Rangers crash O's Party Palmer, Gonzalez, not sutcliffe, Get repeat glory, 7-4 ORIOLES OPENING DAY '93

April 06, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,The OriolesStaff Writer

Everyone wanted it to be just like Opening Day '92, most of all Rick Sutcliffe. He had opened Camden Yards in style with a five-hit shutout last year and he went to the mound yesterday with visions of another trend-setting performance.

The Orioles can only hope that it wasn't.

The Texas Rangers knocked Sutcliffe all over the park in a five-run third inning and went on to score a 7-4 season-opening victory before a crowd of 46,145 -- the largest in the brief history of Oriole Park.

Third baseman Dean Palmer and defending American League home run champion Juan Gonzalez hit two home runs apiece to serve notice that the Rangers are going to be a pitcher's nightmare this season. Sutcliffe was the first to wake up screaming, but he probably won't be the last.

"They can throw a pretty good lineup up there," he said afterward. "There are some clubs that will let you get away with throwing high fastballs, but that certainly isn't one of them."

Sutcliffe, who had been staked to a one-run lead in the first inning, didn't get away with anything in the third. He gave up a one-out triple to rookie outfielder David Hulse and a run-scoring single to Rafael Palmeiro, and that was before the Rangers had given any hint of what was to come. Gonzalez unloaded on a 3-0 fastball with two outs and Palmer would add another two-run shot to give Texas a four-run lead.

There was no point in second-guessing Sutcliffe's performance. He was too busy doing that himself. He wanted to throw another Opening Day shutout and he let that alter his approach after the Rangers broke through in the third.

"Looking back at it, when they got their first run, that was a big letdown for me and it shouldn't have been," he said. "We got a run in the first and you try to make it last. I got a little too disappointed and kind of got mad at myself.

"I know that Gonzalez is going to be swinging 3-0. I had been nibbling and it wouldn't have hurt me that much to walk him. But I got mad and tried to pop him up. There are times when your adrenalin can get the best of you. I reared back and made a bad pitch. They are too good a fastball-hitting team to try to do that."

Sutcliffe settled down to get through the fourth and fifth, but gave up a second home run to Palmer before giving way to the Orioles' bullpen. He was charged with six earned runs on nine hits and suffered his third loss in eight career Opening Day decisions.

"That's a lot of runs to let your starter give up," said manager Johnny Oates, "but it was one of those days when two two-run homers and you're out of it."

There was no room for comparison with Sutcliffe's 2-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Opening Day a year ago, just as there was no comparison between the Indians' lineup he faced last year and the one that the Rangers have assembled for 1993. They hit four home runs and Jose Canseco barely made a sound.

But the quality of the competition was not the major difference. Sutcliffe was not nearly as sharp yesterday as he was in his Orioles debut.

"I thought he struggled all day," Oates said. "He pitches deep into the count sometimes by choice, but today it wasn't by choice. Last year, he pitched nine innings with the same number of pitches he needed to go six today."

Rangers starter Craig Lefferts was not overpowering either, but he survived a difficult six innings to make the Orioles pay for their decision to let him get away last winter. He gave up four runs on seven hits and had to work out of trouble on several occasions, but he got the victory in a start that originally was scheduled to go to injured right-hander Kevin Brown.

Reliever Todd Burns helped out with two scoreless innings of relief and newcomer Tom Henke finished up with a perfect ninth to record his first save as a Ranger.

Though it was a cold, dreary day at Camden Yards, it was not an altogether negative experience for the Orioles, who staged a three-run rally in the fifth to get back into the game. The upgraded offensive lineup gave every indication that the club will feature a more consistent scoring attack than it did a year ago.

Left fielder Brady Anderson didn't give anyone time to question his ability to follow up his tremendous '92 season. He doubled to lead off the first inning and delivered a three-hit performance that set the tempo at the top of the Orioles' batting order.

Mike Devereaux didn't miss a beat, either. He came back from his 107-RBI performance in 1992 to deliver a two-run double in the fifth inning. Cal Ripken had the Orioles' other two RBI.

"Brady and Devo picked up this year where they left off last

year," Ripken said. "After you get over the disappointment of losing, you have to sit back and find a couple of positives in each game."

Ripken is coming off a difficult 1992 season, so the fact that he was able to get off to an upbeat start had to be a positive development, too.

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