One team is running away with its division. The other is running on fumes.
Both have seen the magic Roberto Alomar can produce.
Searching for their first win over the Indians this season, the Orioles were blindsided by Alomar, who marked his return to Camden Yards last night by driving in five runs in Cleveland's 7-6 victory before 41,521.
The Indians, who maintained the best record in the American League at 84-50, have won all seven games against the Orioles (60-74) this season. Dating to last year, they've taken eight in a row and 10 of 11.
The night was devoid of the emotions that Cal Ripken's 400th career homer had stirred on Thursday. Ripken did inch closer to another milestone by opening the second inning with a double and adding a single in the sixth, giving him 2,971 hits.
Instead, the crowd settled for a four-RBI night from Mike Bordick that was pieced together by a two-run homer in the fifth inning and a two-run single in the sixth that broke a 4-4 tie. And it endured some rough treatment by Alomar, who punctuated his night with a three-run homer off reliever Al Reyes on a two-strike fastball that put Cleveland in front, 7-6.
"He had thrown me two fastballs and I got the pitch I wanted and hit it hard. It was up," Alomar said.
Reyes wasn't available after the game. Manager Ray Miller was left to assume that Reyes wanted to come inside and missed. "I don't know what it was, but you expect a better pitch than that," Miller said.
Once again, Miller had to contend with a bullpen shortage. He would have used Arthur Rhodes in that situation, but the left-hander hasn't been able to throw since going 2 1/3 innings on Aug. 27. He's still bothered by a bruised left index finger, the result of a line drive five days earlier.
With B. J. Ryan and Mike Fetters needing the night off and Doug Linton starting today in place of Mike Mussina, Miller didn't have many options. He wanted to save Jesse Orosco and Mike Timlin for the later innings. By then, the lead had vanished.
The Orioles had gone ahead in the sixth after loading the bases with two outs on Ripken's single and walks to Jeff Reboulet and pinch hitter Charles Johnson. Indians left-hander Chris Haney hit Brady Anderson on the right hand, bringing in the tying run. Bordick then put his signature on the game, only to have Alomar smudge it.
Alomar, in Baltimore for the first time since leaving as a free agent over the winter, was given a mixed greeting when he stepped to the plate in the first inning. He answered in typical fashion, driving in Cleveland's first two runs and scoring one when Manny Ramirez drilled his 37th homer in the fifth inning for a 4-1 lead. His loudest response came in seventh when he cleared the scoreboard in right.
"He's been pumped up all year," said Miller, whose club stranded two runners in the eighth and another in the ninth. "When he's on a club that's got a chance to go somewhere and he's applying his strengths, Robbie's a great player."
Alomar said it felt "different" being in the opposite dugout.
"They didn't offer me a contract," he said. "They wanted to move in another direction. I respect their decision. I had to move on."
The reception here was much warmer for Harold Baines, who had been traded to the Indians on Aug. 27 for two minor-league pitchers. Fans stood to applaud the St. Michael's native in the second inning before he struck out against starter Jason Johnson.
Alomar already had taken the first jab at his former club, lifting a sacrifice fly in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. Rookie Dave Roberts led off with a walk and stole second. One out later, he swiped third without drawing a throw from catcher Mike Figga and came home on Alomar's fly ball.
When Roberts crossed the plate, Alomar had his 101st RBI, his first season over 100. The Indians had a short-lived lead.
The Orioles tied the score in the first on a one-out walk to Bordick and consecutive singles by B. J. Surhoff and Albert Belle.
Haney fell into a jam in the second when Ripken doubled and Reboulet beat out an infield chop. Figga and Anderson struck out, and Bordick grounded to third.
Bordick began exacting some revenge with a two-run homer in the fifth, the first allowed by Haney to a right-handed batter in eight appearances. Bordick was an obvious candidate to take him deep. He's done it three times in 22 career at-bats against Haney, to go with a .409 average.
Right-handers entered the night hitting .214 against Haney, who started the season at Triple-A Buffalo. In a statistical oddity, left-handers were reaching him for a .350 average and two homers.
Bordick's shot to left, his ninth this season, cut into a 4-1 Cleveland lead that had been crafted by a three-run fifth.
A two-out single by Carlos Baerga in the second inning had been the last Indians hit until Omar Vizquel grounded a single with two outs in the fifth. Vizquel stole second -- the Indians could barely contain themselves once they reached base -- and he scored on Alomar's single.
Ramirez then crushed a 2-2 pitch, sending it 400 feet to left and moving him into sole possession of seventh place on Cleveland's all-time home run list with 191. Ramirez, the major-league leader in RBIs with 139, had been tied with Jim Thome and Rocky Colavito.
Johnson was looking to push his winning streak to three games and avenge the second-shortest outing of his career, a two-inning disaster in Cleveland on Aug. 14. On that day, he allowed a first-inning grand slam to Thome and racked up 62 pitches before departing. Later, he questioned whether Miller had lost confidence in him with the early hook.
Miller had no reason to go after him so soon last night. He waited until after the sixth, bringing in Reyes as the first step toward protecting a 6-4 lead.
It was a shaky step. The Indians put two runners on with one out, a rally aided by first baseman Jeff Conine's throwing error on a bunt single by Roberts. Alomar fell behind in the count before hitting his 23rd homer -- also a career high -- and striking another blow for ex-Orioles everywhere.
Opponent: Cleveland Indians
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 1: 15 p.m. TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Indians' Bartolo Colon (15-4, 4.14) vs. O's Doug Linton (0-2, 6.62)
Tickets: About 2,000 remain Pub Date: 9/04/99