Randy Milligan sat slumped in front of his Orioles locker, reading a newspaper. The normally affable first baseman answered a question with a grunt, never looking up.
David Segui waved away a questioner, offering only a single word to describe the day's events: "Embarrassing."
Mike Devereaux refused to talk until he cooled off in the shower. When he returned, he conceded that a no-hitter was indeed harder to swallow than your garden-variety defeat.
"Sure, especially the way we've been doing," he said. "We've been losing and, suddenly, we hit the very bottom. We get no-hit."
NTC Such was the mood in the Orioles' clubhouse yesterday after Chicago White Sox lefthander Wilson Alvarez silenced them with a no-hitter, 7-0, in only his second major-league start. At the age of 21 years and 141 days, Alvarez became the youngest to pitch a no-hitter since Vida Blue (21 years, 55 days) in 1970.
In the manager's office, John Oates tried to put the no-hitter in perspective. He spoke bravely at first.
"Sure, it's demoralizing, but tomorrow it's over with," Oates said. This is just one game."
But the more he thought about the no-hitter, the more it gnawed at him. It represented the Orioles' fifth straight loss. It left them 1-6 on the current homestand.
It was, he pointed out, another illustration of the Orioles' propensity for putting themselves in an early hole. When starter Dave Johnson was battered for four runs in the first two innings, it was the 35th time this season the club has been three or more runs behind by the fourth inning.
"That's what's demoralizing, the way we've been outscored early," Oates said. "It's a consistent pattern we've had to deal with. That's what takes the wind out of your sails."
Near the end, the Orioles were stung by the fans' reaction to Alvarez's masterpiece. In the ninth inning, they cheered every strike the Venezuelan threw.
Catcher Bob Melvin discussed other phases of the no-hitter, but wouldn't touch the fans' reaction, for fear of offending them. Oates addressed it.
"It was disappointing they were rooting for Alvarez, but I understand," Oates said. "They wanted to see a no-hitter. That's all they had to cheer about today.
"I never saw a no-hitter in the majors until this year, going back 17 years as a player and coach. Now I've seen two, both since the All-Star break."
The other was July 13 at Oakland when Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson combined to stifle the A's. And now Alvarez.
"No one likes to get no-hit, to put it bluntly," Melvin said. "I liked it better when we were on the other side in Oakland."
It was the fourth no-hitter against the Orioles, following Bo Belinsky's for the California Angels in 1962 and Nolan Ryan's for the Angels in 1975, both on the road, and Juan Nieves' for the Milwaukee Brewers here in 1987.
The first four no-hitters here were by Orioles: Hoyt Wilhelm against the New York Yankees in 1958, Steve Barber and Stu Miller against the Detroit Tigers in 1967 in a 2-1 Orioles loss, Tom Phoebus against the Boston Red Sox in 1968 and Jim Palmer against the A's in 1969.
Against Alvarez, who walked five, the Orioles came close to getting a hit only twice. The first time was on a swinging roller by Cal Ripken with one out in the seventh inning. Catcher Ron Karkovice's throw to first was wild and was correctly ruled an error because it appeared the throw would have nipped Ripken if it had been on target.
"It was extremely close," said Orioles first base coach Curt Motton. "Bang-bang. I've seen them go either way."
In the eighth inning, Chris Hoiles led off with a drive on which centerfielder Lance Johnson made a spectacular diving catch.
"I thought it was going to drop in," Hoiles said. "It was a great play."
"Lance kept it off the grass," Devereaux said. "That does a lot for a pitcher, keeps his confidence high."
The Orioles went into the game with scant information about Alvarez. The organization's minor-league scouts told Oates the lefthander was ready for the majors.
"They said he has a heavy fastball, good curve and a changeup," Oates said. "A little wild, just enough to be effective. Melvin said it was the best stuff he has seen from a lefthander all year."
Said Melvin, "Early in the game, yes. His fastball was moving all over the place. But the last few innings we hit a lot of fly balls. We were hitting well to right-centerfield and the wind was starting to blow. He seemed to be getting tired and missing the plate by wider margins. I thought we'd get to him."
At first glance, rightfielder Dwight Evans wasn't overly impressed by Alvarez's repertoire. After closer inspection, he changed his opinion.
"He's got better stuff than you think when you get up there," Evans said. "From the side it didn't look like he was throwing that hard. He's quicker than you think. My hat is off to him and to the guys behind him. They gave him every chance to throw the no-hitter."
There is irony here. Tomorrow the Orioles will celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Palmer's no-hitter here against Oakland.