Lefferts' debut complete, but Angels win, 5-2 2 homers decisive

Orioles fall 1 1/2 back

September 07, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Newly acquired left-hander Craig Lefferts just wanted to join in the fun, but he'll have to wait at least until his next start to record his first Orioles victory.

Not that his debut yesterday was so bad. It wasn't. He pitched the first complete game of his career, but he gave up a tie-breaking, three-run home run to rookie Chad Curtis that carried the California Angels to a 5-2 victory.

The loss ended the Orioles' seven-game winning streak and sent them back to Baltimore 1 1/2 games behind the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays, who completed a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins with a 4-2 victory.

Lefferts gave up all five runs on two pitches. He surrendered a two-run homer to Gary Gaetti in the first inning, but it was the high fastball to Curtis in the fifth that would force the Orioles to "settle" for seven victories on the nine-game West Coast swing.

Angels starter Bert Blyleven gave up two runs on four hits over six innings to record his 287th victory and avert a three-game Orioles sweep, but the focus was on Lefferts and his first attempt to influence the American League East race.

"I was so anxious to contribute," Lefferts said, "and I really only threw a couple of bad pitches. Other than that, I was happy with the outing, but, unfortunately, we lost the ballgame."

The Orioles acquired Lefferts from the San Diego Padres last Monday for minor-league pitcher Erik Schullstrom and Triple-A infielder Ricky Gutierrez. The deal was made right after Lefferts pitched, so he was not available to enter the Orioles rotation until yesterday.

He struggled at the outset, giving up a one-out single to Luis Sojo before Gaetti tomahawked a high screwball into the left-field bleachers. But the Orioles came back to tie the score in the third on a leadoff home run by Chris Hoiles and a run-scoring double by Mike Devereaux.

Lefferts appeared to be settling into a groove in the middle innings, but a leadoff single by catcher Ron Tingley in the fifth set off the chain of events that would send Lefferts to his first American League loss.

Third baseman Damion Easley followed with a sacrifice bunt that bounced chest high in front of Lefferts, but the ball popped out of his glove and he could not make a clean play at first. Sojo followed with another sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring position with one out.

Curtis got ahead on the count and hit a towering fly ball that kept sailing until it had cleared the 386 sign in center field.

"I threw a screwball that he fouled off and then threw two fastballs that missed badly," Lefferts said. "I got the next one up. When he hit it, I thought it was a sacrifice fly, but it just kept going.

"It's ironic that my first complete game is a loss. That's the difference in the two leagues. In the National League, I would have pitched five or six innings today. When I came up to bat after that, I would have been hit for. I've got a lot to look forward to. I'm going to need to get stretched out a little bit. Today was the day to get stretched out."

Manager Johnny Oates liked what he saw of his new pitcher -- ormost of what he saw. Lefferts pitched pretty well if you take away the two home-run pitches, but Oates knows that you can't take anything away at this point in the season.

"From what I'd heard, I thought he might pitch in a little more than he did," Oates said, "but he had a decent screwball. The big pitch was the fastball to Curtis. That's the difference in the game. Give the guy [Curtis] credit, he put a charge into it. If we had gotten the ball down, I know he doesn't hit it that far."

The Orioles had one big chance to come back. They had runners at first and second with no one out in the eighth inning and came away with nothing.

Randy Milligan and Devereaux opened the inning with back-to-back singles, but the heart of the batting order could not capitalize on a promising situation. Glenn Davis popped up on the infield and Cal Ripken grounded into a funny-looking double play.

It could have been a routine double play, but Easley apparently forgot that there was one out and ran down Milligan between third and home instead of going 5-4-3 to end the inning. He tagged out Milligan and then wheeled around to throw out Devereaux going to third.

Why didn't Easley go the normal route? Why did Devereaux try to go to third in a three-run game with the potential tying run coming to the plate? Why do the Orioles have a 2-9 record closing out road trips? Go figure.

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