NEW YORK -- Three times in American League history a team has scored eight runs in the first inning before a single hitter was retired. Each time it has happened against the Orioles.
After a 30-year hiatus, the Bad News Birds returned to the record books last night, tying a major-league record by allowing eight straight hits at the start of their 15-3 loss to the New York Yankees.
The sequence began with a leadoff homer by Roberto Kelly off righthander Anthony Telford. It ended with a three-run shot by Randy Velarde off righthander Mickey Weston.
The last time an AL team opened a game by scoring eight times with none out was April 24, 1960 -- same Yankees, same Orioles, same bat channel, old Yankee Stadium.
The only other time it happened in the AL was when Cleveland did it to the Orioles on July 6, 1954. The New York Giants set the major-league mark in 1911, scoring 10 against St. Louis before registering an out.
Last night's carnage was even more remarkable considering the Orioles had won a season-high six straight games, and New York had the lowest batting average in the majors (.240) and fewest runs in the AL (562).
The Yankees, however, rank fourth in the AL with 143 homers, and through five innings they had five -- by Kelly (No. 15), Velarde (4), Kevin Maas (20), Hensley Meulens (3) and Oscar Azocar (5).
For a while there, it looked like the Orioles might actually allow 10 to tie the infamous record they set at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium on Sept. 14, 1987.
Alas, the Yanks hit no homers the last three innings. "Not even close," beamed Orioles manager Frank Robinson, who was a coach in 1987 and said "my neck was sore" from watching all the Toronto homers.
Robinson joked that he knew the Yankees "would get tired -- the law of averages had to catch up." True enough: The Yankees produced 15 of their 16 hits and 14 of their 15 runs in the first five innings.
Azocar was booed loudly by the crowd of 17,548 when he grounded out for the first out of the first inning. "I wasn't booing him," Robinson said. "I was saying, 'Where have you been?' "
The Yankees reached their season-high in runs by the fourth inning. Don Mattingly was the only starter to play all nine and not drive in a run. Meulens had four RBIs, Velarde three, Maas and Matt Nokes two each.
The Orioles allowed more runs (15) than they did during their six-game winning streak (14). Telford gave up six on only 19 pitches. Weston allowed four, Mike Smith three and John Mitchell one.
As for the hits, it was the first time in nearly nine years a team produced eight straight before its opponent got an out. Oakland put together that many singles against Chicago on Sept. 27, 1981.
"I saw a football game, not a baseball game," Robinson said. "One field goal isn't going to get it unless you shut 'em out. Our defense wasn't up to the task. Too many bombs."