NEW YORK -- The Orioles' robotic approach to baseball could be maddening in May and June, with their passionless response to losses. The lack of outward emotion frustrated manager Davey Johnson.
But that refusal to be unnerved by anything, a tough loss or a blown call by an umpire, is perfect now, in October, when the emotional pendulum can swing every single day.
The Orioles returned to their team hotel Wednesday night feeling as if a 12-year-old New Jersey kid may have cost them Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, but they came back yesterday, oblivious to the momentum and the Yankee Stadium crowd and beat the Yankees, 5-3.
Roberto Alomar, vilified and hounded by Yankees fans in Game 1, came back and scored the lead run and drove in an insurance run late in the game. Armando Benitez, who gave up the controversial Derek Jeter home run Wednesday, replaced Randy Myers and got the final two outs. Tony Tarasco, who thought he would catch the game-tying homer in Game 1, caught the final out of the game.
David Wells pitched 6 2/3 strong innings and improved his career record to 10-1 at Yankee Stadium, and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro and third baseman Todd Zeile hit two-run homers, as the Orioles wore down the New York pitching staff.
"We have a lot of professionals on this club," said Johnson, "and they know how to go about their business and prepare for the next game. It's not like they're emotional rookies who are on a roller coaster and have some uncertainty about their ability. Most of our guys have been around long enough to know that things can change overnight, so we can take a tough loss."
And there is no doubt, Wells said, the loss Wednesday was brutal, frustrating for even the oldest of veterans. As reporters waited to speak to the Orioles after Game 1, Orioles designated hitter Eddie Murray said, with some bitterness, "I don't know what you guys are doing in here. The story is right there."
With that, he nodded toward the TV screen in the clubhouse, where umpire Rich Garcia was speaking.
When Orioles owner Peter Angelos arrived at the AL office yesterday to discuss the protest of Game 1, he was still downcast. "That hurts," he said to assistant general manager Kevin Malone.
"Hey, we're going to win today," Malone said. "We're going to win anyway."
While the Orioles prepared for batting practice, they did not talk about Jeter's ball or Garcia's call or the kid with the glove. No, they talked about what they've been talking about for more than a month, the Orioles' favorite topic of discussion: Rotisserie football, Bobby Bonilla's Mullion Football League.
The Game 1 loss? No big deal.
The Orioles' approach, Johnson said, "can be a drawback when you're in the dog days and you need an emotional lift. But it's nice this time of year."
The Orioles fell behind 2-0 in the first inning, but they forced Yankees starter David Cone to throw a whopping 71 pitches in the first three innings. Zeile hit his two-run shot in the third to tie the score. Wells' curveball, terrible in the first inning, suddenly began biting in the second inning, and he used it to pitch out of trouble in the fourth and fifth innings.
Yankees catcher Joe Girardi tripled to lead off the bottom of the fifth, but Wells struck out Derek Jeter and, after a walk to Tim Raines, struck out Bernie Williams as well. Cecil Fielder grounded out to end the inning. It was, Alomar said later, a turning point in the game.
Cone escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, but he had thrown 133 pitches, more than any start this year, and Yankees manager Joe Torre had to take him out. The switch-hitting Alomar, the left-handed-hitting Palmeiro and switch-hitting Bobby Bonilla were scheduled to hit in the top of the seventh, and all season, opponents have brought in left-handers in that situation.
But New York has only one left-handed reliever, and it was right-hander Jeff Nelson who started the seventh inning.
Alomar had nearly been plunked with palm-sized bottles in Game 1, and he seemed rushed at the plate, as he had been in the first game at Cleveland.
In the fifth inning yesterday, he was hit with the only projectile to find its mark -- "I think somebody threw like a lemon, a piece of lemon," he said.
And by the seventh inning yesterday, he looked more relaxed. "I'm not going to tell you it was easy," Alomar said. "It was tough to play here. But I have a job to do. You have to get used to it. You have to try to block it out and play your game."
With one out, Alomar poked a hard grounder past third base, a double. Palmeiro, following, pumped a high fly to right, and as he ran toward first, Palmeiro watched the ball, then right fielder Paul O'Neill, then the ball, speaking aloud, as if he was trying to convince the ball to clear the wall.
O'Neill stopped at the fence, the ball kept going; there was no 12-year-old kid waiting to knock it back into play. The Orioles, who had been 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position before the homer, led 4-2, and when Alomar drove a high fly to right to score Brady Anderson in the eighth, the Orioles led 5-3.
Jesse Orosco shut out the Yankees in the eighth. Randy Myers ambled out from the bullpen to pitch the bottom of the ninth. It was here, on Sept. 18, that Myers walked the first two hitters he faced in the ninth, in a game the Orioles eventually lost, 3-2, and that memory must've been fresh in the mind of the Yankees -- and the Orioles.
Jeter singled to lead off, and Benitez began throwing in the bullpen, just in case. Raines fought Myers to a full count before swinging through a fastball. But Williams, down no balls and two strikes in the count at one time, drew a walk. Right-handed slugger Cecil Fielder was coming up for New York, and Johnson called for Benitez.
"We've been going that way for more than a month now," said Johnson. "I like having Armando as insurance."
Benitez fell behind 2-0, threw two strikes, and Fielder, dropping down slightly lower in his stance, began jabbing his bat at anything close to the strike zone. He barely fouled two, took a big hack, and then fouled another. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, he lifted a high foul toward the first base stands. Palmeiro drifted over, and Yankees fans reached at him, a couple pawing at his glove. He made the catch. Two outs.
Benitez stood behind the mound for a moment, composing himself, before facing the left-handed-hitting Tino Martinez. The Yankees' first baseman swung at a 2-0 fastball and just missed, swinging under the ball; it carried in a high arc toward right field, toward Tarasco.
"I was prepared to go into the stands fighting for the ball," Tarasco said later, but there was no need. He made the catch, Benitez embraced Palmeiro, and the Orioles tied the series, one game apiece. Game 3 is tonight in Baltimore.
Tarasco returned to the clubhouse, threw his glove in the back of his locker, the ball still in it.
"I'm keeping this one," he said.
Pub Date: 10/11/96