The Baltimore pitcher, a fringe member of the New York Yankees last season, helped revive a season on life support Monday night, throwing five shutout innings in the Orioles' 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Facing a hostile crowd, a rugged lineup and possible elimination from the American League Championship Series, Kamieniecki and fellow Yankee refugee Jimmy Key stopped the imposing Indians for eight innings on four feeble hits.
After two nights of raucous rallies in their final at bat, the Indians battered Orioles reliever Randy Myers for two runs in the ninth. This time, though, they were eventually subdued. With the tying runs in scoring position, Omar Vizquel hit a game-inning grounder to second baseman Roberto Alomar, fortuitously shaded toward center field.
Thus the Tribe retains a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, but is now obliged to get its decisive victory on the road. The Orioles, meanwhile, return to Camden Yards with their desperate circumstances greatly enhanced.
Wild and crazy series
"As crazy as this series has been," said Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove, "I don't think anybody can be confident about anything."
That the Orioles are still alive owes to a pitching effort that could hardly have been envisioned, much less expected. Kamieniecki, Baltimore's fourth starter during the regular season, had not started a game since Sept. 24. Key last pitched in relief two teams ago - when he won Game Six of the 1992 World Series for Toronto.
Postseason play often provokes managers to depart from their normal pattern, but Davey Johnson had little choice but to trust his season to Kamieniecki. Except for Key, none of Baltimore's other starters had adequate rest, and Key's recent postseason work suggests a punching bag.
Yet when Kamieniecki's right elbow stiffened in the fifth, Johnson turned to Key to preserve Baltimore's 2-0 lead. Key responded with three hitless innings.
"I knew I'd get a stellar performance from Kamieniecki and we did," Johnson said. "The bonus was Jimmy Key. He came up big."
The Indians stranded six baserunners in the first four innings, and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position until the ninth. Bip Roberts led off Cleveland's first inning with a double, but moved no further. Two innings later, Kamieniecki retired Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome with two on and one out. He snuffed another rally in the fourth inning, spearing a hard bouncer by Marquis Grissom with a leaping grab and two runners in scoring position.
"They had some chances," Kamieniecki said. "I was able to make a couple of pitches and got some breaks. The first inning was big. You don't ever want to get behind on the road in an elimination game. You want to take the crowd out of it."
Geronimo Berroa helped deflate the Cleveland fans with a two-run single in the top of the third against Indians starter Chad Ogea. For eight innings, that was the sum of the scoring.
"Ogea made one bad pitch," Hargrove said, "and Kamieniecki didn't."
The Orioles scored twice more in the ninth on a leadoff homer by Eric Davis, a double by Rafael Palmeiro and a single by Cal Ripken. The Indians' subsequent rally against Myers placed a premium on these insurance runs.
The victory was Kamieniecki's first in postseason play, and it was his first postseason start since the Seattle Mariners cuffed him around during the 1995 Division Series. Kamieniecki pitched seven times for the Yankees last season, though not at all after May 26.
"To be honest, I didn't expect to get a ring," he said. "I didn't deserve to get one. I really didn't contribute. I was really never a part of the team. They said it was an oversight on their part and sent someone down to apologize and get me fitted for a ring. I have yet to see the ring."
Presumably, the Orioles will have a harder time forgetting him.
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