The Baltimore Orioles are holding a series of giveaway promotions to celebrate their final days and nights at Memorial Stadium, but they were shamed by the generosity of the Texas Rangers last night.
The road-weary Rangers made two errors and mishandled two bunts in the bottom of the 12th inning to treat the Orioles to a 4-3 victory in the first game of a rain-makeup doubleheader, then made a couple of costly errors in the nightcap to drop an 8-7 decision.
The sweep was the second for the Orioles in two 1991 doubleheaders. They went into extra innings twice to sweep a marathon twin bill from the Kansas City Royals on June 23 at Royals Stadium. This time, they needed nearly eight hours and an American League-record 13 pitchers to take two from the Rangers.
"I think I know how they feel over there," manager John Oates said. "They probably feel about the same way we did a few weeks ago when we played a game in California, then flew overnight to Kansas City and lost a 15-inning game the next night. They lost a 14-7 game last night and then got in here at
4:30 a.m. and have to play a doubleheader."
It showed. Leo Gomez scored the winning run in the opener when Rangers reliever Kenny Rogers picked up a sacrifice bunt attempt by Juan Bell and threw wildly past third base.
Gomez had reached base leading off the 12th when Mario Diaz bobbled his routine ground ball to short. He was safe at second when catcher Geno Petralli fielded a sacrifice bunt attempt by Bob Melvin and threw too late to second.
If that wasn't bad enough, the Rangers were outguessed on a squeeze play in the top of the inning and wasted a promising opportunity to take the lead.
The Orioles used seven pitchers to shut down a Rangers lineup that had scored an average of 7.3 runs over the club's previous 16 games. Right-hander Dave Johnson pitched the final inning to earn the victory -- his first in relief.
Johnson might have ended up with another loss if Melvin had not called for a pitchout with Gary Pettis at third and Diaz at the plate with one out in the top of the 12th. Pettis broke for the plate and was tagged out in a rundown.
"Bob called that himself," Oates said. "Give him all the credit for that. It was not called from the dugout."
"It was a good guess," Rangers manager Bobby Valentine said. "There wasn't any sign so he didn't pick up a sign. We might not have acted right. They might have seen something."
The Rangers self-destructed after that. Each of the two sacrifice bunt attempts in the bottom of the 12th could just as easily have led to an out, but Petralli's throw was low and Rogers' was wide left.
The Orioles appeared to have the game in hand in the ninth
inning, with stopper Gregg Olson on the mound and Pettis at the plate with a runner on and two out, but things are not always as they appear.
Olson entered the game with a career 0.00 ERA against the Texas Rangers. In 14 appearances, he had held them to an .080 batting average. Pettis entered the ninth inning with three strikeouts in three at-bats, none of them coming against a strikeout pitcher of Olson's caliber.
So what happens? Pettis pokes a single into left field and Olson walks Rafael Palmeiro to load the bases and bring up Diaz, who entered the game as part of the defensive shuffle after Julio Franco left with an injured heel in the seventh inning.
Diaz hit a chopper to third that took a kangaroo hop off the Gomez's shoulder and tied the score, sending the game into extra innings. Olson was charged with his seventh blown save -- a career high -- as the Orioles turned a tidy little victory into another extra-inning marathon.
Right-hander Bob Milacki (7-6) has been the most consistent pitcher in the Orioles starting rotation, for all the good it did him last night. He pitched six innings and gave up two earned runs, but came up empty when his one-run lead fell victim to Diaz's bad-hop single in the ninth.
Life isn't fair. Milacki pitched six strong innings. Johnson pitched two innings. Todd Frohwirth pitched 2 1/3 in the nightcap. Guess who didn't get a victory last night.
Milacki was coming off a seven-inning performance in which he was victimized by the long ball -- three of them, to be exact -- and it was a long home run by Steve Buechele in the sixth inning that accounted for both of the runs he gave up last night. But he tempted fate on a number of occasions, allowing the leadoff man to reach base in six of the seven innings he started.
"Bob threw well," Oates said. "Those guys have been scoring seven runs per game the last three weeks. For our guys to hold them to three runs over 12 innings, that's got to be a big performance."
Rangers starter Brian Bohanon deserved better, too. He worked eight innings and gave up three runs on five hits in his third start of 1991.
The Orioles were less polite with second-game starter Jose Guzman, who gave up eight runs on eight hits over 2 2/3 innings. Every player in the Orioles lineup reached base at least once in the first three innings, as Baltimore scored four runs in the second inning and four more in the third, but a three of the runs were unearned.
The Rangers had taken the lead with two runs off rookie starter Stacy Jones in the first inning and rallied to make it a one-run game, as Oates sent another parade of relievers to the mound. Frohwirth was credited with his fourth victory for a 2 1/3 -inning, one-hit performance. Olson got it right this time, getting the final two outs to record his 25th save of the year.
Olson was the 13th and final pitcher to take the mound for the Orioles, which set an AL record and tied the major-league mark set by the Milwaukee Braves in 1963 and tied by the San Diego Padres in 1977.