Eighth is enough

Montanez's RBI double sparks 8-run inning

Orioles 11 Indians 6

August 15, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

CLEVELAND - There were men on first and second and no outs in a tie game in the eighth inning, and Orioles manager Dave Trembley could have easily asked rookie outfielder Lou Montanez to drop down a bunt. Sure, light-hitting Juan Castro was on deck, but Trembley had Luke Scott on the bench.

Montanez said he fully expected to receive the bunt sign from third base coach Juan Samuel. The Cleveland Indians apparently anticipated a bunt as well, as their first and third basemen were pulled in. But Trembley didn't give it a thought.

Montanez swung away and belted a tie-breaking double off tough left-hander Rafael Perez, the first in a barrage of run-scoring hits in the Orioles' eight-run eighth inning that turned a tie game into an 11-6 win over the Indians before an announced 22,140 last night at Progressive Field.

"I was kind of expecting the bunt sign [with Nos.] 8 and 9 coming up, but he let me swing," said Montanez, who was promoted from Double-A Bowie on Aug. 5 after leading the Eastern League in batting average, home runs and RBIs. "I was kind of happy. I wanted to show that I could come up big in that situation, and he gave me a pitch to hit. It worked out in my favor."

Montanez added an RBI single later in an inning during which the Orioles (58-62) sent 13 batters to the plate, six of them reaching on hits, one on an error and three on walks. It tied the Orioles' biggest offensive output in an inning this season and the most runs the Indians (54-66) have allowed in an inning this year.

It also justified Trembley's decision to play for the big inning rather than one run with a bunt.

"Why am I going to bunt with the No. 8 hitter to get to the No. 9 guy? Then, I'm going to put Scott up there for Perez, who is one of the toughest lefties," Trembley said with a smirk. "No, I did not [think about it]. He was not bunting there. It sure looked like they thought we were going to bunt, but we're not going to.

"[Montanez has] shown patience. He's swinging at strikes, he's hitting the ball hard the other way. He's gotten some big hits for us."

The offensive outburst - the Orioles had 17 hits - allowed the Orioles to salvage a four-game split before they head to Detroit for the start of a weekend series with the Tigers tonight.

Every Oriole starter except Jay Payton had a hit, and all but leadoff man Brian Roberts (2-for-5) scored a run. Kevin Millar also had two hits and two RBIs in the decisive eighth inning and finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs, Montanez went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, and Ramon Hernandez was 2-for-4 with two runs driven in.

"Right now, our lineup is really clicking," Millar said. "With the lefties swinging the bat, with [Nick] Markakis and [Aubrey] Huff, and obviously [Melvin] Mora has been doing a great job, it's basically pick your poison. It's a very balanced lineup, a very solid lineup without the big names. One through nine, it's done a great job."

Before the Orioles' offense erupted in the eighth inning, reliever Rocky Cherry had recorded the key out for the visitors. He entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth after Daniel Cabrera (three earned runs over 5 2/3 innings) allowed a game-tying double to Asdrubal Cabrera and Jamie Walker had walked Grady Sizemore to load the bases. Cherry entered the game and struck out Franklin Gutierrez on a 3-2 slider, keeping the score tied at 3.

"That was the big out in the game, the one that Cherry got," Trembley said. "Then we got big hits with guys on base."

None were any bigger than Montanez's blast over the head of Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. It sure beat a bunt.

"I'm not owed anything," said Montanez, who homered in his first major league at-bat Aug. 6 against the Los Angeles Angels. "Everything is icing on the cake. Whenever they want to put me in, I'm just going to try to do my best. It's been a complete whirlwind. I've gone from the West Coast to the East Coast, from Double-A to the big leagues. I'm trying to take it all in. It's been absolutely outstanding. A great week."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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