The iron gates clanged shut on the first season at Camden Yards last night, but not before the Orioles and a raucous sellout crowd came alive for one long last hurrah at the new ballpark.
Brady Anderson hit two home runs in a game for the first time in his career and Leo Gomez delivered a tie-breaking three-run double with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Orioles closed out their home schedule with a 7-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
It didn't change anything. The game was all but meaningless in terms of its impact on the division race, but it apparently meant a lot to the crowd of 45,663, which injected itself into the game during the seventh-inning rally that put the Orioles over the top.
The fans used their rolled-up promotional posters to produce something akin to the Atlanta tomahawk chop. The continuous ovation seemed to rattle a couple of Red Sox relievers and fire up an Orioles offense that had not scored more than four runs in a game since Sept. 4.
The game came down to one at-bat and one 3-2 pitch to Gomez, who pulled a shot down the left-field line to clear the bases and make everyone forget for an evening how poorly the Orioles have played at home for most of the season.
Relief pitcher Scott Taylor, who served it up, probably was wondering if Baltimore fans realized that their team had been mathematically eliminated from the division race the day before.
"It was just like New Year's," manager Johnny Oates said. "Everybody was subdued until the ball comes down and then everyone goes crazy. They were just waiting for that big ball to fall. They were waiting for that last chance to get it all out, and they did."
Anderson added some insurance in the eighth with his second homer of the game, and received a deafening show of appreciation for his breakthrough 1992 season. He had been sitting on 19 home runs since Sept. 14, but he led off the Orioles' first with a drive into the right-field bleachers and wrote his name into the history books by becoming the first American League player ever to have at least 20 home runs, 75 RBI and 50 stolen bases in the same season.
It was something he wanted -- maybe too much.
"I guess you start to get that feeling you're running out of time," Anderson said. "I wasn't really trying to hit that homer, but I knew that I was running out of games to hit it. Before the game, I thought if I do it, now's the time. I was nervous in my first at-bat."
The Orioles had tied a club record by going 21 straight games without scoring more than four runs -- a record that had stood since the team's first year in Baltimore (1954). It would have been deflating to end the home schedule by breaking that dubious record, but Gomez took care of that in dramatic fashion and helped reliever Storm Davis improve his record to 7-3 in the process.
"I knew he [Taylor] was going to throw a fastball," said Gomez, who raised his RBI total to 64. "With the count 3-2 and the bases loaded, that's one of the few times you can look for a certain pitch and know he's going to throw it."
Left-hander Arthur Rhodes also left a good impression with the home crowd, working six innings and giving up three runs on six hits. He struggled with his control (five walks), but he pitched well enough to rate a lively ovation on his way out of the game.
Rhodes has gained in confidence with every 1992 outing, and it is apparent that he is much more comfortable in the major leagues than he was a year ago at this time. Where he once would have left the field inconspicuously, he acknowledged the crowd by waving his cap in every direction before he entered the Orioles' dugout.
It wasn't an overpowering performance. Anderson staked Rhodes to a first-inning lead with his first homer of the game. Randy Milligan added another run later in the inning with a sacrifice fly. But Rhodes could not sneak the lead through the second. He gave up a two-run double to Tim Naehring in the second and walked three batters to force in the go-ahead run in the top of the third.
The rookie left-hander settled down after that, but he would have to settle for a no-decision. Catcher Mark Parent got him off the hook with a game-tying RBI single in the sixth.
"You could characterize Arthur as having good stuff," Oates said. "Tonight he had good stuff, but not good enough command to be effective. The bottom line is that he gave up only three runs. Storm came in and did a good job and Jim Poole came in and closed the door."
Red Sox starter Mike Gardiner did not pitch poorly. He struggled through the first, but gave up just two earned runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings before turning the game over to right-hander Paul Quantrill, who would give up the run-scoring single to Parent.
Red Sox manager Butch Hobson used a total of four relievers, trying to diminish the effect of the raucous crowd of poster-wavers, but Taylor served up the game-winner under what had to feel like playoff pressure.
The Orioles' Brady Anderson became the first American League player and the sixth overall to hit 20 home runs, steal 50 bases and drive in 75 runs.