To err may be human, but what the Baltimore Orioles did yesterday was ridiculous.
The tone of their 10-2 trouncing by the California Angels was established on the first play of the game, when they botched a routine pop-up and a rundown, precipitating a four-run spree against Jeff Ballard.
Ballard, not entirely blameless, absorbed his fifth consecutive defeat since April 23, and the Orioles, who never challenged seriously, fell into sole possession of the American League East basement.
"That kind of put a stamp on the afternoon," manager Frank Robinson said.
Luis Polonia led off the game with a pop-up behind the mound that normally would be fielded by a corner infielder. But second baseman Bill Ripken played the ball and missed it.
Polonia was halfway between first and second when Ripken picked up the ball and had him trapped. But in the ensuing rundown, first baseman Randy Milligan made a wild throw to second, enabling Polonia to slide in safely.
"Don't blame the guy trying to catch the ball," Robinson said. "He was taking charge. Nobody else seemed to want it. At least give Billy credit for that."
It was E4, E3 and egad.
Ballard (2-6) threw 32 pitches in an inning in which Wally Joyner extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a bunt single and Dave Winfield, Bobby Rose and ex-Oriole Dave Gallagher hit reasonably hard shots through the infield for run-scoring hits.
The two errors behind Ballard raised the total to 11 of the team's 21 committed with him on the mound. Three of the runs were unearned, increasing the season total against him to 13, most in the American League.
"That's an incredible amount," Ballard said. "Every game the last five it seems that way. It's discouraging, but you have to keep going back out there and hope that things improve. I bet I didn't give up that many [unearned runs] all last year."
For the record, he allowed six.
"We just don't seem to play well behind him," Robinson said. "But I didn't think he had good stuff, either. That was the least stuff he had all season."
Before the top of the third ended and after 55 pitches, Ballard was gone, destined for his fifth straight loss to California.
"They found holes today that they haven't found all year," Ballard said. "Most of the pitches were not too bad. They hit a couple OK, but I made some mistakes, too."
Ballard said Robinson encouraged him during a meeting Saturday, telling him he was throwing the ball well.
The defense didn't become airtight after Ballard left. Paul Kilgus assisted a two-run Angels sixth with a wild pickoff throw, and Milligan continued the downward trend later in the inning.
With Polonia again trapped between first and second after a single, Milligan failed to look to home plate, where Donnie Hill was heading with California's sixth run. Polonia was out, tagged by Ripken, but Hill scored.
"It was like we have a guy trapped off, so let's go get him. Nobody else is on,' " Robinson said. "You practice these plays, and then in the game our minds are not there. I don't understand why."
Kirk McCaskill rode the good fortune to break his four-game losing streak and win his first game this month, turning it over to his bullpen in the sixth.
And Gallagher, traded by the Orioles to the Angels during the winter, led the onslaught with five singles and three RBI after entering the game in an 0-for-11 slump.
"It's amazing sometimes when you get a couple of hits early and you start to relax," he said. "I started to see the ball better, and things fell into place for me.
"It's a lot of fun to play against the Orioles because I know a lot of the players. But I wasn't trying to show them up at all."
* Angels-Orioles scoring Angels first: Polonia safe on second baseman B.Ripken's fielding error, to second on first baseman Milligan's throwing error. Joyner singled to second, Polonia to third. Gaetti popped out to second. Winfield singled to center, Polonia scored, Joyner to second. Rose doubled to left, Joyner scored, Winfield to third. Felix struck out. Gallagher singled to left, Winfield and Rose scored. Hill struck out. Angels 4, Orioles 0.
Angels third: Gaetti singled to right. Winfield singled to left, Gaetti to second. Rose grounded into fielder's choice to second, Winfield forced at second, second to shortstop, Gaetti to third. -- Felix grounded into fielder's choice to shortstop, Rose forced at second, shortstop to second, Gaetti scored. Gallagher singled to right, Felix to second. Kilgus relieved Ballard. Venable ran for Felix. Hill lined out to shortstop. Angels 5, Orioles 0.
Angels sixth: Gallagher singled to right. On pitcher Kilgus' throwing error on pickoff attempt, Gallagher to second. Hill singled to left, Gallagher to third. Tingley grounded out to third, Hill to second. Polonia singled to right, Gallagher scored, Hill to third, Polonia out at second, right fielder to first baseman to second baseman, Hill scored. Joyner grounded out to shortstop. Angels 7, Orioles 0.
Orioles sixth: B.Anderson walked. McKnight singled to right, B.Anderson to second. On McCaskill's wild pitch, B.Anderson to third, McKnight to second. C.Ripken grounded out to third. Orsulak grounded out to first, B.Anderson scored, McKnight to third. Milligan singled to left, McKnight scored. Eichhorn relieved McCaskill. Hoiles flied out to center. Angels 7, Orioles 2.
Angels eighth: Venable hit by pitch. Gallagher singled to third, Venable to second. Hill doubled to left, Venable scored, Gallagher to third. Tingley grounded out to shortstop, Gallagher scored. Polonia struck out. Joyner grounded out to second. Angels 9, Orioles 2.
Angels ninth: Olson pitching. Gaetti singled to right. Winfield struck out. Rose struck out. On Olson's balk, Gaetti to second. Venable walked. Gallagher singled to center, Gaetti scored, Venable to third. Hill walked, Gallagher to second. Tingley flied
out to right. Angels 10, Orioles 2.