Tejada Turns It For the Orioles
Shortstop Pivotal In 3-Game Sweep: Orioles 12, Indians 11
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 10, 2004; Page D01
BALTIMORE, May 9 -- If ever a game needed to be redeemed it was this one, such an ugly game on such a gorgeous afternoon -- and on Mother's Day to boot.
Bases-loaded walks, throws to improper bases, base-running blunders, egregious mental mistakes. Standing out at shortstop, Miguel Tejada surveyed this sordid scene, and decided it was time to do what the Baltimore Orioles brought him here to do. It was time for Tejada to dominate a game.
And out of the muck came beauty: A daring throw home to cut off the tying run in the seventh inning. A pair of game-tying two-run homers an inning apart, as if the Orioles' beleaguered pitching staff could create no deficit so big that Tejada could not will the Orioles back.
When the Orioles finally emerged with a harrowing 12-11 win over the Cleveland Indians -- with closer Jorge Julio stranding the bases loaded in the ninth -- they could remind themselves that the difference between this victory and what probably would have been a five-run loss a year ago can be distilled down to one thing: Tejada.
"When you're a winner," Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said of his $72 million shortstop, "you do things like that."
"It's a crazy game," Tejada said after his biggest game as an Oriole.
"We never give up. Everybody's trying to do something to help the team win."
With the win, the Orioles (16-12) completed a three-game sweep of the woeful Indians and closed out one discernible segment of their schedule -- a stretch in which they played 15 of 17 games at home, all but three of which were against teams with losing records.
Beginning Tuesday, when the Orioles open a series at Chicago and are joined by new designated hitter Jerry Hairston, the team plays 12 of its next 15 games against first- and second-place teams, with all but three of those games on the road.
It is unclear exactly what sort of momentum the Orioles can take from Sunday's win, which nonetheless pulled them to within 11/2 games of division-leading Boston in the AL East. A team that cannot seem to coax seven innings out of a single one of its starting pitchers will have a hard time building momentum.
"They're either going to wear out the bullpen," Mazzilli said of his erratic starting rotation, "or wear out the manager."
On Sunday, it was lefty Eric DuBose who failed to stick around past the fifth. Brilliant in the early innings, he began to fall apart soon after walking Indians right fielder Jody Gerut with two outs in the third despite getting ahead in the count 0-2. Alex Escobar followed with a two-run double, and John McDonald with an RBI single. A solo homer by light-hitting Lou Merloni the next inning became DuBose's ticket to the showers.
"It was one of those days," DuBose said, "when you're thankful we have such an explosive offense."
An atypically awful afternoon for the Orioles' bullpen began with lefty Matt Riley, in his first relief appearance since being handed a two-week sentence to the bullpen, letting in two more runs in the sixth, with the assistance of right-hander Mike DeJean. After lefty Buddy Groom made a similar mess of the seventh, it was once again left to bullpen ace Rodrigo Lopez to pull off the greatest pitching feat of the day.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company