CLEVELAND -- All in all, this has been a pretty good summer for Bret Barberie. He got engaged, bought a new house, made some good friendships with the Orioles. "I've had a very good time," he said. "It's been fun."
But if you're talking strictly baseball, hits and runs and batting average and victories, then this is a lost season for Barberie. Like virtually all of the Orioles, this year is one of unfulfilled expectations.
Barberie, the regular second baseman with Manny Alexander likely out for the rest of the year, drove in two runs yesterday. But Sandy Alomar hit a three-run homer off Armando Benitez in the eighth inning, and the Indians completed a three-game sweep of the Orioles with a 5-3 victory.
With an Orioles loss or Boston victory -- and the Orioles could accomplish both tonight, when they play host to the Red Sox -- the Orioles would be officially eliminated from the AL East race, with three weeks remaining in the season.
The Indians won each of their home games against the Orioles this year, six in all, the first time that has happened since 1954, the Orioles' first year in Baltimore. They had a lousy team then, and they have a bad team now, 57-68, the first time this year the Orioles have been more than 10 games below .500.
The changes could come fast and furious in the off-season, from general manager Roland Hemond on down, and Barberie, 28, said he thinks he'll be one of those departing. "I don't anticipate I'll be back," said Barberie, hitting .247. "I didn't show enough for them to want me back."
The Orioles traded former No. 1 pick Jay Powell to the Florida Marlins for Barberie, figuring that he would be their regular second baseman and a strong candidate to be the No. 2 hitter in the lineup.
But after spring training began belatedly, Barberie had a terrible spring. Alexander replaced him in the lineup in the third game of the season, and since then they have shared the position -- Barberie playing for a few weeks at a time, then replaced by Alexander, and vice versa, Orioles manager Phil Regan usually trying to go with a hot hand.
Except for a few spurts, however, neither one has gotten very hot.
"It's been tough," Barberie said. "It seems like I never really even got going. A couple of bad games and you're out of there. It takes time to get everything going.
"I'll look back and I'll say, 'What did I do? Where did it go wrong?' "
Barberie thought that going to the AL would be a difficult adjustment, anyway, and feels that he never really got comfortable, playing sporadically. "I'm the kind of player who . . . takes awhile to get going," he said. "I've got to get my approach down. I don't want to make it seem like I'm making excuses, because I'm getting paid to hit. I've gotten the opportunity.
"With Phil and the Orioles not having really seen me play, I think they figured, you hit .300 [for Florida] last year, we'll trade for him and he'll hit .300 again. A lot goes into hitting .300. A lot of experience goes into hitting .300. Like knowing the pitchers."
Barberie, playing in the AL for the first time, didn't know the pitchers.
"I think if they would've stuck with me, I would've been all right," he said. "But they wanted results right away, and I don't blame them. And here we are with three weeks to play. . . ."
With nothing really to play for, the wild card virtually out of the question, Regan had hoped the club could ride the wave of emotion carried over from Streak Week and get back into the race.
No way. The Indians smoked the Orioles in three games, all finished off by Jose Mesa in the ninth inning, for saves No. 40, 41, and 42.
Cleveland took a 1-0 lead in the first inning yesterday. But the Orioles responded the very next inning against Indians starter Mark Clark.
Bobby Bonilla, who had three of the Orioles' six hits, doubled, and Harold Baines and Chris Hoiles walked, loading the bases. Jeff Huson was safe on a fielder's choice and error, scoring the first run, and then Barberie lined a single to center to score two runs.
But the inning ended when Curtis Goodwin hit a soft liner to short, which Alvaro Espinoza short-hopped and turned into a double play.
Cleveland scored again in the third, and Scott Erickson held a 3-2 lead into the eighth. Jesse Orosco relieved Erickson after Albert Belle started that inning with a double. Orosco walked Eddie Murray and struck out Jim Thome.
Then Regan called for Benitez, who threw a fastball to Alomar for a strike, and came back with a slider. As Regan would describe it later, a "hanging slider, right down the middle."
Alomar crushed it, a three-run homer, and after Mesa completed the victory in the ninth, the Indians were 51 games over .500. For Barberie and the Orioles, another reason to look forward to spring training, 1996.