TORONTO -- Baltimore Orioles manager John Oates prides himself on his preparedness, which might explain why he takes it so personally when his team looks as if it just stepped out of a Cleveland Indians instructional video.
The Orioles had the Toronto Blue Jays right where they wanted them yesterday, and still found a way -- make that a number of ways -- to turn victory into a 5-4, extra-inning defeat.
Joe Carter tripled off the glove of right fielder Chito Martinez in the 12th inning and scored on a single by Cory Snyder to send reliever Gregg Olson to his fifth defeat of the year, but the deciding run was only the last detail in a defensive breakdown that began soon after the Orioles took a four-run lead against American League ERA leader Tom Candiotti in the second inning.
"We should have won that ballgame, 4-1," said Oates, who proceeded to tick off the reasons they didn't:
* Starter Dave Johnson failed to back up third base on a throw from the outfield in the second inning, and the ball got past third baseman Leo Gomez. One run scored.
* Reliever Todd Frohwirth fielded a seemingly routine double-play comebacker in the sixth and threw the ball behind shortstop Cal Ripken, who somehow managed to catch the ball and slide into second for a force-out. But a good throw might have prevented two runs from scoring later in the inning.
* Martinez's play in the 12th inning was -- in a sense -- strike three for the Orioles. He had to range deep into the right-field corner in pursuit of Carter's slicing fly ball, and there are conflicting opinions on whether he should have gotten it.
"It's a tough catch," Oates said, "but it was catchable. I've seen balls farther away than that get caught."
Martinez would not second-guess himself. He was playing Carter to pull the ball and had to make up a lot of ground to get in position to try to catch it.
"The ball was slicing away from me," he said. "It just tipped of the end of my glove. I wouldn't play it any differently. I gave it my best shot. I just came up a little short."
Snyder bounced a ball past the drawn-up infield to send the Orioles to their third straight defeat. Olson, who got out of a similar jam in the 10th inning, took it on the chin again.
It was Oates' 20th one-run loss of the season, and his team dropped 25 games below .500 for the first time this year. Johnson pitched decently in what might be his last 1991 start, but his performance was soiled by the mental lapse that led to the first Blue Jays run.
The Orioles had scored a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Cal Ripken. They added three in a second inning that featured Leo Gomez's 13th home run. Johnson had a 4-0 lead and two out in the bottom of the inning when back-to-back singles by Kelly Gruber and Turner Ward put him in a compromising position.
Gruber went from first to third on Ward's single to right. Martinez threw the ball on one hop to third and it bounced past Gomez for an error, but the run would not have scored had Johnson been in the right place at the right time. He should have been lined up behind Gomez. Instead, he was standing between home plate (( and third.
"I started toward first base and then the ball went through," Johnson said. "I stopped because I thought that Cal was going to cut the ball off. It was a mental mistake. I should have gone over there no matter what. The ball gets through. They score a run. That's the ballgame."
Johnson pitched five innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on seven hits before Oates brought on Frohwirth with none out and a runner on in the sixth. He gave up a seeing-eye single to Candy Maldonado and got Gruber to bounce to the mound. It was a tailor-made double-play ball, until Frohwirth's sidearm throw to second almost ended up in left-center field.
It was the third time this year that Frohwirth has had trouble with that throw. He threw the ball away on back-to-back bunt plays in a game against the Oakland Athletics. This time, the sheer athletic ability of Ripken kept him from another error.
"I saw [Paul] O'Neill in Cincinnati punt a ball and make a better throw than that," Oates said jokingly.
Ward followed with a high chopper off the glove of a leaping Glenn Davis at first base. If the double play had been made -- and if you can presume that the same events would follow -- Davis would have been playing deeper and he would have retired Ward to end the inning.
Instead, the Blue Jays scored a run on Ward's single and added one on an RBI ground-out by pinch hitter Rance Mulliniks. They tied the game in the eighth on Gruber's 15th home run.
Orioles-Blue Jays scoring
Orioles first: Devereaux singled past shortstop. Devereaustole second. Anderson grounded out to first baseman Olerud, Devereaux to third. C. Ripken hit sacrifice fly to right fielder T. Ward, Devereaux scored. Davis hit by pitch. Milligan struck out. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 1, Blue Jays 0.