Orioles Get Smoked by Cubans, 12-6
By Richard Justice
Already buried in the American League standings with a 7-17 record, the Orioles had promised to treat this exhibition game as anything but. In the end, they could not respond to one more challenge.
"I'm very embarrassed," Orioles reliever Mike Fetters said. "We were representing the United States, Major League Baseball, our friends and family. We were trying, but they took it to us in our house. That's the most embarrassing thing."
At a time when Orioles owner Peter Angelos was already weighing the future of Manager Ray Miller and General Manager Frank Wren, tonight's lopsided loss will give the mercurial boss even more food for thought. He listened in his private box as the few fans who stayed for the entire game booed his team more and more mercilessly with each misplay.
Five Baltimore pitchers were shelled for 18 hits, including starter Scott Kamieniecki, who lasted just 1 1/3 innings and allowed three earned runs. The night ended with minor leaguer Gabe Molina allowing five runs in the ninth. Three of those scored on a home run by designated hitter Andy Morales, who joyfully clapped his hands and thrust his fist into the air as he circled the bases.
"The game was more important to them than it was to us," Kamieniecki said. "That home run trot in the ninth inning told you that."
Meanwhile, the Orioles got just six hits and entered the ninth trailing 12-3 when Delino DeShields hit a three-run home run. The Orioles scored their other three runs in the first two innings off Jose Contreras.
Cuban reliever Norge Vera, a side-arming junk-baller, entered the ninth with 6 2/3 no-hit innings, but departed after allowing DeShields's home run.
The game was interrupted by a 56-minute rain delay in the bottom of the first inning and by anti-Castro demonstrators running onto the field in both the fourth and fifth inning. One protester tangled with second-base umpire Cesar Valdez, who threw the protester to the ground before Baltimore police arrived in the top of the fifth inning. Police made four arrests.
"Obviously, they wanted it much more than we did," Miller said. "My hat's off to the Cuban national team. I thought our guys were fairly geared up. After the rain delay, their desire was much better than ours."
When it finally ended, almost five hours after it began, the Orioles had helped give Cuban baseball an immeasurable dose of pride and confidence.
"We're having a national party in Cuba right now," Cuban third baseman Omar Linares said. "This was the day we were waiting for."
It was an evening for the Cubans to run and hit, and make one of major league baseball's highest-paid teams appear unpolished and unmotivated. Linares and shortstop Danel Castro had four hits apiece for a team that had at least one base runner in every inning, and had 10 batters and scored four times in the second.
Kamieniecki, who is on the disabled list, allowed eight base runners -- five hits and three walks. He allowed three earned runs and a fourth that came home on Pickering's first error.
The Orioles wanted to use the start to gauge Kamieniecki's recovery from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him since the middle of spring training. While he did get his work in, the game was pretty much a nightmare that included the first-inning rain delay.
Kamieniecki stranded runners on first and third in the first inning when third baseman Willis Otanez made a nice defensive play for the final out.
The Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the inning when Contreras walked Mike Bordick with one out. Umpires stopped the game with B.J. Surhoff at bat, and when play resumed almost an hour later, Surhoff lined to left.
Contreras walked Albert Belle, then Harold Baines drove in two runs with a double to left-center.
That lead didn't last long. Kamieniecki could get only one out in the second inning but wasn't helped by Pickering's first error. He departed with the bases loaded and the Cubans leading 3-2. Reliever Doug Linton walked Orestes Kindelan to make it 4-2.
"Obviously, Kamieniecki didn't have it when he came back out after the rain delay," Miller said.
Kamieniecki said: "My mental approach was bad. If you call me a mental midget, you'd be accurate. I didn't prepare myself very well."
Linton was only slightly better than Kamieniecki, allowing two runs in 1 2/3 innings. The Orioles closed to 4-3 in the bottom of the second inning, then didn't get another runner into scoring position until the ninth, when the game had long since been decided.
The Cubans scored a run in the seventh and five more off Molina in the ninth to complete the embarrassment.
"It was obvious they liked playing with the American ball," Orioles center fielder Brady Anderson said.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company