Robinson loses control and lead, as Orioles fall, 6-4 Mariners rally with 5-run fifth

July 22, 1991|By Kent Baker

A smattering of boos cascaded on Jeff Robinson as he walked slowly toward the Baltimore Orioles dugout after squandering a 4-1 lead yesterday.

He looked up into the Memorial Stadium crowd and said something, the frustration of the day pouring forth.

"I said, 'I blew it,' which I did," said Robinson. "I did blow it. Those are people who come expecting to see positive things, and they didn't happen. The few cheers I heard, I didn't deserve, either.

"You really don't let those people affect you."

It was another frustrating day for the Orioles after the Seattle Mariners rallied for a 6-4 victory on a five-run fifth inning featuring homers by Ken Griffey Jr. and Alvin Davis.

The fifth loss in the past six games, the seventh in the past 11. Another lost series in July (the team is 0-3-3). The beat goes on.

Robinson, laboring with both his control and command, took a three-run edge into the fifth inning in quest of only his second win in his past 10 starts.

"All of a sudden, he couldn't seem to get the fastball down," said catcher Bob Melvin. "If you can't get that over, you're in trouble."

The thinking on Robinson is that if he can survive the early going without too much damage, he will get stronger. He did the first part, working out of several jams and holding the Mariners to one run on a two-out, first-inning single by Pete O'Brien.

"If I can get past the first inning or so, I usually end up pitching a good game," said Robinson. "But I was doing things mechanically today that cause me not to have good movement and velocity.

"One game I get it straight, and the next game I can't. And it's hard to change when you're out there caught up in everything."

In the fifth, he lost it. Omar Vizquel blooped a single and took second on Robinson's wild pickoff throw, and Harold Reynolds walked.

With a three-run lead, the pickoff attempt that failed was a major factor.

"If you pick him off, it's a great play," said Orioles manager John Oates. "If you throw it away, it's a bad play. I'd like to see him concentrate better on the batter, because that [the wild pickoff throw] changes the complexion of an inning."

Robinson, wild with his fastball and sparing with his forkball, struggled to a 2-0 count on Griffey, who hit the next pitch into the left-field stands.

"You've got to try to throw a strike," he said. "In that situation, with the wind blowing left to right, you try to keep it away because even if he does hit it fairly well, hopefully it won't go out.

"The pitch was away, but not as far down as I would have liked."

Griffey is not exactly a pushover any time, but especially not lately. He has 22 hits in his past 46 at-bats (.478).

Robinson gave up a single to O'Brien before Oates removed him to have Flanagan face left-handed-hitting Davis, who took a fastball over the right-field fence, the ball ticking the glove of right fielder Chito Martinez before falling beyond the barrier. The Mariners were in front to stay.

"He [Flanagan] has always been tough on me," said Davis. "I can't remember the last time he threw me two fastballs in a row, but I'll take it."

The Mariners bullpen then took over for Brian Holman. Russ Swan, Mike Schooler and Bill Swift combined to shut down the Orioles on three hits for the final five innings.

Swift escaped the only jam in the ninth by striking out Randy Milligan and Mike Devereaux on called third strikes with one on, then retiring Cal Ripken on a pop-up with two on.

Oates said the pitches to Milligan and Devereaux were "close enough to hack at. I looked at the replays of those calls. If they were outside, they were so close. You've got to give him [Swift] credit. They were not easily hittable pitches."

But it all came back to Robinson losing it at an uncommon point in the game, marking the fifth time he has had a lead in the fifth or later and not won.

"He had no control from the first inning. He was all over the place," said Oates. "Pitching from behind all the time made it tough, and then he tried to throw a strike and boom, it was 4-4."

Oates suspected that the heat might have bothered Robinson, but the pitcher said: "It was not a factor. There was a breeze blowing, and I don't think it was nearly as bad as Turn Back the Clock Day."

The game-time temperature was 101 degrees. The thermometer on the field at one point read 115.

But it still wasn't enough to warm up the Orioles. For them, winter never has really ended.

Orioles-Mariners scoring

Mariners first: Briley flied out to left fielder Orsulak. Reynolds fouled out to first baseman Segui. Griffey Jr. doubled down the left-field line. O'Brien singled to center, Griffey Jr. scored, O'Brien out advancing, center fielder Anderson to catcher Melvin to shortstop C. Ripken. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Mariners 1, Orioles 0.

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