The real Richie Lewis has not stood up yet, but it might be awhile before he gets another chance.
Lewis gave up five runs and was gone in the third inning of the Orioles' 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics last night at Camden Yards. He will be headed back to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings by game time today, but not without some comforting words from manager Johnny Oates.
"I'm sure Richie Lewis has thrown the ball a lot better this year than in the two times we've seen him," Oates said, "and I would guess that the two teams he has faced [the A's and Boston Red Sox] are a little better than what he's used to facing."
The A's have the best record in the American League and last night's victory increased their West Division lead to six games. The loss dropped the Orioles three games behind the Toronto Blue Jays, who defeated the Minnesota Twins, 4-2, last night at the Metrodome in another potential playoff preview series.
Lewis, who was recalled to make the spot start after the Orioles were forced to shuffle the rotation this week, had struggled through five innings against the Red Sox in a similar situation July 31, but won in a rain-shortened game. This time, he ran into some bad luck in the first inning and never really recovered.
He gave up eight hits before giving way in the third to reliever Todd Frohwirth, whose ejection on Wednesday night forced fifth starter Alan Mills back into the bullpen and left the Orioles with a hole in the starting rotation.
having trouble handling this because there haven't been a lot of days when the money's on the table that I haven't come through," said Lewis, who will be moved off the 25-man roster to make room for Triple-A pitcher Anthony Telford today.
"I appreciate the confidence [Oates] has shown in me. To give the ball to a guy with six or eight days in the big leagues for a team two games out is a compliment."
Frohwirth went a long way to try and make things right. He pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings while the Orioles tried to dig out of the early hole. The Orioles got 6 2/3 innings of shutout relief in all -- including appearances by Pat Clements and Gregg Olson -- but the A's got some great middle and late relief of their own.
Right-hander Jeff Parrett took over for struggling starter Kevin Campbell and pitched three innings of one-hit relief to earn his ninth victory in 10 decisions.
Dennis Eckersley gave up one hit over two innings to earn his 39th save. The A's are 51-0 in games in which Eckersley has appeared.
Once again, the A's rebounded quickly from a major setback. They found out yesterday that major-league home run leader Mark McGwire would be lost for at least two weeks with a strained muscle in his right side, but they responded the same way they have responded to such adversity all year.
They pushed the Twins a little farther back and gave themselves some more breathing room in the AL West. They might need it after McGwire goes on the disabled list today.
"We need to keep winning and not worry about anyone else," said A's manager Tony La Russa.
The Orioles went down too far too fast with Lewis on the mound. Perhaps Mills would have run into the same problems, but he has been effective in every role he has played this year.
The A's could not complain. They scored three times in the first inning and continued to chip away until they ran Lewis out of the game under a shower of base hits.
Rickey Henderson drew a walk to open the game and Jerry Browne put Lewis in an instant jam with a hit-and-run nubber that rolled -- slowly -- through the area vacated when second baseman Bill Ripken broke to the bag. The A's would go on to score three times without hitting the ball well.
Jose Canseco hit a grounder down the third-base line for a run-scoring double, Harold Baines brought home a run with a ground out to first and Terry Steinbach made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly to right.
The A's added a run in the second on an RBI single by Henderson and sent Lewis to the clubhouse with three straight one-out singles for an additional run in the third, but the Orioles did not step quietly aside.
Campbell was in trouble from the start, too. The Orioles hit the ball harder than the A's in the first inning, but came away with nothing to show for a walk and a pair of singles. They would rectify that in the second with three runs on three hits and two walks.
Chito Martinez opened the inning with a leadoff walk and Leo Gomez followed with an infield hit. Ripken brought home the first run with a one-out single and Randy Milligan made it a one-run game with a two-run single to right.