Grissom's Three-Run Homer Shocks Orioles, 5-4
By Mark Maske
BALTIMORE, Oct. 9 For the Baltimore Orioles, one of the virtual certainties of their thus-far-magical season has been that when they have turned over a game to relievers Armando Benitez and Randy Myers, they have walked off the field with a victory.
It didn't work out that way tonight at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in a tense Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. Benitez served up a three-run home run by Marquis Grissom with two outs in the eighth inning as the Cleveland Indians stunned the Orioles and a crowd of 49,131 by rallying for a 5-4 victory.
The Indians evened the best-of-seven series at one win apiece entering Saturday's Game 3 at Cleveland, in which the Orioles' Mike Mussina is scheduled to start against Orel Hershiser. Counting the postseason, this was only the Orioles' fifth defeat in 88 games in which they've had the lead after seven innings. It was the second time in 48 games this year that Benitez has wasted a lead.
Even so, Indians Manager Mike Hargrove said: "It's much too early to talk about a momentum shift. We came in here to get a split. We've still got five games to go."
It looked as if the Orioles would survive another shaky performance by Key. He labored through 32 pitches during a first inning in which he set a postseason record by hitting three batters in an inning and surrendered a two-run homer by Manny Ramirez. The Indians left the bases loaded in the first. Key staggered through three shutout innings after that and demoted starter Scott Kamieniecki provided three innings of scoreless, hitless relief.
Cal Ripken got the Orioles even in the second with the first postseason home run of his career, a two-run shot off Cleveland starter Charles Nagy. Mike Bordick put the Orioles in front in the sixth with a two-run, two-out single. They took that 4-2 advantage into the eighth and Manager Davey Johnson waved in Benitez.
The fireballing right-hander struck out pinch hitter Jeff Branson but walked Sandy Alomar. Benitez struck out Tony Fernandez then walked pinch hitter Jim Thome, who appeared to go too far with a checked swing on a high, full-count fastball. Third base umpire Larry McCoy ruled that it was not a swing, however. Those in the Orioles' dugout were upset and Benitez seemed angry, but the Indians had a pair of baserunners. Grissom, on a 1-1 count, picked on a slider and sent a drive into the Orioles' bullpen in left-center field.
Benitez left the Orioles' clubhouse without speaking to reporters.
"The checked swing was close. But that's part of the game," said Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller, who has worked with the volatile reliever on keeping his temper under control on the mound. "He hung a slider and it got hit. We've been putting Armando in that position all year, and we'll continue to put him in that position. I'll go with him any time in that situation. You just can't make many mistakes during the playoffs."
Johnson certainly thought the eighth should have ended with Thome.
"Our big guy just made one bad pitch," he said. " ... One play doesn't beat you. It's the next guy who beats you. ... It's a tough loss, but it's not the end of the world."
It was the Indians' first hit in 10 at-bats in this series with runners in scoring position.
Grissom said Wednesday that he had been "under the weather, but I wanted to get out and play. Today I stayed on the vitamins and everything the doctor gave me, and felt a little better."
Reliever Paul Assenmacher struck out two of the three batters he faced and got the win, and Jose Mesa got the final three outs for the save. It has been a postseason of resilience for the Indians, who were four outs away from being eliminated by the New York Yankees in Game 4 in the first round of the playoffs but won the series, 3-2.
Key allowed two runs on five hits, but the first inning was ugly. Bip Roberts struck out to open the game, but Key hit Omar Vizquel in the shoulder. Orioles center fielder Brady Anderson robbed Ramirez of a first-inning homer on Wednesday, but Ramirez made certain there wouldn't be a repeat of that by drilling a shot that cleared the fence just to the right of straightaway center field.
Matt Williams yanked a base hit to left and Key hit David Justice in the thigh. Alomar's groundout advanced the runners to second and third, and Key's curveball hit Fernandez in the shin to load the bases. He struck out Kevin Seitzer with a full-count change-up to wriggle free.
Key yielded a leadoff single to Grissom in the second, but got a diving catch of a popup by left fielder B.J. Surhoff to avoid further damage. He got Seitzer to ground out with two outs and two runners aboard in the third, and he escaped another jam in the fourth by getting Ramirez to pull a roller to Ripken at third base for an inning-ending double play. Johnson had seen enough, however, and went to Kamieniecki, who last had pitched Sept. 24.
The Orioles probably should have been several runs behind by the middle innings, but they were tied, 2-2. Rafael Palmeiro led off the second by pulling a line drive into the right field corner that became a double when Ramirez couldn't make a clean pickup on the run. Surhoff's flyout moved Palmeiro to third. Ripken got a low fastball on a full count and smoked a line drive high over the left field wall. The home run came in his 91st career postseason at-bat.
Palmeiro struck out to end the third with runners at second and third, and Chris Hoiles grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fourth with runners at first and second and one out. Anderson made it to second base in the fifth after reaching on a throwing error by Cleveland second baseman Fernandez, but was stranded there.
In the sixth, Palmeiro got a leadoff single but was forced at second on Surhoff's bouncer to first baseman Seitzer. Ripken sent a roller through the left side of the infield for a single, and Harold Baines's groundout left the runners on second and third. Hoiles drew a walk on a full-count pitch to load the bases, and on another full count Bordick dumped a soft liner in front of Ramirez in right to score Surhoff and Ripken.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company