- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2001


CINCINNATI (AP) John Rocker couldn't throw a strike not to home, not to first base.in an alarming outing, Cleveland's struggling closer hit a batter, walked another and made a wild throw to first on a bunt in the 13th inning yesterday, allowing the Cincinnati Reds to rally for a 6-5 victory over the Indians.

Since he came to the Indians in a June 22 trade with Atlanta, Rocker (2-3) has lost velocity and now his control.

"He's having trouble throwing strikes with his fastball and his breaking ball. I'm concerned," manager Charlie Manuel said. "At the same time, we've just got to work through it. We've got to get him where he was before."

Rocker was off from the moment he ran to the mound amid a cascade of boos from a capacity crowd of 40,794 that was evenly divided among Reds and Indians fans.

He escaped a bases-loaded threat in the 12th, when right fielder Juan Gonzalez threw Pokey Reese out at the plate as he tagged on a shallow fly. In the 13th, though, there was no defense for his wildness.

Rocker hit Jason LaRue to open the inning, then threw off target to first on Kelly Stinnett's bunt, leaving both runners safe. Rocker walked Juan Castro a .204 hitter on four pitches, then gave up a sacrifice fly to Ruben Rivera that ended Cincinnati's longest game of the season 4 hours, 33 minutes.

Rocker declined to talk to reporters after the game.

Danny Graves (3-2) pitched a season-high three innings, escaping a bases-loaded threat in the 12th, to get the win as the Reds ended a five-game losing streak.

Ellis Burks and Juan Gonzalez hit homers into the Reds' new ballpark as the Indians surged ahead 5-0 after five innings. The 400-foot-plus drives drew oohs from the crowd of 40,794.

Dave Burba and the bullpen let it slip away in the seventh, when Travis Fryman's error at third set up a five-run rally. Ken Griffey Jr.'s sacrifice fly off Ricardo Rincon and Sean Casey's RBI double tied it.

"In the seventh, I couldn't get the ball down," Burba said. "I don't know if I was tired or what. I feel like I pounded the nail in the coffin, bent it and had to dig it back out. The next thing, they're back in the game. It's kind of crazy."

Rivera got a hometown ovation in the top of the ninth, when he made a running leap, stretched above the right-field wall and snatched a home run away from Omar Vizquel to keep it tied at 5-5.

The Reds huddled around Rivera after his sacrifice fly gave them only their 12th victory in 45 games at Cinergy Field this season.

"It's a great feeling to finally get a win at home," Graves said. "We started getting some breaks, and things went our way. To win this game against this team in front of a big crowd was unbelievable."

The Indians took two of three, giving them a split of their season series with the Reds.

Heading into the series, the Indians were in a slump linked to their struggling rotation. It was solid in the series, as Bartolo Colon, C.C. Sabathia and Burba gave up a total of four runs.

Burba was in control until he faded in the seventh, when the defense and the bullpen left him winless in his last five starts. Burba gave up five singles and Stinnett's solo homer in 6!= innings.

Burks' solo homer in the second was estimated at 427 feet, a drive that came down in the new ballpark under construction beyond the left-field wall. The ball landed near a swatch of yellow caution tape that cordoned off an orange, dirt-spattered truck.

After Robbie Alomar singled for the second time leading off the fifth, Gonzalez hit a homer estimated at 441 feet, the longest this season at Cinergy. His drive landed in front of two blue portable toilets and skipped into a pile of metal.

Jim Brower, making his first start after 17 relief appearances, also had two throwing errors on bunts in the third inning, when Vizquel's two-run single made it 3-0.

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