The Washington Post
March 29, 1999
Orioles' Extra Effort Pays Off
Baines's Hit In 11th Wins Game in Cuba; Orioles 3, Cuba All-Stars 2

                  By Richard Justice
                  Washington Post Staff Writer
                  Monday, March 29, 1999; Page D01

                  HAVANA, March 28—The Baltimore Orioles may one day remember
                  that they were part of a historic afternoon, one in which the often disparate
                  worlds of sport and politics crowded into the same awkward intersection
                  for a few unsettling hours. They may one day appreciate the unusual sight
                  of Cuban President Fidel Castro wedged into a box seat between Orioles
                  owner Peter Angelos and baseball commissioner Bud Selig for an
                  afternoon of baseball and small talk.

                  And the Orioles may one day remember a day that began with the kind of
                  pomp and ceremony associated with the Olympics, an honor befitting the
                  first major league team in 40 years to play a game in Cuba.

                  All of that may come later, because when the Orioles departed this evening
                  what they probably remembered was how close they came to losing this
                  afternoon. In the end, they accomplished their stated goal of defeating a
                  Cuban all-star team, but they needed 3 1/2 hours and 11 innings to squeak
                  out a 3-2 victory in front of 50,000 at Estadio Latinoamericano.

                  The Orioles won it in the top of the 11th when designated hitter Harold
                  Baines lined a single to center that scored Will Clark with the winning run.
                  It ended a few minutes later when reliever Jesse Orosco got the final three
                  outs, nailing down a game that Mike Timlin almost let get away in the

                  "I'm an optimist," Orioles Manager Ray Miller said when asked if he'd
                  begun to think his team would lose. "I always expect things to work out."

                  Still, Miller knows this was a victory wrapped inside a thick blanket of
                  defeat. As Cuban Manager Alfonso Urquiola said: "The main thing is it was
                  a great show. The show is what the spectators deserved. We feel very
                  satisfied in that. In baseball, as in life, sometimes you win and sometimes
                  you lose. Sometimes even the best players lose a game. But we have the
                  respect of the Orioles."

                  This was the $82 million Orioles unable to put away a team with a payroll
                  of around $6,000. This was the 1999 Orioles looking a lot like the 1998
                  Orioles, a team that didn't have much speed and sometimes didn't have a
                  lot of enthusiasm, either.

                  If it wasn't Timlin yielding a game-tying single in the eighth, it was Albert
                  Belle going hitless in five at-bats, leaving six runners on base, striking out
                  twice and loafing on a double-play grounder in the eighth.

                  Belle got two standing ovations during a spectacular display of batting
                  practice power, but he left his game in the cage, failing to get a ball out of
                  the infield during the real game. He also complained to the home plate
                  umpire about a strike call and twice threw his batting helmet in anger.

                  Belle was one of the reasons the Orioles mustered just four hits in the first
                  10 innings. One of those four hits was a two-run home run by Charles
                  Johnson, who gave his team a lead it held until the eighth.

                  Orioles starter Scott Erickson was splendid. After the Cubans ran
                  themselves into two outs on the base paths in the first inning, Erickson took
                  charge and gave up just five hits and a run in seven innings. But he was
                  more than matched by a junk-balling Cuban named Jose Contreras, who
                  relieved starter Jose Ibar in the third and strung together eight shutout

                  Relying on a nifty change-up and an assortment of slurves and curves,
                  Contreras kept the Orioles off balance, striking out 10 and not allowing
                  anyone to reach third base.

                  "He mixes speeds very well," Orioles left fielder B.J. Surhoff said. "He kind
                  of hid the ball. He throws his breaking ball when he's behind in the count
                  and has a good split-finger. I think it helped that the wind was blowing in."

                  Contreras was out of gas by the 11th, and Urquiola brought in his
                  hard-throwing closer, Pedro Lazo.

                  "He had thrown his amount of pitches," Urquiola said of his decision to
                  remove Contreras. "This is what we planned. He was a little tired, and his
                  speed was not good enough. And Lazo is very good."

                  Lazo struck out Mike Bordick to open the 11th, but Clark got a bad-hop
                  double down the right field line and made it to second base. Clark hustled
                  to third when Belle grounded out, and Surhoff was walked intentionally.
                  Had the Cubans walked Baines as well, the next scheduled hitter was
                  light-hitting rookie Jesse Garcia. Instead, Lazo pitched to Baines, who
                  lined a fastball past the diving shortstop and into center field for the
                  go-ahead run.

                  Miller had gone for the victory in the eighth when he brought in his closer,
                  Timlin, with two outs and a runner on third base. The Orioles gave Timlin a
                  four-year, $16 million contract last winter to perform in situations such as
                  this. But third baseman Omar Linares spoiled Timlin's first meaningful
                  appearance by grounding a single into left to score Jose Estrada with the
                  tying run.

                  The Cubans almost won it in the 10th when reliever Mike Fetters had
                  runners at first and second with one out. But he struck out Yobal Duentas
                  and got Linares on a pop fly to Bordick to end it. After the Orioles scored
                  in the top of the 11th, Orosco gave up only a one-out single.

                  "It was a very interesting experience," Erickson said. "It was interesting to
                  see how excited all the people were. These were very good fans, loud and
                  with a lot of energy."

                  The Orioles certainly didn't get a full taste of a real Cuban baseball crowd.
                  Because tickets were distributed to selected individuals, the crowd lacked
                  the bells, whistles, drums and rowdy energy that accompanied Friday and
                  Saturday's opening games of the Cuban World Series.

                  The afternoon began with a flag ceremony involving players and coaches
                  from both teams. Just before the first pitch, Castro visited briefly with the
                  Orioles and then gave a short pep talk to his own players.

                  "The history of this event is not for us to judge," Surhoff said. "That's for
                  others to write and us to read. Nobody came here thinking about history.
                  We came to play a baseball game, and I think you saw a very good one."

                           © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company