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Everything Works for Orioles in Triple Play, Victory Over Angels

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oriole third baseman Leo Gomez had to be playing near the line. Rick Sutcliffe had to throw Gary Gaetti a pitch he could pull. And Chad Curtis, whose single had sent Tim Salmon to third, had to be running on Sutcliffe’s first pitch to Gaetti in the fifth inning.

Gomez was. Sutcliffe did. Curtis was.

Every element fell into place when Gomez caught Gaetti’s line drive, touched the bag to double off Salmon and lobbed to first to complete a triple play, killing a budding Angel attack and easing the Orioles’ way to a 9-1 victory before a sellout crowd of 44,915 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The eighth triple play against the Angels typified the misfortune that has dogged Gaetti this season.

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“Another situation where you get pitched perfectly, defensed perfectly, everything works perfectly,” said Gaetti, who took part in six triple plays while with the Twins--including the last pulled against the Angels on Aug. 8, 1983. “Here’s your chance to do something to change the momentum of the game, and it blows up in your face. That’s what makes it so frustrating.

“He’s playing right on the line, and that’s what gets me,” added Gaetti, a four-time Gold Glove winner at third. “My bat’s slow. Why should he be there? Those are the things that are really, really frustrating about this year, and that really made my day.”

It was a difficult day for Sutcliffe (13-11). Informed Sunday of his mother’s death in Kansas City, he had flown there, but returned to Baltimore to pitch Tuesday. He was to fly back to Kansas City today for the Thursday funeral. His mother, Louise Bloss, was 55 when she died of cancer.

“He was fighting back a lot of emotion, especially at the end of the ballgame,” Baltimore Manager Johnny Oates said of Sutcliffe, who asked to be left alone by reporters. “It was tough for him to look up out of his locker. All his teammates went by and patted him on the back, and he didn’t look up at them. . . . Guts, that’s the term for him. He’s got it inside.”

The victory that moved the Orioles within two games of the AL East-leading Blue Jays was built on a 14-hit attack against Bert Blyleven (7-6), Scott Lewis and Scott Bailes. But when the Angels came up in the fifth inning, Baltimore’s lead was only 2-0, the product of an RBI double in the second by Chris Hoiles and Mike Devereaux’s 19th homer of the season in the third.

The fifth began with a bouncer by Salmon hitting off the bottom of Gomez’s glove to give the Angels their first base runner. Salmon stole second--his first major league theft--and held at third on Curtis’ single to right.

That brought up Gaetti, who had a good swing, but the worst possible result.

“I got lucky,” Gomez said. “I wasn’t looking for a triple play. The guy just hit it right to me, and the first thing in my mind was to touch the bag. The hit-and-run situation made it easy (to complete the play on Curtis).

“I made the error before, and I felt bad. The guy was on third base because of my error, and I wanted to do something to make up for it.”

With that luck, Gomez and the Orioles had no trouble winning easily. “That was the game,” Gaetti said of the triple play. “My first reaction was, ‘I’m tired of this. . . . I’m tired of being the team out.’ ”

Blyleven, who got out of a jam in the fourth inning, gave up a run in the fifth and a home run to Chito Martinez leading off the sixth before interim Manager John Wathan took him out. The defeat ended his three-game winning streak and left his victory total at 286.

Lewis, in his first appearance since being recalled from triple-A Edmonton on Monday, gave up four earned runs over two innings. Baltimore blew the game open in the eighth, abetted by third baseman Damion Easley’s wild throw on Glenn Davis’ grounder.

But in looking back, Wathan pointed to the triple play as critical.

“If that goes through and Chad scores, it’s a tie game,” said Wathan. “He (Gomez) is playing right on the line. He probably could have had an unassisted triple play if he ran the ball over there (to first). But those things are going to happen sometimes. We like to play aggressive baseball, and we’re not going to stop being aggressive.”


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