CLEVELAND — CLEVELAND -- For two days, Cleveland Indians fans screamed at Roberto Alomar, booed him, held up signs that read "Spit Shield." In the end, he answered them without saying a word.
Alomar had the game-tying single with two outs in the top of the ninth, and, three innings later, he hit a bases-empty home run and the Orioles knocked the defending American League champion Indians out of the playoffs with a 4-3 victory.
Having won the best-of-five Division Series in four games, the Orioles will take on the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, which begins Tuesday in New York. Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday, and games 3, 4 and 5 will be played at Camden Yards, beginning Friday.
If the Orioles beat the Yankees, they'll return to the World Series for the first time since 1983, when they won the title.
"I've been through a lot of tough times," said Alomar, the focus of national controversy after he spat in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck on Sept. 27. "Now, we have to move on. I'm real happy I came here and helped my team win."
After the game, Hirschbeck released a statement in which he accepted the apology Alomar extended Monday. "I wish to state publicly that I forgive Roberto Alomar for his actions," said Hirschbeck. "I am sure that he wishes as much as I do that this incident had never occurred."
In a prepared statement, Alomar responded: "I want to thank John Hirschbeck and his wife, Denise, for their comments. It was a very gracious gesture."
Alomar's homer capped a wild game in which the Orioles set a postseason record by striking out 23 times.
Still, they trailed by only a run as the ninth inning began.
With one out, B. J. Surhoff, hobbled by a sore knee, delivered a pinch-hit single.
Brady Anderson hit a bloop single to center. After Todd Zeile popped out, Indians reliever Jose Mesa got ahead in the count against Alomar, one ball and two strikes.
The Indians were one strike away from victory.
But Alomar lined a single over shortstop, tying the game. The score remained tied, despite a Cleveland rally in the bottom of the ninth.
Alomar then led off the top of the 12th with a homer, and his teammates rushed in front of the dugout to greet him after he touched home.
Reliever Randy Myers held the Indians in the bottom of the 12th, touching off a wild celebration that had far more raw emotion than the Orioles' celebration last weekend, when they clinched a wild-card berth.
Alomar hit the game-winning home run in extra innings, as well, when the Orioles clinched the wild-card spot in Toronto on Sept. 28.
Pub Date: 10/06/96