When chasing Blue Jays, there's always a tomorrow

KEN ROSENTHAL

August 20, 1992|By KEN ROSENTHAL

It was a night when Todd Frohwirth threw everything and Chito Martinez caught nothing, a night when eight runs wasn't enough, a night when Saturday's starting pitcher exhausted himself in relief.

Your basic disaster.

And no harm done.

All signs point to an imminent Orioles collapse, except Toronto won't let it happen. The Blue Jays lost, 10-5, to Milwaukee last night, as the Orioles fell 10-8 to Seattle. For all the ugliness at Camden Yards, the gap remained four games.

Why, the Jays are so benevolent, they couldn't let Frohwirth's ejection pass without sacrificing a player themselves. Thus, Devon White got thrown out in Milwaukee, although he didn't match Frohwirth in the next Olympic demonstration sport -- the ball, cap and glove toss.

"Ain't nothing slippin' away," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said, even though his team has allowed 33 runs in its last three games, and dropped five of its last six. "No one is running away and hiding from us. They could be burying us right now, and they're not."

"They," of course, are the Blow Jays.

New season, different AL East manager, same refrain.

Oh, it's tempting to bury the Orioles right now -- Frohwirth could ++ throw flowers and the rest of his uniform on their grave -- but it's simply not time. Not with a quarter of the season remaining. Not with the 3-4-5 hitters resembling the Three Stooges and the club still contending.

A victory last night would have given this team an enormous lift. But Frohwirth ultimately might have cost the club two games. Not only did he allow Edgar Martinez's first career grand slam, his ejection forced Alan Mills to work 3 2/3 innings and forfeit his Saturday start.

Rochester's Richie Lewis isn't the ideal pitcher to face AL West-leading Oakland, but that might be Oates' only choice. Still, the manager claimed he wasn't angry with Frohwirth, uttering the immortal words, "A man's got to do what a man's got to do."

What, Johnny worry?

It's baseball Valium, chasing Toronto.

Of course, someone forgot to tell Frohwirth. Normally the most mild-mannered of Orioles, he turned into a nuclear submariner after Martinez's grand slam gave Seattle a 7-2 lead. Martinez (.336) is the AL's leading hitter, and Frohwirth thought he had struck him out on the previous pitch.

Actually, Frohwirth said all five of his pitches in the sequence were strikes, but plate umpire Larry Barnett called balls on his 0-1 and 1-2 sliders. The way Frohwirth saw it, both pitches landed a half-inch outside after breaking two feet across the plate.

Starter Arthur Rhodes had created the entire mess by walking the bases loaded with one out in the fourth. Frohwirth's frustration peaked when he couldn't figure out a way to retire Martinez. His solution was a hanging slider that Martinez drilled over the left field wall.

That's when the fun began. Frohwirth stormed toward Barnett, and got ejected before Oates or catcher Chris Hoiles could intercede. He then went completely bonkers, almost certainly earning a fine and suspension for his sidearm sideshow.

First, Frohwirth fired the ball he just received from Barnett into the screen from just outside the first-base line. Then, after continuing toward the dugout, he turned and heaved his cap just inside the first-base line and his glove almost to third base.

The glove traveled perhaps 60 feet.

"Is that a record?" Frohwirth asked.

The Elias Sports Bureau no doubt will check, but Frohwirth didn't just throw his glove for distance, he made that baby sink.

"Maybe next time I'll throw it to home plate," he said.

Sadly, Oates missed the entire act, for he had taken up the discussion with Barnett.

"I knew something was going on behind me," he said, "but I was afraid to turn around and look."

Martinez also ignored the fuss.

"I didn't know what was going on," he said. "I was just touching home plate."

It was that kind of night.

A night when the winning pitcher (Seattle's Mark Grant) allowed two homers and six runs. A night when Chito Martinez misplayed two straight balls in right, dropping one and failing to make a tough catch on another.

Oates kept thinking the Orioles would win -- Cal Ripken nearly ended his 51-game homer drought in the eighth, Randy Milligan singled to bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth -- but in the end he was reduced to scoreboard watching.

Orioles lose, Blue Jays lose.

To paraphrase Yogi:

It ain't over even when Frohwirth flings.

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