Orioles produce another rally, another 6-4 win Baltimore overcomes mistakes, Blue Jays

June 08, 1991|By Kent Baker

It was a night when Cal Ripken struck out twice with the bases loaded and left seven runners on base.

It was a night when the Baltimore Orioles committed a variety of fundamental errors and their starting pitcher, to put it in baseball vernacular, struggled.

It was a night when the Orioles fell behind quickly, 2-0, and looked as if they might never get a hit off Juan Guzman, who retired their first six batters, three on strikeouts.

Yet this is June, not May, when the Orioles couldn't overcome their blunders, and they won a second straight 6-4 decision from the Toronto Blue Jays before 38,228 at Memorial Stadium.

The Orioles climbed to within 7 1/2 games of American League East leader Toronto, although they are still 12 under .500 and trying to escape the canyon they dug for themselves earlier.

"We made a lot of mistakes," said Orioles manager John Oates, "but the bottom line is we scored more runs. We were fortunate."

The principal ingredients were some more key hits from players other than Ripken (who dropped to .353), a two-strike, run-scoring single by Dwight Evans that put them ahead to stay in the fifth inning and run-producing hits by Mike Devereaux, Bob Melvin and Leo Gomez that got them back into the game.

And then there was starter Roy Smith's ability to alter his style.

This was not his most picturesque effort by Smith, who has won all three of his starts since being promoted from the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings on May 24. "Obviously, I don't have the best stuff in the world, so every game I have to make adjustments," he said.

"I was getting out a little quick, and that ruins my slow curveball. Al Jackson [pitching coach] told me what I was doing. When things get out of whack, I don't have the talent to compensate.

"So, what it boils down to is knowing yourself and making the adjustment before the damage is too bad."

Smith did and was rewarded with his first victory over Toronto since August 1984, when he beat Dave Stieb at old Exhibition Stadium, 3-1.

"I didn't feel any kind of hex," he said. "I've thrown some good games against them."

The bullpen again finished the task, although Mark Williamson first gave up a run-scoring single to Roberto Alomar that brought Toronto to within two runs in the seventh. The single extended Alomar's hitting streak to 13 games.

Before that hit, the Orioles bullpen had stranded 21 consecutive inherited runners.

But when Williamson got into a serious jam in the eighth, in came Gregg Olson, whose five saves in 11 days demonstrate the depth of the Orioles' resurgence. Previously, he had only three chances in 24 days.

Olson faced four hitters and struck out three, including Manuel Lee to clean up Williamson's mess in the eighth.

"I was extremely happy with the way I threw," said Olson. "it was one of those nights when you do exactly what you want."

Since May 21, the Orioles relief corps, dubbed the Dirty Half-Dozen by Kevin Hickey, has allowed one run in 34 1/3 innings.

Toronto, which is missing the injured Stieb in its rotation, is not doing well with patchwork. The Blue Jays have lost nine of 13 despite scoring first in the past five games.

Last night, Blue Jays pitchers walked eight, including three leadoff hitters who scored and Joe Orsulak with the bases loaded to force in the final Orioles run.

Manager Cito Gaston said: "We had good luck against a real hot bat in Cal Ripken, but we couldn't seem to get anyone else out. We seemed to walk everybody else. Baltimore had way too many chances."

With only seven singles, the Orioles didn't mount much of an attack, but they didn't need much.

"With a pitcher who is known for being all over everywhere [Guzman], we did what we have to do," said Oates.

"That's how you win, because Cal can't do it every night. Someone has to pick him up every now and then."

When that happens consistently, the Orioles will be ready for a genuine run into contention. Meanwhile, they are crawling back, one step at a time.

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