Twins' Tapani tops Orioles again, 5-2 Sutcliffe beaten

Gomez error crucial

July 11, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer Sutcliffe beaten in pitching rematch

Last Sunday, Rick Sutcliffe and Kevin Tapani battled at the Metrodome in a dazzling game, before Sutcliffe and Gregg Olson yielded two runs in the last inning in Minnesota Twins' one-run victory.

Last night, Sutcliffe and Tapani went at it again, and although the picture was not as sublime as Sunday, the result was similar, as the Twins earned a 5-2 win before 45,458 at Oriole Park.

"I'll triple-check the schedule to make sure we don't play those guys again," Sutcliffe said.

Neither Tapani (10-5) nor Sutcliffe (10-8) was as sharp as in Sunday's 2-1 Minnesota victory, but Tapani was effective when he had to be and got the win.

Sutcliffe shut out the Twins for the first four innings but was tagged for four runs and five hits in the fifth inning.

"I've let two innings the last two times out get away from me. They [the Twins] take advantage of those things," said Sutcliffe.

Tapani, however, was in control when he had to be, giving up just two runs and four hits in seven innings.

The Orioles had a final chance to get in the game in the eighth, when, with two out, Cal Ripken singled to left and Randy Milligan walked.

However, reliever Tom Edens got Chito Martinez to fly to left, and the Orioles were done for the evening.

Rick Aguilera entered in the ninth and struck out Mark McLemore and pinch hitter Sam Horn to earn his 25th save.

The Orioles, who responded to Minnesota's four-run fifth with two runs in the bottom of the inning, saw their usual peerless defense let them down for once. Third baseman Leo Gomez, who had committed just six errors in his previous 156 games, had two miscues last night.

The first of those errors, in the fifth inning with the bases loaded, came on a potential double-play grounder that would have ended the inning. Instead, the Twins went on to score three more runs, and the Orioles had blown a chance to gain ground on the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.

"The thing we've done the best in the three years I've been here is catch the ball," said manager Johnny Oates. "We didn't execute and we didn't make the plays tonight."

Sutcliffe ran into his only jam of the night in the fifth, when the Twins strung together five hits and Gomez's error for four runs.

Chili Davis led off the inning with a single to right. Brian Harper followed with a broken-bat single through the hole at short. Pedro Munoz hit a dribbler up the middle that McLemore knocked down to save a run, leaving the bases loaded with none out.

From there, the damage started when Scott Leius tapped a grounder down the third-base line that Gomez could not pick up cleanly. The play was scored a hit, and the Twins had their first run.

Sutcliffe struck out Greg Gagne swinging for the first out, but Shane Mack hit a grounder to Gomez. The normally sure-handed third baseman bobbled the ball, and Harper scored to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead.

Harper's run was the first unearned run surrendered by Sutcliffe all season.

Next was Chuck Knoblauch, who hit a bouncer over Gomez into left to score Mack and Leius, and the Twins were ahead 4-0, with Kirby Puckett, the American League's leading hitter, and Hrbek coming to the plate.

But Sutcliffe worked out of the inning, getting Puckett to fly to right and Hrbek to pop to first.

Gomez, who later committed an error on a wild throw on a grounder by Munoz in the sixth, attempted to atone for his error in the bottom of the fifth, leading off with a double off the right-field scoreboard.

McLemore walked, then Tackett grounded to third to force Gomez, leaving runners on first and second with one out and the top of the order coming to bat.

On a 3-2 count, Brady Anderson singled to right, driving in McLemore. Munoz momentarily bobbled the ball, and it appeared that Tackett, who like McLemore had been running on the pitch, could have scored, but third-base coach Cal Ripken Sr. held him there.

That was academic, because Mike Devereaux doubled into the left-field corner, scoring Tackett and moving Anderson to third.

Twins manager Tom Kelly chose to pitch to Ripken, who hasn't driven in a run in 16 games, with first base open, and Ripken popped out to Harper to end the inning.

Sutcliffe's strong suit all season has been durability, and last night was no exception, as he became the first major-league pitcher to make 20 starts this season and the first Orioles pitcher to do that before the All-Star break since Mike Boddicker in 1985.

In addition, Sutcliffe, who went the route throwing 128 pitches, already has thrown five complete games this year, the most by an Oriole since Jeff Ballard threw six in 1988.

"He's a battler. He gets the bases loaded and is able to get out of it. He could have gotten out without any runs scoring. He's one guy you can go longer with because he's resourceful," said Oates.

Through the first three innings, Sutcliffe was superb, throwing just 43 pitches and allowing no hits to the potent Minnesota lineup, which came in averaging a major-league high .282.

Hrbek, who has more home runs against Baltimore pitching than any other active player, collected the first Minnesota hit against Sutcliffe in the fourth inning with two out.

But Tapani, who had allowed just two earned runs and 16 hits in his previous four starts, was just as sharp in the early going, allowing just a leadoff hit to Milligan in the second inning.

Tapani struck out two in the first three innings, and got defensive help on a fine spear by third baseman Leius on a sharp grounder from Anderson to close the third inning.

"He's tough," said Sutcliffe of Tapani. "He's got real good location, and great movement on his breaking ball."

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