CLEVELAND -- The baseball gods have a sense of humor, and unfortunately, the butt of their jokes the last two days have been the Orioles.
On Sunday, Lee Smith saved a game against the Orioles in Camden Yards, and last night, another ex-Oriole, Jose Mesa, saved Cleveland's 4-3 victory. Another ex-Oriole, Eddie Murray, had two doubles, and is now just 14 hits away from 3,000.
Orioles left fielder Brady Anderson set an AL record, stealing two bases to run his streak of consecutive attempts without being caught to 34, one more than Chicago's Tim Raines, whose streak of 33 is still active. The National League record is 50, set by Vince Coleman in 1989.
Rookie center fielder Curtis Goodwin went 2-for-3, his seventh straight multi-hit game, and his 10th multi-hit game in his first 11 games in the majors.
Goodwin stole two bases, and already has seven. His prediction last week of 110 steals in 110 big-league games for 1995 was somewhat absurd, but consider this: At his current pace, he would swipe 70 bases in 110 games.
He isn't perfect, though. Goodwin misjudged a fly ball in the third inning, costing the Orioles a run in a game when every run proved crucial.
Mesa came on in relief in the ninth, following starter Charles Nagy (4-2), who pitched seven innings, and Paul Assenmacher, who pitched the eighth and stretched his scoreless streak to 11 appearances.
Mesa retired Jeff Manto on a line drive to right-center. Kevin Bass pinch-hit for the struggling Chris Hoiles, and Mesa struck out Bass on three pitches, the sellout crowd of 41,845 at Jacobs Field screaming its approval.
Matt Nokes pinch-hit for Manny Alexander, and Mesa whiffed Nokes as well, for the last out.
So much for the Orioles' strategy of throwing their three best starters against Cleveland, which is 31-11 and has the best record in baseball. Before the game, Ben McDonald, scheduled to start tomorrow, was pushed back to Friday; Scott Klingenbeck will start in his place.
And the Indians beat Kevin Brown last night, not so much with their bats as with their patience.
Everyone raves about Brown's stuff, and for good reason: His sinking fastball is death on bats. But the movement can be too good, at times; during Brown's last start against Seattle, one member of the Orioles' organization charted his pitches and figured that of the 110 pitches that Brown threw, 56 were balls. Brown's fastball had so much sink that it ran out of the strike zone.
The Indians seemed to understand this, as they waited patiently for Brown to throw the ball in the strike zone. Brown (5-4) had walked just seven hitters in 61 2/3 innings before facing Cleveland, and last night, he walked four in seven innings. He also struck out seven.
But Brown's wayward control finally hurt him in the fourth inning, when the Indians scored three runs and took a 4-2 lead. Albert Belle singled to lead off, and Murray drove his first double into the left-center-field gap, scoring Belle. Thome popped to third, and Sorrento struck out. Then Pena, batting .233, coaxed a walk to keep the rally alive.
Wayne Kirby, filling in for the slumping Manny Ramirez, singled to score Murray, and Kenny Loften singled, reloading the bases.
Brown quickly fell behind on the count to shortstop Omar Vizquel, three balls and one strike, and Vizquel watched as one of Brown's sinking fastballs darted low and outside. The walk forced Pena home from third, with the third run of the inning for Cleveland.
The Orioles closed to within 4-3 in the top of the sixth inning. Harold Baines, who had a .308 career average against Nagy before last night's game, slammed a homer into the right-field stands. Official distance: 410 feet.
The Orioles had taken a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning. Goodwin singled to center with one out. His presence distracted Nagy, who walked Anderson, hitless in his last 13 at-bats.
Goodwin and Anderson pulled off a double steal, the 33rd straight successful steal by Anderson. Jeffrey Hammond struck out. But after Vizquel fielded a hard bouncer by Rafael Palmeiro, his throw skipped past Sorrento, and both runners scored.
In his first few days with the Orioles, Goodwin looked awful in center field, his first step usually in the wrong direction. However, his defensive mistakes never really cost the Orioles, and he seemed to get better in the last games of the 10-day homestand, making several nice catches against California Sunday.
But last night, he misread a line drive to center by Kirby in the third inning; the ball carried over his head, over his leap, and Kirby ended up on third with a triple. Vizquel's grounder to first one out later scored Kirby, and Cleveland had broached the scoreboard.
Opponent: Cleveland Indians
Site: Jacobs Field, Cleveland
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (5-3, 3.90) vs. Indians' Dennis Martinez (5-0, 2.95)