CLEVELAND -- Gregg Olson didn't throw his uniform away on Sunday, though the temptation had to be great. He almost threw
another game away, but recovered just in time to avoid a replay of Wednesday's clubhouse cabaret act.
The Baltimore Orioles held on to complete a sweep of their rain-makeup doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals at Royals Stadium, so Olson was able to shrug off the indignity of a five-run, ninth-inning rally that sent the nightcap into extra innings.
All's well that ends well. Joe Orsulak drove in a run with a two-out single in the 12th and left-hander Paul Kilgus played stopper for a night, as the Orioles won for the third time in little more than 24 hours.
It was a very successful series for the Orioles, but it was a very strange one for the main men in the bullpen. Setup man Mark Williamson was hit on the right forearm by a line drive on Thursday night and barely avoided a serious injury.
He returned to the mound Sunday and pitched in both games of the doubleheader, but the results were not encouraging. Williamson gave up three runs in each game,setting up Olson in the nightcap by allowing the first three batters to reach base in the ninth inning.
Olson entered the game with the bases loaded and no one out and proceeded to allow five runs to cross the plate. He even threw a wild pitch that put the potential winning run at third with one out. But he found his way out of the inning and stayed around long enough to get the decision in the 9-8 overtime victory.
"I gave our team a chance to win," Olson said. "I don't like what happened in the ninth, but there wasn't much I could do about it. It was just one of those things where I couldn't throw the first pitch for a strike. They hit the ball. They did what they had to do to tie the game, and I did what I had to do to keep it tied."
This is something of a departure for Olson, who has been known to scourge himself over a lot less, but the rest of the day was too positive to pout about.
He recorded the save in the first game after the Orioles scored four runs in the ninth to send it into overtime. He got out of
trouble when he absolutely had to in the nightcap and held the Royals scoreless over the next two innings -- just long enough for his teammates to regroup.
"He wanted to go back out there [for the 12th]," manager John Oates said, "but I said 50 pitches was it. I like my job."
Olson likes his job, too, but he has grown accustomed to doing it well and so have his fans. When he proved human on "Turn Back the Clock Day" Wednesday in Baltimore, some of them turned on him, showering him with boos as he left the field. He had spoiled them for two years with that nasty curveball and that pinpoint control. Now, they will settle for nothing less than unqualified success.
Oates wondered aloud Sunday whether Olson's performance was affected by a small cut that had developed on the middle finger of his pitching hand, a problem that also was a nuisance at times last season. But Olson denied that there was any connection between the cut and the way his curveball has been getting away from him. He will be available to pitch when the Orioles open a three-game series against the last-place Cleveland Indians tonight at Cleveland Stadium.
"I thought he had pinched it again," Oates said, "but he said he was fine."
Instead, Olson blamed his bad luck in the ninth inning on, well, bad luck. The Royals found holes all over the infield. He just compounded his problems by getting behind on the count and allowing them to be more selective at the plate.
"Some strange things happened," he said. "You look at a couple of balls they hit, and if either one was a couple of feet to one side of the other, we get a double play and the game is over. As it turned out, I was just happy to get out alive."
Williamson probably felt the same way Thursday night, but his performance on Sunday could not have been very encouraging. He suffered a badly bruised forearm when Terry Shumpert scorched a line drive back to the mound, so it probably is logical to assume that the area was still sore enough three days later to limit his effectiveness.
The downturn was dramatic. Williamson was one of the club's hottest pitchers when the Orioles arrived in Kansas City. He had given up justone run in his previous 21 1/3 innings. He gave up six over two innings of work on Sunday and ballooned his ERA to 4.47.
Olson's numbers also have taken a beating. The blown save was his fourth of the year and it boosted his ERA to 3.82, nearly twice his combined ERA for the previous two seasons.
It was not a great day to be a relief stopper. Royals short man Jeff Montgomery gave up seven runs over 2 2/3 innings in the opener to blow his third save opportunity in a row. He entered the series with a string of 18 scoreless innings against the Orioles, but blew a save Thursday night (in a game the Royals eventually won) and blew up completely on Sunday.
NOTES: The 35 hits by the Orioles in Sunday's doubleheader were the most in one day for the club. The Orioles had 33 in a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 3, 1973, and against the California Angels on June 6, 1967. . . . The Orioles will honor this year's Orioles Hall of Fame inductee, Hal "Skinny" Brown, in this year's Hall of Fame Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Friday at 11:30 a.m.. Tickets are still available.
Site: Cleveland Stadium
Orioles starter: Jeff Robinson (3-6, 4.54)
Indians starter: Rod Nichols (0-5, 3.55)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)
TV: Channels 2, 20