For Orioles, two runs a day help stop Jays from pulling away

Ken Rosenthal

September 16, 1992|By Ken Rosenthal

The Orioles' magic number is two.

That's all the runs they ever get.

And often all they ever need.

They required 14 innings to meet yesterday's quota, and actually they cheated, scoring their first run last night, and their second early this morning.

What can we say when Brady Anderson goes 0-for-6 and is named HTS Player of the Game? When the pivotal hit is a double-play ball that ricochets off the opposing pitcher's derriere?

Orioles 2, Royals 1.

And the pennant race continues.

"The offense did its job," manager Johnny Oates said, trying to keep a straight face. "We got enough."

Yep, the Orioles just pounded those six future Hall of Famers who pitched for the Royals: Luis Aquino, Juan Berenguer and Rusty Meacham, Steve Shifflet, Mike Magnante and Bill Sampen.

It's a miracle they're still only four games behind Toronto. They've scored only 18 runs in their last nine games, and more than one run in only two of their last 85 innings.

But who's counting?

By the time this one ended at 12:02 a.m., mass delirium had set in. Anderson's game-winning sacrifice fly scored pinch-runner Steve Scarsone -- after winning pitcher Storm Davis struck out the side in the top half and nearly lost the game.

We kid you not.

With two out, Gregg Jefferies reached first when catcher Chris Hoiles failed to catch strike three. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, then was stranded after an intentional walk.

Passed ball, wild pitch, intentional walk.

The Orioles would kill for such a rally.

"At that point, I was looking to see if there was a moon in the sky, or a black cat running across the field," Oates said.

Actually, something even stranger happened: At 11:55 p.m., the Orioles announced that the remaining fans with standing-room tickets could sit in the lower deck -- at no extra charge!

Meanwhile, in the Orioles' dugout, Rick Sutcliffe kept needling the hitters. At one point, he grumbled, "All I heard in spring training was that if we get any pitching . . ."

"He was looking for a bat in the 13th," Oates said, smiling. "He was saying, 'I can do this, and I haven't hit in two years.' "

Sutcliffe was kidding, but the pitchers won this game. Arthur Rhodes looked magnificent working into the eighth. Todd Frohwirth pitched four shutout innings, Jim Poole threw 87 mph and Davis improved his record to 6-2.

Frohwirth leads the AL with 101 relief innings after finishing second with 96 1/3 last season; the Orioles better protect him in the expansion draft, or he'll wind up as the Florida Marlins' closer.

Poole, 1-6 with a 5.32 ERA at Rochester, was pitching for only the second time since rejoining the Orioles, but suddenly he's the No. 1 left-hander in the bullpen, ahead of Mike Flanagan and Pat Clements.

In any case, it's a sin the game lasted as long as it did. The Royals are a mess, having lost six of seven and 10 of 13. Jefferies bats leadoff one day, cleanup the next. Bob Melvin hit fifth last night -- in his first start in 36 days.

Question: How do you not score when you get a leadoff triple and two-out single in the same inning? Answer: When in between, you hit a ball back to the pitcher, who starts a 1-5-2-4 double play.

The Royals began the season 1-16, and still bear a frightening resemblance to the '88 Orioles. Was that Jeff Stone or David Howard caught off third? Wade Rowdon or Keith Miller nailed at second?

Manager Hal McRae labeled the baserunning "atrocious" and "inexcusable." Oates, on the other hand, was overjoyed by the Orioles' first successful execution of a rundown in weeks. Of course, they did turn a 1-5-2-5-1 double play Sunday.

Reliever Gregg Olson took a ball off his rear to start that thing of beauty, and Tim Hulett struck Sampen in approximately the same spot to set up Anderson's game-winning sacrifice fly.

With one out, Scarsone was running from first on the pitch.

Shortstop Curtis Wilkerson went to cover second, and the ball took a crazy bounce off Sampen to the area he vacated. Scarsone alertly raced to third, and moments later he was home.

Scarsone is the guy the Orioles acquired for Juan Bell.

See? That Eddie Murray trade is finally paying off.

With a base open, McRae could have walked Anderson to face David Segui, or summoned left-hander Dennis Moeller for a more advantageous matchup. But he elected to pitch to Anderson, who said it was the first time he had gone 0-for-6.

"Can you blame him?" Anderson said.

Nah, but the Orioles were bound to score.

They always get their precious two.

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