Three Rivers clause may help keep Smith from leaving for NL


Orioles closer Lee Smith, eligible for free agency at season's end, likely will generate more interest this coming winter than last.

The Orioles will have competitors from both leagues trying to wrest their closer away from them.

If Smith's decision is between a National League team and his current team, the Orioles might consider a creative means of persuasion.

They might want to mention that if he stays in the American League, Smith likely won't have to pitch at Three Rivers Stadium again.

In his past 10 appearances at the faceless, symmetrical bowl of a stadium, Smith has allowed 11 earned runs and five home runs in 10 innings.

Nine of those appearances came when Smith wore a St. Louis Cardinals uniform. He wore an Orioles jersey for the 10th, which came in Tuesday night's All-Star Game, won by the National League, 8-7, in 10 innings.

Pinch hitter Fred McGriff hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning off Smith to erase a 7-5 deficit, and the Montreal Expos' Moises Alou doubled in the winning run off Chicago White Sox right-hander Jason Bere in the 10th.

Coming into this season, McGriff had the most home runs in the majors over the previous five seasons. He's a difficult hitter to blow a fastball by, but Smith, seemingly throwing as hard as he has all season, blew two past McGriff, who fouled off a 1-2 pitch, then crushed a low-and-away fastball over the fence in left-center.

"He had thrown two fastballs by me, and I told myself that I had to be a little quicker," McGriff said. "I expected him to throw me another, and he did."

Smith said the pitch was "exactly where I wanted it."

Smith threw 28 pitches in the ninth inning. He twice has had 30-pitch innings for the Orioles.

Johnny Hollywood

Orioles manager Johnny Oates, the country boy who spent the early years of his life in the remote hills of North Carolina, has gone Hollywood. At least for one day.

Oates will be picked up at the team hotel by a limousine this morning at 9:30 for the taping of a Roy Firestone "Up Close" show. The airing date has not yet been released.

Around the horn

The Orioles and Angels both have scored 10 or more runs nine times this season. . . . The Orioles have two pitchers among the AL leaders in fewest walks per nine innings. Mike Mussina is fourth with 1.93 and Jamie Moyer is tied for seventh with 2.31.

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