Rangers are cure for what ails Orioles

JOHN EISENBERG

July 20, 1992|By JOHN EISENBERG

ARLINGTON, Texas -- From the first pitch, it was baseball by David Lynch. A strange night at the park.

Sort of a "Twin Peaks" meets Cal Ripken Sr. kind of thing.

An unassisted double play ended with a catcher standing on third base. The Orioles balked in a run for the first time this season.

The game was supposed to be postponed by flood, but there was just one problem: It didn't rain.

The only thing that was not strange was that the Orioles won. The Orioles have not lost to the Rangers since Earl Weaver had dark hair.

That is barely an exaggeration. You have to understand.

The (not Cleveland) Indians had Custer's army, charging over the hill with a bad scouting report.

The Globetrotters have the Washington Generals, making sure the game is given away.

Bush had Dukakis. In the tank.

Everyone has a sucker.

The Orioles have the Rangers.

In sickness and in health. In seasons when the Orioles begin with 21-game losing streaks. In seasons when they contend.

Makes no difference.

The Orioles could spot the Rangers a run a game. Tip pitches. Give them an extra outfielder.

Start Bob Milacki.

It would not matter. Something bizarre would happen and the Rangers would give it away.

Against the Orioles, at home or away, the competent Rangers become the '62 Mets. The Broncos in the Super Bowl. Angola against the Dream Team.

Suckers.

Since July 9, 1988, the Orioles are 32-12 against the Rangers.

That's a .727 winning percentage, evidence of tampering with baseball's natural laws.

"Some teams just have a hex on other teams," said Orioles first-base coach Davey Lopes, who had the same job with the Rangers from 1988 to 1991.

If you did not believe in this hex before last night, you do now. Hitchcock painted this one.

Just as the game began, the hot, sunny evening disappeared as a forbidding cover of dark clouds moved in.

The temperature dropped 15 degrees during the first three innings. Gusts of wind sent hot-dog wrappers skittering across the outfield.

The Orioles' Arthur Rhodes walked the first two batters. Then struck out the next three. Then walked the first two in the next inning.

Pitching coach Dick Bosman came to the mound to calm down Rhodes. The Rangers' Dickie Thon mashed a ball toward the center-field bleachers.

Mike Devereaux started backpedaling, screeched to a stop and sprinted forward to make the catch. A little wind.

Outside the park, eight security officers wrestled with a giant, inflatable soft-drink can that had been blown from its mooring.

The thunderhead hung in the air just beyond the bleachers, drenching the neighborhood across the street.

Not a drop touched the ballpark. The sky turned pink. The wind never stopped gusting.

Thirty-three outs came on pops and flies. Everyone staggered around trying to measure the blowing balls.

The eight security officers succeeded in apprehending the inflatable soft-drink can.

Bill Ripken attempted to squeeze home Joe Orsulak on two straight pitches in the fifth. His first bunt spun foul with more backspin than a Faldo 9-iron. His second was caught by Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who kept on running to third and doubled up Orsulak.

Rhodes carried a no-hit bid into the sixth. With six walks. The Rangers' Rafael Palmeiro singled to start a rally. Rhodes balked in the first run of the game.

The Orioles tied it in the eighth. Rangers third baseman Dean Palmer misplayed a routine grounder, allowing the second run to score. Unearned run. Perfect or what?

The Orioles lead the league in defense. The Rangers are dead last. Forty-six errors to 89. It is usually that way, or very nearly. So this hex is not a complete mystery.

The Orioles won it in the 10th.

It was their third straight win over the Rangers.

In the three losses, the Rangers managed a total of six hits, breaking a franchise record for futility set in 1978.

Todd Frohwirth was the winning pitcher. He has thrown 16 1/3 innings against the Rangers in his lifetime. And never given up a run. Not one.

"What were those totals again?" Lopes said upon hearing the news.

Thirty-two wins to 12.

"Boy," he said.

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