- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

BALTIMORE Who needs the long ball when you can turn 12 singles and a triple into a dramatic come-from-behind victory?

The Baltimore Orioles didn't need any home runs to defeat the Cleveland Indians, 4-3 in 10 innings, last night at Camden Yards. The little things, capped by Jeff Conine's run-scoring force out, were just enough to pull off the win and send the crowd of 26,455 home happy.

Trailing all night and unable to string together any hits against veteran left-hander Chuck Finley, the Orioles sprung to life once the Cleveland bullpen took over.

Set-up man Paul Shuey surrendered two runs in the eighth (one unearned) that tied the game. Mark Wohlers (0-1) then lost the game in the 10th on three singles and Conine's force out.

"It's amazing how you can hit balls hard at people and then have a little dribbler go your way," said Jerry Hairston, who started the winning rally with a high-hopper past third base for a one-out single his third groundball hit of the game.

Melvin Mora followed Hairston with a slow roller to the left side and narrowly beat out Travis Fryman's throw to first for the Orioles' fourth infield single of the night. Gary Matthews Jr. then drilled a base hit to left, so hard that third-base coach Tom Trebelhorn had to hold up the speedy Hairston.

No matter. Conine fought off a forkball from Wohlers, hit a grounder to deep shortstop and then hustled down the line to barely beat out the Indians' attempted double play, allowing Hairston to score the winning run.

"I thought I got the right part of the bat on it," Conine said. "But once again, [Indians All-Star shortstop Omar] Vizquel comes up with it. Then you've just got to turn it on so they don't turn two."

Jorge Julio (2-0) earned the win for the Orioles with two perfect innings of relief.

Baltimore's late rally helped salvage the evening for starter Sidney Ponson, who pitched effectively for eight innings but made a couple of costly mistakes and was in line to take the loss.

Ever since a mid-game pep talk from shortstop Mike Bordick in New York on April 16, Ponson has appeared to be a new pitcher though he had won only two of his last four starts entering last night's game, he owned a sparkling 2.19 ERA over his last 24⅔ innings.

Though he continued to possess his good stuff last night, Ponson reverted to his previous form in one area: serving up home runs at the most inopportune moments.

Having held the Indians to one run and two hits through the first four innings, Ponson opened the fifth by surrendering a home run to Russell Branyan on a 3-2 pitch. Three batters later, Ponson got ahead of Ricky Gutierrez 1-2, only to watch him crush the next pitch over the left-field wall to make it 3-1.

"I made two mistakes today," Ponson said. "If I don't do that, we win in nine innings."

Despite Ponson's early mistakes, manager Mike Hargrove stuck with the 25-year-old right-hander, and he responded by retiring the next 10 batters in a row including his third strikeout of ex-Oriole Brady Anderson in as many at-bats to keep his team in the game. (Anderson made it a perfect night when he struck out on Julio's 99-mph fastball in the ninth.)

Unfortunately for Ponson, his Baltimore teammates were having no luck against Indians starter Finley, who turned in one of his best performances of the season.

Baltimore put a runner on base in six of seven innings against Finley but managed to score just once, in the first. Matthews, starting in the outfield in place of left-handed-hitting Chris Singleton, roped a liner to the left-center field gap and raced all the way around to third base with a triple. Conine followed with a slow roller toward shortstop and beat Vizquel's throw for an RBI single.

That was all the offense the Orioles would muster against Finley, though they had plenty of luck against the Cleveland bullpen.

Shuey entered for Finley to start the eighth and got into trouble immediately, surrendering singles to Hairston and Mora. With the heart of the Orioles lineup behind him, Matthews attempted to sacrifice the runners to second and third but worked the count to 2-2 and then ripped a single through the right-side hole that scored Hairston and moved Mora to third.

Shuey still looked like he was going to get out of the jam when he got Conine to ground to third, freezing Mora. But second baseman Gutierrez fumbled his attempted double-play turn, and that allowed Mora to sprint home with the tying run.


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