Orioles Hold Off Indians, Elimination
By Mark Maske
CLEVELAND, Oct. 13 The Baltimore Orioles, thanks to Scott Kamieniecki and Jimmy Key, headed home tonight to prepare for more meaningful baseball games rather than for a long and bitter offseason.
The Orioles kept their season going for at least two more days by riding Geronimo Berroa’s early two-run single, Eric Davis’s ninth-inning home run and the pitching of Kamieniecki and Key to a 4-2 win over the Cleveland Indians tonight before 45,068 at Jacobs Field in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
Pushed to the brink of elimination by three consecutive one-run losses, the Orioles pulled to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. Now they’ll try to win the series in Baltimore behind Mike Mussina, who’s scheduled to start against Charles Nagy in Game 6 on Wednesday, and Scott Erickson, who is penciled in for Game 7.
The Orioles are attempting to become the ninth team in major league history to rally from a 3-1 deficit to capture a postseason series.
"This ballclub was loose," Orioles Manager Davey Johnson said. "It felt very confident. We came up on the short end three times. [But] I knew we’d get a good performance from Kamieniecki. The bonus was Jimmy Key."
Kamieniecki, in his first start this postseason, limited the Indians to four hits over five innings before leaving because of stiffness in his right elbow. Key followed with three hitless innings in his first relief appearance in almost five years. He retired nine of 10 batters and looked like the precise, crafty pitcher he was early in the season, not the weary one who struggled down the stretch.
"Both of them did incredible jobs in a game where if we lose, we’re gone," Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said.
Randy Myers pitched the ninth inning and made it interesting, permitting a pair of runs on David Justice’s single and RBI doubles by Matt Williams and Tony Fernandez. Cleveland had runners at first and third with one out when Marquis Grissom followed Fernandez’s double with a ground ball off Myers’s glove that went for an infield single. But Myers struck out Bip Roberts, as Grissom stole second base on strike three, and got Omar Vizquel to ground out to second baseman Roberto Alomar to end the game.
Indians starter Chad Ogea lost by 3-0 to Erickson in Game 1, and was tough again tonight. He surrendered six hits and two runs in eight innings.
"The only difference in the two [starting pitchers] was that Ogea made one bad pitch and Kamieniecki didn’t," Indians Manager Mike Hargrove said. "... As crazy as this series has been, I don’t know how you can feel confident about anything. We know we have our work cut out for us in Baltimore. We’d rather be in our position than their position, but we know they have a very good ballclub."
Reliever Paul Assenmacher allowed four consecutive hits after taking over in the ninth. Davis led off with a drive over the left field fence for a pinch-hit home run, and Palmeiro’s double and Cal Ripken’s second single of the evening gave the Orioles their fourth run.
Emotions were high in the early stages of this one. Cleveland’s Manny Ramirez became enraged when Kamieniecki hit him with a pitch in the first inning. Ramirez glared at Kamieniecki and said a few words. Kamieniecki waved his hand dismissively at Ramirez, who angrily yelled as umpires stepped between the two. Ripken screamed at home plate umpire Larry McCoy after striking out in the second inning.
"He kind of got on me and said some things that kind of ticked me off," Kamieniecki said. "... I just tried to stay out of a big inning and I was fortunate to make a few big pitches."
The Orioles gave Kamieniecki a lead with which to work in the third. Chris Hoiles, who was back in the lineup after backup catcher Lenny Webster’s misadventures in Games 3 and 4, singled to left field with one out and advanced to third base when Brady Anderson pulled a two-out base hit to right. Ogea walked Alomar to load the bases.
Up stepped Berroa, who was in right field for a second game in a row because Johnson wanted offense and felt that Davis, perhaps feeling the effects of his chemotherapy treatment for cancer, was too weary to play the entire game. Berroa slammed a base hit through the middle, past shortstop Vizquel, and Hoiles and Anderson scored. Alomar committed a base running gaffe, though, by getting thrown out at third to end the inning when first baseman Jim Thome cut off Grissom’s throw from center field.
Ogea settled into a groove from there, but Kamieniecki was more than matching him. The right-hander was an offseason reclamation project for the Orioles, in the season-opening starting rotation only because of an injury to Rocky Coppinger. Kamieniecki became a solid number four starter during the regular season, but was bumped from the playoff rotation.
He hadn’t started since Sept. 24, and he had made only one appearance since three shutout innings in relief of Key in Game 2 of this series. But he was sharp and gritty from the outset this evening.
Roberts led off the bottom of the first by poking an opposite-field line drive into the left field corner for a double. Vizquel struck out trying to execute a two-strike bunt, which he fouled off, but Kamieniecki faced runners at first and second after hitting Ramirez. Unruffled, he retired Thome on a popup and got Justice to ground out.
Kamieniecki breezed through a three-up, three-down second inning but yielded one-out singles by Roberts and Vizquel in the third. Again, Kamieniecki escaped. With two outs in the fourth, Cleveland had runners at second and third. Justice drew a leadoff walk and Brian Giles got a two-out double on a ground ball that Alomar deflected with a diving try. Grissom made a bid for a two-run single with a bouncer up the middle, but Kamieniecki jumped to snag the ball and threw out Grissom.
Kamieniecki retired the side in order in the fifth, but he told pitching coach Ray Miller his elbow was bothering him.
"That can be career threatening," Johnson said. "I know he was really upset at my decision. But it’s not something that I mess around with, and neither does Ray Miller."
The Orioles went to Key, who last had appeared in relief in Game 6 of the 1992 World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays. Key lasted a combined 8 2/3 innings in two ineffective starts this postseason. But the veteran left-hander survived a two-out walk to Williams in the sixth when Game 4 hero Sandy Alomar swung on a 3-0 count but produced a flyout. Grissom’s long fly ball in the seventh landed in center fielder Anderson’s glove on the warning track.
"I was hoping I didn’t pitch in this game because that probably would mean we were three or four runs behind," Key said. "I was shocked. I was like, 'Why would I get up [in the bullpen]? Scott’s got five shutout innings.' "
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