Bigbie homer beats Indians in 10th, 3-2

Slumping outfielder's shot rewards O's bullpen for 5 more shutout innings

Bedard: 5 strikeouts 1st 3 innings

Left-hander's best start of season foiled by rain

Palmeiro also homers

May 08, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Larry Bigbie was so cold at the plate this week that Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli benched him Wednesday, hoping the break would set him straight.

Bigbie was back in the lineup last night against the Cleveland Indians, but by the 10th inning, he was still hitless and looking for new ways to keep positive.

Then Bigbie had a moment he'll remember for a long time.

After watching the bullpen continue its mastery for five innings, Bigbie led off the 10th with a home run off Chad Durbin, giving the Orioles a hard-fought, 3-2 victory before 34,324 at Camden Yards.

For Durbin, it was the third time this season he has given up a walk-off home run.

Bigbie, who had one hit in his previous 11 at-bats, drilled his team-leading fifth homer of the season into the center-field seats.

"I haven't hit enough home runs in my career to know it was gone," said Bigbie, who couldn't remember the last time he hit a walk-off homer at any level. "But I knew I put a good swing on it."

Bigbie handed the credit to relievers Rick Bauer, Buddy Groom, Rodrigo Lopez, B.J. Ryan and Jorge Julio. Those five had kept the Indians scoreless after Orioles starter Erik Bedard held them to two runs (one earned) over five innings.

The Orioles, who tied the game in the sixth with a home run by Rafael Palmeiro, won for just the fourth time in their past 11 games and improved to 3-3 in extra-inning games.

With the home run, Bigbie raised his average to .242.

"I'm just so happy for him," Mazzilli said. "Hopefully, this will catapult him to something else. We all know he has the ability to do this."

Getting into a bullpen battle with Cleveland would seem to be advantageous for any club. Indians starters entered last night ranked second in the American League with a 4.03 ERA, and their bullpen ranked last in the majors with a 6.80 ERA.

The Orioles' starters, meantime, ranked 24th in the majors coming in with a 5.32 ERA, and their bullpen was second in the AL with a 2.82 ERA.

But last Saturday, the Orioles found out those numbers don't tell the whole story. They locked up in a 2-2 tie with the Indians in the seventh inning, and it stayed that way until the 13th, when Cleveland won it on Coco Crisp's single.

This time, the key inning was the ninth. The Indians hit two singles off Lopez to put runners at the corners with one out, but Lopez struck out Omar Vizquel for a huge second out.

With the left-handed-hitting Jody Gerut coming to the plate, Mazzilli turned to Ryan, who has yet to allow a hit against a left-handed hitter all season. Ryan walked Gerut, but then struck out the switch-hitting Victor Martinez with a 93-mph fastball, punctuating the moment with a fist pump.

"You're pumped up from watching [Lopez]," Ryan said. "And then you get in there and try to feed off that energy."

Julio (1-0) pitched the 10th inning to get the win. Durbin (2-3) took the loss.

But poor Bedard.

After bouncing him around for a month, from the big leagues to Triple-A Ottawa and back, the Orioles made a concerted effort to put him into a routine.

And then it rains.

Bedard finally started to look like the pitcher the Orioles saw during spring training before last night's game was interrupted by a 48-minute rain delay. When play resumed, Bedard was still fairly sharp, but his teammates weren't, as the Indians grabbed a 2-1 lead.

Before the delay, Bedard had five strikeouts in three innings, four of those with runners in scoring position.

The Indians got to him for a first-inning run, as Gerut doubled down the left-field line to score Ron Belliard from first. Bigbie almost made a diving catch on the play, but the ball went right by his glove.

Bedard threw 51 pitches before the delay, which started before the top of the fourth.

When he came back, he retired the side in the fourth inning, and should have escaped the fifth inning unscathed. But with two outs in the fifth, third baseman Melvin Mora made his major league-leading 10th error.

Bedard hit Gerut with a pitch, loading the bases, and then walked Martinez on four pitches, forcing home the go-ahead run.

But then Bedard caught a break. Vizquel, who stole home last May 27 against the Detroit Tigers, got a big lead from third base and risked it again. Catcher Javy Lopez read it all the way, moving up from his crouched position to make the tag.

Mazzilli pulled Bedard after the fifth, the long delay no doubt playing into the decision.

Bedard allowed five hits in five innings, lowering his ERA to 4.32. He walked one and finished with the five strikeouts. All in all, it was his best performance of the season.

And Palmeiro took him off the hook for the loss in the sixth inning, when he launched a shot off a brick pillar at the back of the flag court in right.

Orioles today

Opponent: Cleveland Indians

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 4:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Indians' Jake Westbrook (2-1, 1.32) vs. Orioles' Kurt Ainsworth (0-1, 6.20)

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