O's slug out a sweep, 12-11

Orioles' script of bats, bullpen works again to subdue Indians

Tejada's two tying HRs among 16 hits

6 O's relievers, lots of patience needed to cap wild weekend

Baseball

May 10, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

It's a pattern that could leave the Orioles depleted and exhausted, their manager prematurely gray. Squeeze five innings out of the starting pitcher, rummage through the bullpen and assume the offense will generate enough runs.

An entire team soon might be operating on fumes, and Lee Mazzilli isn't sure how far it will go.

Unable to find a more efficient blueprint for building a winner, the Orioles seem determined to out-slug and outlast their opponents, as they did yesterday in a 12-11 victory over the Cleveland Indians before 35,778 at Camden Yards.

Miguel Tejada had his first multi-homer game this season, twice hitting two-run shots that tied the score, and B.J. Surhoff delivered a two-run double in the sixth that gave the Orioles a 10-8 lead. But the victory stayed in jeopardy until the end.

To complete their first three-game sweep of the Indians since August 1993, the Orioles needed 16 hits, six relievers and lots of patience as closer Jorge Julio allowed two runs in the ninth and loaded the bases.

But, with two outs, catcher Victor Martinez chased the first pitch and popped up, assuring the Orioles (16-12) of their fourth win in five games before heading to Chicago today for a three-game series that starts tomorrow.

"We've got to find a different way to get it done," Mazzilli said. "You can't go the whole year like this, going to your bullpen that much. It just can't happen. You're going to burn the guys out. We're all well-aware of that. Even the starters are aware of that."

Tejada was hitting .327 before yesterday, but he had only two home runs and was batting .190 with runners in scoring position. He erased deficits of 6-4 in the fifth inning and 8-6 in the sixth, the last ball traveling 410 feet to left field.

"I'm just trying to get on base for the guys coming up behind me," he said. "When my home runs come, I'll take them."

Buddy Groom gave up three straight singles to open the seventh, and Rodrigo Lopez walked Alex Escobar with the bases loaded to reduce the lead to 10-9. But Lopez got a force out at home, with Tejada charging Omar Vizquel's grounder and throwing on the run, and fielded Ron Belliard's bouncer to the mound to begin an inning-ending double play.

"I said to him when he came in, `Let's give them one run, that's all. Let's get out of here and we'll be fine,'" Mazzilli said. "You don't try to get out of a bases-loaded situation with nothing happening. You don't want to get too greedy."

Tejada called his throw to the plate "the key play of the game," and Lopez (3-1) wasn't going to debate him.

"That gave me a lot of confidence, a lot of excitement," Lopez said, "and I wanted to be part of that excitement."

As if there weren't enough already.

Eric DuBose threw 97 pitches while becoming the eighth Orioles starter in the past 11 games to leave before the sixth inning. He struck out a career-high eight batters but gave up five earned runs and walked three, all of whom scored.

"I probably had the best stuff I've had all year," he said. "It was just one of those days where both teams came out hitting."

Left with no choice, Mazzilli called upon Matt Riley to begin the parade of relievers. Riley loaded the bases in the sixth before Mike DeJean allowed a two-run single to pinch hitter Ben Broussard for an 8-6 lead.

"It's one of two things," said Mazzilli, whose club outscored the Indians 25-20 in the series. "Either you're going to wear out the bullpen or you're going to wear out the manager."

His patience was tested by more than the pitchers. Jay Gibbons missed the cutoff man in the third inning, allowing a runner to advance into scoring position. Belliard followed with a single into left field that scored Escobar, reducing the lead to 3-1, and John McDonald raced home when Larry Bigbie hesitated before lobbing a throw to the infield, the ball rolling to first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.

"If you're not going to throw it right away, then you've got to run it in hard," Mazzilli said.

The Orioles had another gaffe in the third inning, when Gibbons and Palmeiro ended up on third base after Surhoff grounded to the right side. Gibbons broke for the bag as Palmeiro held up, resulting in a rundown and the last out.

"You look at all the good points of the game, and there were a lot of good ones," Mazzilli said, "but there also were some crummy ones."

Gibbons was thrown out at the plate by a wide margin on Surhoff's double in the sixth, a play that took on greater significance as the Indians rallied. But the hosts did enough scoring, including a first-inning homer by Melvin Mora (3-for-5) and got the usual clutch relief from B.J. Ryan, who struck out three in the eighth. No sense complaining.

"I think you've seen it all," Mazzilli said. "You saw good baseball, bad baseball, good pitching, bad pitching, good base running, bad base running. But our guys worked through it, and when you walk away with a win, it's good."

Even if it's not pretty.

"We knew today we'd have to score a lot of runs. No lead was safe," said Gibbons, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs as he continued to come out of a slump.

"I'm not bugged at all. We won. That's the bottom line."

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