Five-run sixth inning helps Orioles score first win, 5-3

April 11, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- The dam finally broke. The Orioles finally got a hit with a runner in scoring position last night, then another and another and another and everything was all right again.

That's how it happens. They went an incredible 31 straight at-bats without getting a hit with a runner in scoring position, then got four of them in a row in the sixth inning to defeat the Seattle Mariners, 5-3, and record their first victory of the 1993 season.

Shortstop Cal Ripken did the honors. He delivered a single off rookie starter John Cummings with runners at first and second to end astring of squandered run-production opportunities that dated to the first game of the season.

The Orioles had gone 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday, then came up empty 13 times on Friday. The string kept growing until the sixth inning last night, when the offense finally ignited for five runs and carried Rick Sutcliffe to victory.

Cummings was working on a 3-0 shutout in his major-league debut, but it came unraveled in a hurry. Ripken's hit loaded the bases and Glenn Davis got the Orioles on the board with an RBI single. Harold Baines followed with a two-run double to knock Cummings out of the game. Tim Hulett gave the Orioles the lead with another two-run double, this against reliever Dave Wainhouse.

It was a big night for everyone, but most of all for Ripken, who had four hits and raised his early-season batting average to an even .500. He has hit safely in each of the Orioles first four games of the season.

Sutcliffe had to feel fortunate, too. He struggled through the early innings and appeared to be on the way to his second defeat in as many starts, but the club rallied from three runs down to even his record at 1-1.

He worked eight innings and gave up just four hits, but he walked seven and didn't really look to be in control until his last couple innings. He threw 132 pitches before turning the game over to stopper Gregg Olson, who pitched a scoreless ninth and recorded his first save of the season.

If the Orioles thought they had used up all their bad luck in the first three games of the season, they had to think again in the second inning, when right fielder Sherman Obando was forced out of the game with an injury after his first major-league at-bat.

Obando reached first on a throwing error by Mariners third baseman Wally Backman, but he pulled up lame with cramps in both legs and had to be replaced by Luis Mercedes.

Sutcliffe already was trying to dig himself out of a hole by then. He allowed a two-run home run to first baseman Tino Martinez in the first inning to pick up right where he left off in the season opener against the Texas Rangers.

The veteran right-hander gave up three home runs during his six-inning performance on Opening Day, two of them to Rangers third baseman Dean Palmer and the other to defending American League home run champion Juan Gonzalez. When Martinez drove a high fastball over the scoreboard in right field to give Seattle a two-run lead, he also raised a troubling question.

Why has Sutcliffe been so vulnerable to the long ball this season?

He gave up 20 homers in 36 starts last year and has averaged one every 12 innings throughout his major league career, but he gave up four in his first 6 2/3 innings this season.

Sutcliffe blamed pitch selection in the opener and could have done the same last night. Martinez got all of a pitch that was up in the strike zone and hit his second home run of the young season. Sutcliffe kept the ball in the park after that, but he could not keep it in the strike zone.

He wasn't as wild as Ben McDonald the night before, but he walked seven through the first five innings to keep himself knee-deep in trouble.

The Mariners had the bases loaded in the third and came up empty. They scored a run in the fifth, but left the bases loaded again.

l The Orioles, meanwhile, were still trying to find a way to get a runner home from second base.

They finally did against Cummings, who made the jump from Single A to make his major-league debut last night. Cummings had carried a shutout that far, but came unraveled in a shower of hits that carried the Orioles into the lead.

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