Conine's single in 12th lifts O's by Indians, 6-4

Trailing 4-2, Orioles rally for 2nd night in row to win 1st series since Sept.

At .441, Segui strains hamstring

After four straight fouls, Conine lines winning hit, sending O's into 3rd place

April 18, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND - Hardened by the neglect and abuse that comes from being a fourth-place team, the Orioles finally get to experience the joys of being the middle child in their division. It becomes a little more difficult to ignore them - at least in a baseball family - even if they're still not the most popular or loved.

It might not last long, but they'll milk whatever affection they can get.

Jeff Conine, who homered earlier in the game, lined a two-run single off Carl Sadler with two outs in the 12th inning last night, and the Orioles rallied for the second straight game to defeat the Cleveland Indians, 6-4, at Jacobs Field and win their first series since mid-September.

With Toronto's loss yesterday, the Orioles moved into third place. But they also might have lost David Segui to another injury. He was removed after straining his right hamstring, and the Orioles list him as day-to-day.

Former Oriole Chad Paronto walked two of the three batters he faced in the 12th. Sadler replaced him and surrendered Conine's hit, which came on a 2-2 pitch and scored pinch runner Jose Morban and Melvin Mora.

Conine won an epic, 10-pitch exchange with Sadler. He fouled off four straight before getting hold of a curveball. He missed a double down the right-field line by about three feet. A fastball almost got past him, with Conine tipping it out of catcher Tim Laker's mitt.

"He was throwing everything at me - curveballs in, changeups away, fastballs in - and I just told myself, `Try to keep fighting it off until he gives you something you can really hit,'" Conine said. "The inside fastball beat me really bad and with a straight emergency hack, I got enough to take it out of [Laker's] glove."

Said manager Mike Hargrove: "I've had Jeff going on four years, and he hits the ball as hard consistently as anyone I ever had. He's a real gamer. I like it when Jeff's at the plate with runners in scoring position."

Buddy Groom got the last out in the ninth to leave the bases loaded and force extra innings. Willis Roberts was credited with the win, and Jorge Julio recorded his third save, as the Orioles bullpen limited Cleveland to two hits over five innings.

The Orioles hadn't won eight straight road series, dating to last year.

They hadn't won a series in Cleveland since Aug. 13-16, 1998.

After blowing 6-0 and 4-0 leads on consecutive nights against Tampa Bay to begin the road trip, they ended up splitting eight games. They needed 22 innings to win the last two.

"We'll take them however we can get them," Hargrove said. "This is a good building block, a good step. The trick is continuing it."

As if the drama of last night's outcome wasn't enough, the Orioles also were concerned about Segui, who strained his hamstring in the eighth inning.

Segui pulled up as he headed toward first base on a grounder to the mound. He winced after returning to the dugout, flinging his helmet to the floor, and went to the clubhouse after motioning for trainer Richie Bancells.

Segui singled twice to raise his average to .441. He began the season on the disabled list with a fractured right thumb, but has hit safely in nine of 10 games, including six in a row.

"We'll know something more definitive tomorrow but probably not anything concrete," Hargrove said of Segui. "I would think he wouldn't play tomorrow, but I may be wrong."

Sidney Ponson was removed after the seventh inning and the score tied, 4-4.

The first two batters already had reached against him in the second inning when Travis Hafner homered. Karim Garcia, a former Oriole who was rushed out of Baltimore after a brief stay in 2000, deposited Ponson's first pitch of the sixth inning into the right-field seats for a 4-2 lead.

Jerry Hairston's two-out, two-run single in the seventh inning off C.C. Sabathia tied the game. Hairston went with the pitch and lined it toward right-center field.

These teams won't meet again until 2004, and there's no rush for Ponson, who is winless in five career decisions against the Indians covering 10 starts. He's defeated every other team in the league.

Ponson had retired 10 of 11 batters before Garcia hammered a pitch thrown down the middle. He struck out eight.

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site:Camden Yards

Time:7:05

TV/Radio:Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters:Devil Rays' Victor Zambrano (0-1, 6.19) vs. Orioles' Jason Johnson (1-0, 2.13)

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