The Baltimore Orioles suffered one more painful defeat tonight when Roberto Alomar returned to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time with the Cleveland Indians, accepted a loud booing and then drove in five runs, including a game-winning three-run homer off reliever Al Reyes in the seventh inning. No matter the pitcher he faced or the ball-and-strike count, Alomar battered the Orioles and silenced the crowd of 41,521 as the Indians performed the usual, beating Baltimore for the seventh straight time this season, 7-6.
The Indians, who boast the best record in the American League, virtually teased the Orioles. Mike Bordick, who also hit a two-run homer, drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the sixth inning to give the Orioles a 6-4 lead and knock weary left-hander Chris Haney from the game. But home-crowd anticipation proved premature. Alomar, who earlier singled in a run on a 3-0 pitch off starter Jason Johnson, hit an 0-2 pitch off Reyes over the right field wall.
"It's special to come back to a place where you played for three years," Alomar said. "I have some good memories of playing in this ballpark. It was a special day and I had a good day at the plate."
Manager Ray Miller praised Johnson's effort, saying, "To be consistently [pitching 95 mph] after the first inning -- he went right after them. A couple mistakes by a young kid."
Alomar said that Reyes threw him two fastballs and that he was expecting a third fastball -- precisely what he got. "I was looking for that pitch," Alomar said, "and I hit it hard."
Alomar, in his moment of triumph, declined to criticize fans who booed him before his first plate appearance and Orioles management, which had decided not to keep him. Alomar said he heard the crowd booing, but that he still "respected" Baltimore fans. "They treated me great when I played here."
As for Orioles management, he merely said: "They didn't offer me a contract. They were not interested in signing me back."
"Everybody who leaves a team wants to come back the first night and do well," Indians Manager Mike Hargrove said.
Cal Ripken doubled and singled to raise his hit total to 2,971 in his quest to become only the seventh player in history with 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. But the combination of Alomar and undistinguished Orioles pitching produced a bleak reminder of how much the Orioles have missed the production of Alomar -- and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, now with Texas -- and how much they have suffered with the majority of their pitchers. Meanwhile as an Indian, Alomar has batted in a career-high 105 runs.
Another former Oriole, Harold Baines, received a standing ovation before his first at-bat. The Indians' designated hitter went hitless, however, in his return to his home state.
Alomar drove in his first run on a sacrifice fly in the first inning and singled in a run in the fifth before scoring on a home run by cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez. What might have been an inning-ending ground ball to Johnson barely rocketed past his glove into center field for a single by Omar Vizquel that ignited a three-run fifth, capped by Ramirez's home run.
Johnson, who took a 6.21 earned run average to the mound, gave up four runs in six innings, during which he threw 113 pitches, in what was only a marginally better performance than Haney's. Albert Belle singled and Brady Anderson was hit by a Haney pitch with the bases loaded for the two Baltimore runs that Bordick didn't produce. The Cleveland bullpen shut out the Orioles over the last 3 1/3 innings and Mike Jackson recorded his 34th save.
There were more boos after the final out. But they were not for Alomar.
Orioles Notes: Miller will keep a close watch on 20-year-old southpaw phenomenon Matt Riley, who will be called up from Class AA Bowie Sunday. "I don't know about a pitch count, but I wouldn't let him labor," Miller said of the most eagerly awaited Baltimore pitching prospect since Mike Mussina in 1991. "We're certainly going to be careful with him." Riley will pitch Thursday in Minnesota in place of Mussina, who will miss another turn because of a bruised right shoulder. Riley, who could be part of the Orioles' starting rotation in 2000, may make his Oriole Park debut Sept. 14 against Oakland. . . .
Another young lefty hopeful, B.J. Ryan, obtained from Cincinnati in the July 31 trade for Juan Guzman, said he "wasn't quite as nervous" in his second outing with the Orioles, a perfect 1 2/3 innings in relief Thursday against Tampa Bay, than in his scoreless-inning debut Sunday in Detroit.