These late, great O's are far from dead, so don't leave early,fans

Ken Rosenthal

May 08, 1992|By Ken Rosenthal

Fans get to Camden Yards early.

Now they better stay late.

"All the people who went home early, I hope their radios weren't working in the parking lot, so they couldn't hear the excitement going on," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said.

Hey, all they missed was the Orioles' biggest ninth-inning comeback victory since July 11, 1985, a 5-4 thriller over defending world champion Minnesota, against a closer who last year saved 42 games.

Granted, the Orioles punish every visiting club at their new park, but their improbable rally from a three-run deficit against Rick Aguilera qualified as cruel and unusual.

The biggest hit was a broken-bat single.

The tying run scored on a dribbler to second.

The winning run crossed on a wild pitch.

Afterward, Rick Sutcliffe sat on a couch, dumbfounded.

"I can't tell you the last time I saw that," said the 14-year veteran, who figured to be the losing pitcher after lasting only 4 2/3 innings.

It was wild.

It was wacky.

It was 1989 all over again.

"Ma-gic, ma-gic, ma-gic," first baseman Randy Milligan chanted. "It takes games like that to win pennants."

Well, the chilly weather felt like October, and the electric post-game atmosphere did too. Indeed, it might be a long time TC before Camden Yards produces another ninth inning like this.

The madness started when defensive replacement Jarvis Brown misplayed Glenn Davis' soft fly in rightfield. It didn't end until Aguilera bounced a forkball past catcher Brian Harper, allowing pinch runner Joe Orsulak to skip home.

About 400 things happened in between -- Sam Horn's broken-bat single, Mark McLemore's bold -- from first to third and Chito Martinez's game-tying groundout, to name three -- but we'll take it at-bat by at-bat, from the top.

* Davis. He was 0-for-5 since coming off the disabled list when he led off with his fly to right. Brown, who replaced Pedro Munoz, broke back, then hesitated before rushing forward. It was his first chance at Camden Yards, but he said that was no excuse.

Said Davis, "It wasn't pretty, but I got on base. It gave me a shot of joy."

* Milligan. Last season he ended the Twins' 15-game winning streak with a two-out, two-run double off Aguilera in the bottom of the ninth at Memorial Stadium. This time he hit a double into the rightfield corner, bringing the tying run to the plate.

"That changed the mood of our dugout," Oates said.

* Segui. Why not make him the everyday rightfielder? Batting lefthanded, the switch-hitter drilled an opposite-field single on a 2-0 count, scoring Davis and advancing Milligan to third. It would be the Orioles' last hard-hit ball of the inning.

McLemore ran for Segui.

Horn hit for Bill Ripken.

The Orioles trailed by two.

* Horn. Now the remaining fans in the crowd of 39,253 were on their feet cheering, unaware that forkballers usually leave Big Sam reeling. True to form, Horn lunged after Aguilera's first pitch. But he settled down and worked the count to 3-2.

His hit dropped into shallow left-center, scoring Milligan. McLemore, in perhaps the gutsiest play of the season, never hesitated around second, even though it's a cardinal rule not to make the first or last out of an inning at third base.

Leftfielder Shane Mack's throw not only was too late, it allowed Horn, buoyed by his first triple Tuesday, to advance to second. Aggressive baserunning made it all happen, but Mack blamed only himself for not throwing to second, keeping Horn at first and preserving a possible double play.

"I took a chance, but you've got to play it safe there," said Mack, who made a different type of bonehead play running into the final out of the Twins' 5-4 loss to the Orioles on April 29.

Orsulak ran for Horn.

"I was hoping Johnny would send somebody to rescue me," Horn said.

"He didn't have to worry about that," replied Oates.

The Orioles trailed by one.

* Brady Anderson. First base open, can't pitch to Brady Ruth.

Intentional walk.

* Martinez. Oates wanted him hitting for Tim Hulett in this spot; Martinez is the guy whose only three RBIs are on bases-loaded walks. The Twins moved their corner infielders in, but kept their middle infielders at double-play depth.

Martinez, batting .091, hit his slow roller to second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, one of the most intelligent players in the game. Knoblauch looked to throw home, but the speedy McLemore was bearing down on the plate.

"I didn't have a chance," Knoblauch said.

Instead, he threw to first for the sure out, reasoning that if he had gone home and failed to get McLemore, Cal Ripken would have batted with the bases loaded.

Sound logic.

Tie score.

* Cal Ripken.

First base open, can't pitch to him either. Intentional walk.

* Mike Devereaux. Another dramatic homer down the leftfield line would have been perfect, but it never got that far.

Aguilera tried to keep the ball down to induce a double play and send the game into extra innings. He got ahead of Devereaux 1-2, then bounced his wild pitch in front of the plate, allowing Orsulak to score.

"Everyone came through at the right time," Devereaux said. "Even me."

Better stay late, folks.

Orioles, 5-4.

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