jacque Jones and threw the ball in the dirt. Conine couldn't make the scoop at first base, the ball went into the dugout, allowing Jones to reach second, and Hairston was charged with his seventh error.

Cristian Guzman flied to center for the second out, but Koskie drilled a broken-bat single past the outstretched glove of Conine, scoring Jones with the tying run.

"I don't know if it was deflating," Hargrove said, "but it was disappointing."

Bauer (6-4) got the win, and Fiore (9-3) took the loss.

Minnesota fell to 8-1 at home in extra innings. The Orioles are 8-2 in extra innings overall and 2-3 on this road trip to Detroit and Minnesota that concludes here tonight.

After scoring just four runs on the first four games of the trip, the Orioles needed a spark, and Melvin Mora gave it to them. He finished a home run shy of the cycle, tripling, singling and doubling in his first three at-bats before walking in the eighth, flying to center in the ninth and flying to right in the 13th.

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