CLEVELAND // This we know: Closer Chris Ray pitched a scoreless ninth inning last night and the game ended with the Orioles celebrating a 7-4 comeback victory over the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.
The win, secured when Corey Patterson hit a two-run double to right field with two outs in the eighth inning, broke the Orioles five-game losing streak. Or so they think.
The game was put under protest by Indians manager EricWedge in the bottom of the sixth inning after one of the strangest occurrences in Orioles history. They were awarded a run 3? innings afterit actually scored.
The play in question occurred in the third inning with men on first and third and one out. Catcher Ramon Hernandez hit a sinking liner to center field that Grady Sizemore dived after and caught. Nick Markakis, the runner at third, tagged up and came home.
Miguel Tejada, the Orioles? runner at first, either forgot how many outs there were or thought that the ball had dropped in and took off around second base. Sizemore threw to first base, where Ryan Garko stepped on the bag and the final out of the inning was record. Plate umpire Marvin Hudson also signaled that the run at home did not count, keeping the score at 2-1.
The Orioles didn?t mount much of a protest until after the bottom of the fourth inning when bench coach Tom Trebelhorn came out of the dugout. It prompted a short conference by the umpires, but no change in the score. Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo then came out after the fifth inning to speak to second base umpire and crew chief Ed Montague. The umpires spoke again and then conferred withWedge.
Montague ultimately left the field for a while and called up to the official scorer in the press box during the bottom of the sixth inning to confirm that the run should have counted and the Orioles should lead the game 3-2.
Wedge then put the game under protest, although the baseball rulebook cites the exact situation and seems to indicate that the run should have counted. In section 2.0 of the baseball rulebook, it gives this example: ?One out. Runner on first and third. Batter flies out. Two out. Runner on third tags up and scores. Runner on first tries to retouch before throw from fielder reaches first baseman, but does not get back in time and is out. Three outs. If, in umpire?s judgment, the runner from third touched home before the ball was held at first base, the run counts.?
The run was added to the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth and explained to the 25,065 in attendance an inning later. The crowd booed, but an inning earlier, Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta had taken a little of the sting out of the ruling with a tworun homer off Orioles starter Erik Bedard that gave the Indians a 4-3 lead.
The score stayed that way until Patterson laced a two-out, tworun double off Aaron Fultz ? his second RBI double off of a lefthander in as many nights ? that gave the Orioles a 5-4 advantage. They added two more runs in the ninth on Hernandez?s double.
Bedard got the no decision, pitching six innings, while allowing four earned runs, five hits and two walks and a hit batter. He struck out 11, one short of his career high. The win went to Jamie Walker, who struck out Indians slugger Travis Hafner with a man on third in the seventh inning.
The confusion went to everyone else.
Perlozzo is desperate to take some heat off his bullpen, which he has been forced to use extensively this season. Only 10 times in 24 games have the Orioles gotten six or more innings from their starter. It also has happened just four times over the past 13 games.
?That?s the main thing. We?ve got to get deeper in the ball game,? Perlozzo said. ?It?s not that we?re abusing our [relievers] pitchwise. With one or two exceptions, they?re throwing between 10 and 15 pitches. They might have been up a lot, and that?s my concern more now ?they?re getting up and in the games quite frequently. Even though their pitch count is not there, they?re still up a lot. It would be nice if we could get seven out of [Bedard] tonight, go to one guy and the closer.?
It was the hope this spring that Bedard would be that guy on the pitching staff, the No. 1 starter who could stop losing streaks if need be and pitch a ton of innings when the bullpen was in desperate needof a break.
But entering last night, Bedard had been an enigma, frequently regressing to the inconsistent pitcher that he was a couple of seasons ago. In his past two starts spanning just 10 1/3 innings, Bedard had allowed nine earned runs, 14 hits and five walks. In his first five starts, he had made it through six or more innings just twice.
And with his team badly needing him to do it a third time last night, Bedard got off to a disappointing start after the Orioles had given him a 1-0 lead in the first on catcher Ramon Hernandez?s single that scored Melvin Mora,who reached on an error.
Bedard walked two of the first three hitters he faced, extending the Orioles? American League lead in walks. Indians catcher Victor Martinez tied the game with a sharply-hit RBI single to left field. Bedard got out of the first with no further damage, but he needed 28 pitches to do it.
The Orioles gave Bedard a 3-1 lead in the third. Brian Roberts, who singled and stole second base, scored when Miguel Tejada blooped a single that dropped just inside the right-field foul line. The hit, Tejada?s second of the night, put runners on first and third with Hernandez coming to the plate. Hernandez hit the liner to Sizemore that eventually resulted in the controversial run.