- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2001


BALTIMORE Their offense accounted for a total of three hits, and their bullpen was informed that it's now in a "by-committee" situation. Yet the Baltimore Orioles found a way to defeat the Detroit Tigers 3-2 last night, a victory they can attribute in part to Pat Hentgen's brilliance on the mound but more so to Cal Ripken's reflexes on the field.
Ripken, Baltimore's 40-year-old third baseman whose future with the club has been (and will continue to be) a hot topic around Camden Yards all season, made a lunging stop of Dean Palmer's eighth-inning grounder down the line. He didn't throw Palmer out at first, but by smothering the ball he did prevent Bobby Higginson from scoring the tying run all the way from second base.
"The play of the game," said shortstop Mike Bordick, who combined with Jerry Hairston on an unusual ninth-inning double play.
"Cal saves a run right there," said reliever Mike Trombley, who was on the mound at the time.
"A game-saver," said Hentgen, who earned his second win,both against Detroit.
The Orioles were clinging to a tenuous one-run lead in the top of the eighth after the Tigers finally got to Hentgen on solo homers by Higginson and Juan Encarnacion. Left-hander Buddy Groom started the eighth but gave way to Trombley with two outs and Higginson on first.
Facing Palmer, Trombley allowed the runner to take second on a wild pitch, then gave up a hard smash down the third-base line that appeared to be good for a double. Ripken had just been moved off the line but still managed to dive to his right and smother the ball, holding Higginson to third.
"You take a risk leaving the line open, because a single ties the game up. You just try to cover as much ground as you can and keep the ball in the infield," said Ripken, who was given a standing ovation from the crowd of 27,722.
Trombley made the situation dicier by walking Deivi Cruz on five pitches, but with the bases loaded and two outs, the veteran right-hander struck out Encarnacion on a 77 mph split-finger fastball.
The Orioles needed another defensive gem in the ninth to end the game. With runners on the corners and two out, left-hander B.J. Ryan (who was the first new recipient of a save now that Ryan Kohlmeier has lost his full-time closing duties) got Jose Macias to line hard toward Hairston at second base.
Hairston caught the ball briefly before it hit the ground, but just in case he tossed it to Bordick at second base. Roger Cedeno was caught between first and second, not knowing which way he had to run, so Bordick fired over to David Segui at first, completing the unorthodox 4-6-3 double play.
After the game, manager Mike Hargrove announced that Kohlmeier who has a 5.17 ERA and six saves in eight chances was no longer the full-time closer. Still considered a rookie though he had 13 saves in 14 tries last year, Kohlmeier blew a save situation Sunday at New York and has allowed 24 batters to reach base in 15 2/3 innings this season.
As he did last night, Hargrove will choose his closer on a case-by-case situation, with Kohlmeier most likely being joined by Trombley, Ryan and Groom.
"[Kohlmeier] has been a little shaky so far this year, and that probably has as much to do with it as anything," Hargrove said. "It's not that I don't have confidence in him… . I'm trying just to take a little pressure off him."
The combination of Trombley and Ryan has been particularly effective lately. Trombley, who owns 40 saves in his career, has a 1.82 ERA and has struck out 25 batters in 24 2/3 innings. Ryan has come into his own over the past two weeks, posting a 2.65 ERA and striking out five Yankees in two innings on Sunday.
"I think we all have big egos, and everybody wants a role, but I think we're better off pitching when we're asked to pitch," Trombley said. "Whether it's [Kohlmeier] one night or like tonight when the lefties are up. Whatever combination works."
Hentgen (2-3) was outstanding again last night, scattering two runs and six hits over seven innings.

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