Gibbons, Bullpen Save Day For Orioles
Orioles 10, Indians 7
By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 9, 2004; Page E01
BALTIMORE, May 8 -- Protecting a three-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Cleveland Indians played the odds Saturday. After watching two of the Baltimore Orioles' top hitters rip hard line drives for outs, the Indians intentionally walked Javy Lopez in order to pitch to Jay Gibbons.
Lopez, who bats right-handed, already had two hits in the game, and the left-handed Gibbons had been in a lengthy offensive slump that he said had been affecting his sleep. Everything favored Cleveland, with left-hander Scott Stewart pitching.
Gibbons, though, pulled an outside curveball into the right field corner for a double that cleared the bases and tied the score. He then came home on B.J. Surhoff's single and the Orioles went on to defeat the Indians, 10-7, before 30,687 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The stirring comeback gave the Orioles (15-12) consecutive victories for the first time in more than a week. In addition to their offensive heroics, the Orioles received a solid effort from their bullpen, which pitched four or more scoreless innings for the ninth time this season.
"I'm going to enjoy a good dinner tonight in Little Italy," Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said.
While Mazzilli wanted to enjoy a tasty meal, Gibbons was looking forward to a good night's rest. The right fielder entered the game with six hits in his previous 45 at-bats and was batting .133 this season against left-handers. In his previous at-bat against Stewart, he had struck out with the bases loaded in the 11th inning of an eventual 3-2 loss.
"I hope this game gets me going so we don't have to talk about [a slump] and I don't have to worry about it anymore," said Gibbons, who had three hits to raise his batting average from .204 to .223. "I'm having trouble sleeping right now. It feels good to get this one in and hopefully get a good sleep tonight."
Brian Roberts singled and Melvin Mora doubled to start the seventh, but hard line drives by Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro -- the Orioles' RBI leaders -- resulted in outs. Tejada jumped up and down in dismay after shortstop Omar Vizquel caught his shot; second baseman Ronnie Belliard, playing 10 yards into right field, was well positioned to catch Palmeiro's.
Walking Lopez, even though he represented the tying run in a 7-4 game, seemed logical, even though Gibbons led the Orioles with 100 RBI last season.
"They're walking somebody to get to you," Gibbons said. "There's a little pride issue there."
Gibbons said his struggles had made him feel like a rookie and that perhaps he had been trying to do too much when batting. Against Indians starter Jake Westbrook, who has a good sinker, Gibbons said he focused on keeping his front shoulder faced toward the ball -- and that he had the same plan against Stewart.
When Stewart (0-2) tried to throw a curveball over the outside of the plate, Gibbons reached for it with his natural tendency to pull the ball. The result was not a particularly hard hit, but a ball that seem to float into the right field corner. That gave Lopez, who with two outs was running on contact, just enough time to score the tying run from first base, his slide into home plate just beating the relay throw.
Surhoff followed with a popup down the left field line that fell just beyond the reach of three fielders, scoring Gibbons to give the Orioles their first lead at 8-7.
Starter Kurt Ainsworth gave up two three-run homers, including Travis Hafner's shot -- his first since April 12 -- in the top of the fifth inning just after the Orioles had scored four runs to tie the score at 4.
Needing to give some relievers a day off, Mazzilli turned to John Parrish (3-1), who had not pitched since April 30. Parrish responded with 21/3 scoreless innings and the Orioles sent the Indians (12-17) to their fourth consecutive loss.
With an 8-7 lead, B.J. Ryan came on to pitch the eighth inning and, after the Orioles scored twice in the eighth -- including a run-scoring single by Gibbons -- Jorge Julio pitched the ninth for his fourth save. That completed another fine outing for the bullpen, which leads the American League with nine victories and 1111/3 innings pitched.
"Obviously, they're throwing more innings than we'd like," Ainsworth said. "But they're doing a great job."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company