Ryan's fastball finally catches Orioles, 15-3 Pitcher tops Baltimore for 1st time since '76

April 15, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was just too good to be true. The Baltimore Orioles jumped out to a three-run, first-inning lead against Texas Rangers ace Nolan Ryan yesterday, but it was just too easy. Even manager Frank Robinson was a little skeptical.

"You feel good at the time, taking advantage of a lapse by Ryan like that," Robinson said. "But you don't feel secure. You know he's going to settle down and get tough."

The Orioles got one big swing, a three-run homer by designated hitter Sam Horn in the first inning, but it ended up looking very small after the Rangers overwhelmed starter Jeff Robinson and two Orioles relievers on the way to a 15-3 victory at Arlington Stadium.

It was just too convenient. The Rangers had not won a regular-season game this year. Ryan had not beaten Baltimore since April 20, 1976. The Orioles were coming off the first explosive performance by their new and improved offensive lineup. The stars were aligned properly, too, but it was a day game, so you couldn't tell.

Three runs in the first inning? What could go wrong?

Answer: Everything.

Robinson gave up four runs in the bottom of the first, three on a two-out home run by Rangers outfielder Kevin Reimer. The Orioles were into their bullpen by the third inning, but things kept getting worse.

The Rangers needed the victory. They had not won a game of any kind since April 1, losing their last five exhibition games and their first four regular-season contests. The 15 runs were the most they have scored against the Orioles, which isn't bad for a team that had scored eight runs in the first four games of the season.

Ryan did settle down. He walked Cal Ripken and Glenn Davis to set up the first-inning home run but gave up only one other hit and struck out nine in seven innings.

"I have no one to blame but myself for the first inning," Ryan said. "I had great stuff, but I got behind on the count on Ripken and Davis and started to overthrow. With Horn, I was trying to be aggressive and get ahead, and I threw him a fastball that was a hitter's pitch. Take away that first inning and I was pleased, but I was lucky that first inning didn't cost us the ballgame."

The last time Ryan defeated the Orioles was during the Gerald Ford administration. He was a member of the California Angels then, and he pitched a three-hit shutout. The three hits were by Brooks Robinson and Mark Belanger (two). Ryan is the only player to appear in that game who is still active in the major leagues.

"I think the thing is, with that ballclub, they always had great pitching and they didn't give up a lot of runs," Ryan said. "There were a lot of tough games, and for some reason, I have always had trouble with them. But so much time has elapsed, you can't make comparisons because they aren't the same players."

The Orioles didn't have to make comparisons. It was the same old Ryan, who has been overpowering hitters since before some of these guys were born. He reached another milestone, pitching his 5,000th inning in the third, then retired the last 13 batters he faced before turning the game over to the bullpen.

Robinson went to the mound hoping to keep the Orioles comfortably on top, but he gave up a one-out, RBI double to Rafael Palmeiro in the first inning and handed a two-out walk to Julio Franco to set up Reimer's home run.

Palmeiro doubled again in the third inning on the way to a 4-for-4 performance that included a walk and three RBI. Ruben Sierra followed with an RBI single to knock Robinson out of the game.

"I just can't pitch behind on the count," Robinson said. "I'm not doing the things I need to do for me to pitch the way I pitched when I've been successful.

"Pitching against Nolan Ryan had nothing to do with it, but when your team gets you out 3-0, your job is to go out and get them 1-2-3 and keep the momentum moving in the right direction. I went out and didn't do it."

He wasn't the only Orioles pitcher to struggle. Left-hander Paul Kilgus gave up a two-run homer to Brian Downing in the fourth inning, and the Rangers scored as many runs in two innings against J.J. Bautista as they had in their first four games.

"Jeff just didn't throw the ball over the plate," Frank Robinson said. "He was in bad counts too often. When you're behind on the count and you can't make pitches, you're going to get hit.

"J.J. was just getting everything up in the strike zone."

+ Orioles-Rangers scoring Orioles first: Anderson grounded out to second. Milligan flied out to right. C.Ripken walked. Davis walked, C.Ripken to second. Horn homered to right, C.Ripken, Davis and Horn scored. Worthington walked. Orsulak popped out to shortstop. Orioles 3, Rangers 0.

Rangers first: Downing flied out to left. Huson singled to right. Palmeiro doubled to left, Huson scored. Sierra grounded out to shortstop, Palmeiro to third. Franco walked. Reimer homered to right, Palmeiro, Franco and Reimer scored. Petralli struck out. Rangers 4, Orioles 3.

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