Bell's error in 8th helps Angels top Orioles, 2-1 7 shutout innings by Robinson wasted

July 17, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Baltimore Orioles right-hander Jeff Robinson pitched his strongest game of the year last night, but there was not enough margin for the error that would cost him the game.

Second baseman Juan Bell dropped a throw in the eighth inning, and the California Angels took full advantage of the error to break up Robinson's shutout and score a 2-1 comeback victory at Anaheim Stadium.

Turnabout is fair play. The Orioles trailed, 1-0, with two out in the ninth inning Monday night and came back to win on a dramatic home run by rookie Chito Martinez. The Angels, down, 1-0, in the eighth last night, came back after Bell was late covering first on a sacrifice bunt by Gary Gaetti and dropped the throw from Robinson.

But that wasn't the half of it.

Reliever Mark Williamson came on with runners at first and third and gave up a game-tying sacrifice fly to Lance Parrish. Then he threw a wild pitch to set up the eventual winning run.

The Angels ended up in another first-and-third situation with two out and left-hander Mike Flanagan on the mound, and won the game on a questionable call at first base.

Former Oriole Dave Gallagher pinch-hit for Luis Polonia and hit a shot down the third-base line that was speared by a diving Leo Gomez, who got up and made a one-hop throw to first that appeared to be in time for the final out of the inning. But first-base umpire Terry Craft ruled Gallagher safe, and Gaetti crossed the plate with the go-ahead run.

Angels pitcher Mark Langston, who appeared to be on the way to a frustrating defeat, emerged with his 13th victory -- a five-hit complete-game effort that salvaged a split of the two games against the Orioles. Robinson emerged with his eighth loss in 12 decisions, his most grievous sin a leadoff walk to slumping Dave Parker in the eighth.

Orioles manager John Oates refused to comment on the umpiring, but he was not happy with the way his team turned a strong fundamental game into a one-inning primer on what not to do with a one-run lead in the late innings.

"The game is nine innings," Oates said. "Eight fundamentally sound innings do not constitute a game."

The blame could be split three ways -- among Bell, Williamson and Robinson -- but the credit belonged largely to Langston.

He was overpowering, but he fell behind in the second inning when Gomez hit his fifth home run of the season, a bases-empty shot over the 386 sign in center field that brought him out of a 1-for-16 slump.

It would have been a two-run shot -- and the outcome might have been different -- but left fielder David Segui crumpled to the ground with an ankle injury after rounding first base on a single to center just before Gomez came to the plate. Segui was in so much pain he could not even make an attempt to get back to first base before Donnie Hill took the throw from the outfield and applied the tag.

Segui suffered what club officials described as a mild sprain of the right ankle. He was taken to nearby St. Joseph Hospital for precautionary X-rays, which were negative, and then accompanied the team on its charter flight to Kansas City, Mo. His condition will be re-evaluated today, and a decision should be forthcoming on whether he will have to be placed on the disabled list.

The Orioles also have a decision pending on second baseman Bill Ripken, who was first scratched from the starting lineup Monday night with a strained muscle in the right side of his rib cage.

If the club is in danger of losing a couple of players, it also seems to be on the verge of finding some consistency in the starting rotation.

Robinson ran the string of solid Orioles starts to five with his 7-plus-inning performance, which came just five days after he failed to get out of the first inning in a start against the Oakland Athletics.

In that game, he allowed seven of the eight batters he faced to reach base on five hits and two walks. This time, Robinson walked leadoff batter Polonia in the first inning, but settled down to strike out five in the first three innings and carry a two-hitter into the eighth.

"I threw the ball well," Robinson said, "but this was much more disappointing than what happened in Oakland. In Oakland, I got my butt kicked. That happens sometimes. That's easier to take than a game like this."

Langston was almost as effective, but the Angels' recent offensive slump has left their starting rotation with little room for error. Like teammate Kirk McCaskill the night before, Langston was just this side of overpowering, but that was no assurance that the club would come out of a 1-8 slump. He had to be lucky and good.

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