Orioles fall, 13-5, as McDonald fails to protect lead Nokes' 2 HRs, 6 RBI help Yankees roll

July 07, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

NEW YORK -- The power of positive thinking apparently has its limits, though the generally upbeat John Oates is not ready to admit it.

The Baltimore Orioles are slipping back into some bad habits. Losing, for instance.

Losing ugly.

The New York Yankees, meanwhile, are beginning to command some respect. They rode a two-homer, six-RBI performance by catcher Matt Nokes to a 13-5 victory yesterday at Yankee Stadium.

The victory was their 10th in the past 12 games and moved them to within one game of .500 -- a plateau they have not seen at this point in the season since 1989. Start spreading the news. The Yankees aren't to be taken lightly anymore.

If only the Orioles could say the same thing. They have lost four of five games to slip deeper into sixth place in the American League East. The hope of some dramatic second-half recovery is beginning to fade. They have only one thing left to be thankful for -- the Cleveland Indians.

Five days ago, there was Ben McDonald, building hope for a better future with an overpowering performance against the Detroit Tigers. But, for every positive action this year, there seems to be an equal and opposite reaction. As good as McDonald was Monday night, he was that bad yesterday afternoon, and he wasn't alone. Here's a list of some of the more depressing developments.

* McDonald needed 109 pitches to get through five innings. He gave up five runs on five hits and five walks, which is five runs, three hits and four walks more than he gave up over eight innings Monday.

* Mel Hall's two-run homer gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the first. It was the 24th time in 79 games that the Orioles have trailed by 3-0 or worse in the first three innings.

* The pitching staff gave up 10 or more runs for the 10th time this year, which works out to a double-digit disappointment every 7.9 games.

* The bullpen gave up eight runs in the Yankees' final three at-bats, as New York rebounded from a five-run comeback by the Orioles in the middle innings.

* Right-hander Todd Frohwirth struggled again, coming into a tie game and allowing three straight batters to reach base. He took the loss.

* Left-hander Kevin Hickey gave up base hits to four of the five left-handed hitters he faced in the eighth inning, Nokes' second home run capping a five-run explosion that turned the game into a blowout.

"About all I can say about that was that it was just one of those days," said Oates, who has seen more of those days than he could have imagined.

McDonald, who has been back from the disabled list for just a week, said his arm felt fine. But his velocity was inconsistent and his control was suspect.

He walked four in the first three innings before settling down to pitch efficiently in the fourth and fifth. Then he walked Jesse Barfield to lead off the sixth, and Nokes blasted his 12th home run of the year to bring Oates out of the dugout and Frohwirth out of the bullpen.

"It was just one of those days when I had nothing," McDonald said. "I just didn't have the velocity on the fastball, and I wasn't getting the curveball over. But I can look on the bright side. Last year, I wouldn't have gotten out of the first inning in a game like this. This year, I got some big outs with my changeup."

Just to give an example of how erratic McDonald's control was, consider his pitch selection to Nokes in the sixth inning. The fastball was eyeball-high, and Nokes tomahawked it over the right-field fence.

"I missed by this much," said McDonald, holding his hands about four feet apart. "I wanted to throw that ball down and away."

Oates mildly second-guessed himself for letting McDonald take the mound in the sixth. The Orioles had rebounded from the three-run, first-inning deficit with three runs in the fourth. They took a 5-3 lead when Sam Horn hit his second home run in as many days, in the fifth.

"He [McDonald] was really struggling for the first three innings," Oates said, "but he got through the fourth and fifth innings so easily and I wanted to stretch him out a little bit. We wanted him to throw 110 pitches this time."

But they didn't want him to throw them in five innings.

"He was very inconsistent," Oates added. "Control-wise, he was all over the place. He threw the ball well in the fourth and fifth innings, but other than that, he was up in the strike zone all day. He didn't throw too many pitches where he wanted them."

The bullpen has had better days, too. Frohwirth came on after the game-tying home run by Nokes in the sixth and immediately gave up a triple to Alvaro Espinoza. Then he walked Pat Kelly and gave up a tie-breaking single to Steve Sax.

Sax hit safely in each of his first four at-bats, but missed out on a five-hit day when he grounded out to short in the eighth.

Nokes went hitless in his first two at-bats, but drove in runs in three consecutive innings with the homer in the sixth, a sacrifice fly in the seventh and his second home run in the eighth.

Each of the four relievers sent to the mound by Oates was scored upon. Frohwirth, Paul Kilgus and Mark Williamson gave up a run apiece before Hickey blew up in the eighth.

Yankees reliever Eric Plunk got the victory after picking up for All-Star selection Scott Sanderson, who gave up five runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Plunk combined with Steve Howe and Steve Farr for 3 2/3 innings of one-hit relief to hold the line while the Yankees turned the

game around.

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