Mills finishes off game on laughing note Reliever survives jams in eighth, ninth innings


CLEVELAND -- Manny Ramirez struck out to finish the Orioles' 9-4 victory yesterday, and catcher Chris Hoiles rushed to the mound, his glove extended, offering the game ball to pitcher Alan Mills.

But Mills plucked the ball out of Hoiles' glove and fired it, several bounces, to the backstop. "It was not a good ball," Mills said afterward. "I didn't want that one."

At least Mills was able to joke about it, after surviving two bizarre innings. In the bottom of the eighth, he gave up a leadoff homer to Ramirez and, with two outs, Mills walked Brian Giles and Omar Vizquel back-to-back, prompting a visit to the mound from shortstop Cal Ripken.

"Cal was saying I needed to pick up my pace," Mills said. "My rhythm was broken, which happens sometimes."

Mills got out of that jam by retiring Kenny Lofton on a short fly to left. But one out into the ninth, Mills drilled Cleveland third baseman Jim Thome in the right hip (Mills insisted he didn't do it on purpose; the Orioles should find out today if the Indians believe that). Albert Belle then ripped a long, high drive to right-center, a majestic shot that Belle enjoyed from home plate, where he stood, watching.

The ball hit the base of the wall, however, and Brady Anderson quickly relayed the ball to Roberto Alomar in short right-center. Belle, off to a late start, rounded first and stopped. Cleveland third base coach Jeff Newman, assuming Alomar would throw to second, waved home Thome.

But Alomar zipped a throw home, and down by five runs in the bottom of the ninth, Thome was thrown out by at least 10 feet. "I'm glad he went," said Mills, who struck out Ramirez before discarding the game ball.

In short supply

In designating Jeff Huson and Luis Polonia for assignment Friday, the Orioles cut the only two pure left-handed hitters on their bench. But, manager Davey Johnson explained yesterday, the Orioles don't use many pinch hitters and they do have a need for as many relievers as possible; with Roger McDowell and Arthur Rhodes coming off the disabled list and unable to pitch on a daily basis, Johnson opted to keep Garrett Stephenson and Keith Shepherd and carry 12 pitchers. . . . Rhodes pitched two-thirds of an inning Friday, allowing four hits and three runs (two earned). He threw almost all fastballs and changeups, limiting himself to one slider. Johnson told him not to go crazy throwing breaking pitches -- which put more stress on the arm -- in his first appearance off the disabled list.

Olympic appreciation

Watching Michael Johnson set the world record in the 200 meters at the Olympics, Orioles outfielder Mike Devereaux said, was the greatest sports event he's ever witnessed. Johnson and Devereaux are second cousins on Devereaux's father's side, but Devereaux said that had nothing to do with how much Johnson's performance touched him.

"The fact that a human being could do that is amazing," said Devereaux. "It was wild. . . . As soon as it was over, I called my brothers and asked them, 'Did you see that?' Seeing that was like witnessing history. I wish I could've been there."

An off-season look

Davey Johnson intends to fly to the Dominican Republic in the off-season to watch games -- and he'll get a good look at Manny Alexander playing winter ball.

Forming an opinion based on what Alexander has or hasn't done this year isn't fair, Johnson said. The circumstances involved in replacing Ripken aren't fair, Johnson said.

"I don't care who it is, who the next shortstop is," Johnson said. "He's going to be filling some awful big shoes. They're more than just shoes. Will anybody be deserving of that?"

Around the horn

Johnson replaced Bobby Bonilla in the bottom of the eighth with Devereaux, the first time this year he's pulled Bonilla for defensive purposes with the outcome still in doubt. . . . Eddie Murray had been struggling, but he had his best day with the Orioles yesterday, coming up with three hits. He went into the game in a 1-for-15 slump. . . . Brady Anderson had two strikeouts and now has 13 in 11 games since coming back from his appendicitis scare and leads the Orioles with 70 strikeouts. Johnson says Anderson is healthy, as far as he knows. "Whenever I ask him, he says he's fine. He's kind of like Cal -- don't ask him if he's hurt. His mindset is that he's not hurt." . . . Scott Erickson has fallen into a habit often seen when Kevin Brown pitched for the Orioles last year: If something goes wrong, Erickson tries to throw the ball harder, and in doing so, he loses the nasty sink on his sinking fastball. "He gets mad," Johnson said. "Sometimes, if he rushes, he gets underneath the ball [in his delivery], and he can't get the ball down in the strike zone." . . . The Indians are 15-16 against left-handed starters this year, 51-28 against right-handers. . . . The Orioles are 50-18 in games in which they score four or more runs. . . . Alomar's double improved the club's average with the bases loaded to .407.

Pub Date: 8/04/96

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