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

Catcher's first since June knocks off Twins after O's blow lead in ninth

O's bats finally come alive

Bauer finishes off Twins with 4 innings of relief against Central leaders

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

MINNEAPOLIS - The Orioles played a little mind game to get to Minnesota Twins closer Eddie Guardado last night, only to see their own closer undone by their defense.

The Orioles scored two ninth-inning runs against Guardado, after having the umpires check a dirt spot on his left leg in an apparent insinuation that he might be using something to doctor the ball.

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 innings of scoreless 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, and he had gone 48 games since hitting his last one.

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.

With the Twins three outs from victory in the ninth, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove had the umpiring crew check Guardado's pants leg. Guardado has become a fixture in Minnesota's bullpen, and the dirt spot has become a fixture on his uniform.

The umpires let Guardado stay in the game, but the Orioles were in his head. Guardado had converted 34 of 38 save opportunities this season, becoming an All-Star and a fan favorite, and 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.

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.

Hairston is considered a young second baseman with Gold Glove potential and a tendency to botch routine plays. This time, almost he cost the Orioles a victory.

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

Earlier in the game, the Orioles had a play that seemed to define their entire road trip. Batista, who had just one RBI in his previous eight games, came to the plate in the sixth with Melvin Mora on second and Gary Matthews on first.

On-deck stood Gibbons, who had gone six games since his last RBI. Orioles third base coach Tom Trebelhorn is known for his aggressive style, and he always considers the on-deck hitter and situation before making decisions on whether to send runners home.

Batista singled down the third base line, scoring Mora. Matthews had a full head of steam as he neared third base, and Trebelhorn moved halfway between third and home for a better view of Jones. Trebelhorn didn't make any visible signal with his arms, and Matthews kept running.

Jones' throw from foul territory beat Matthews by a couple steps, and catcher Pierzynski fielded it on a bounce before applying the tag.

Orioles starter Travis Driskill, who had won his two previous starts, went 5 1/3 innings this time, allowing four runs on six hits. Twins starter Brad Radke, in his second start back from an extended stint on the disabled list, held the Orioles to three runs on six hits in six innings.

After scoring just four runs on the first four games of the road trip, the Orioles needed a spark, and 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 out to center in the ninth and flying to right in the 13th.

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