A close call gives Oates and Orioles reason to believe Late rally falls short in 7-6 loss to Royals

April 24, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The season-opening slump of 1993 has reached the point where the Orioles have to take each positive development and savor it, even when it does not come in an entirely positive context.

Last night provided the perfect example. The Kansas City Royals scored a 7-6 victory in the opener of a three-game series at Royals Stadium. They knocked left-hander Arthur Rhodes out in the second inning. They pushed the Orioles a little deeper into the American League East cellar. So why was manager Johnny Oates wearing a big grin after the game?

Because he could see light at the end of the dugout. He watched the Orioles rally in the late innings and score three times in the ninth to turn an early-inning blowout into a one-run game. It was a loss that had a tiny victory trapped inside, and Oates is willing to take any kind of victory at this point.

"You better believe it," he said as he poked at his postgame meal. "Look, I'm eating. This is the first time I've felt like eating all year. . . . What does that tell you?"

Good question. It might tell you that the club's 4-10 start has forced him to lower his expectations or risk starvation. But Oates was very upbeat after the Orioles rebounded from a 7-0 deficit to push the Royals' bullpen to the limit.

"The way things were going, this club could have packed it in and gone down 12-0 on three hits very easily," Oates said. "Tonight, it would have been easy to fold the tents. Don't get me wrong. I'm not doing jumping jacks, but there were some encouraging signs. It's coming."

It better get here soon. The situation is not irreversible, but they need to do something before they put themselves at a tremendous divisional disadvantage. The Orioles trail the first-place Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox by 5 1/2 games.

Rhodes put the club in a big hole last night with a 1 1/3 -inning performance that equaled the shortest by an Orioles starter this year and raised his ERA to 13.97.

The Royals batted around in a seven-run second inning that included a bases-empty homer by Kevin McReynolds and a three-run shot by Brian McRae. Rhodes was charged with six runs on four hits and took his first loss of the season.

"We've got work to do, no doubt about it," Oates said. "We're in a mode of throwing instead of pitching. He's got plenty of good stuff."

He just didn't put it in the right places, so the Royals put it wherever they wanted.

Seven straight batters reached base, the rally culminating in a lengthy showdown between McRae and reliever Mark Williamson that ended with a game-breaking home run.

Oates should have been talked out. He had spent much of yesterday in meetings, first by conference call with the Orioles' lTC front office, then face-to-face with his coaching staff and eventually one-on-one with several players. He was looking for something that would turn around his struggling team.

The one major decision announced by Oates yesterday afternoon -- that Gregg Olson had been moved out of the stopper role temporarily -- never really came into play, though Olson made a mop-up appearance late in the game and pitched one scoreless inning.

Kansas City right-hander Mark Gardner gave up five hits over seven innings en route to his first victory in a Royals uniform, as the Orioles lost their third in a row and their fourth in the past five games.

Orioles-Royals scoring Royals second: Macfarlane fouled out to catcher Hoiles. McReynolds homered to center on 2-1 count. Pulliam doubled past third. Hiatt doubled to left center, Pulliam scored. On Rhodes' wild pitch, Hiatt to third. Lind walked. Gagne doubled past third, Hiatt and Lind scored. Miller walked. Williamson relieved Rhodes. McRae homered to right on 3-2 count, Gagne, Miller and McRae scored. Joyner grounded out to first baseman Davis, pitcher Williamson covering. Macfarlane flied out to right fielder McLemore. 7 runs, 5 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Royals 7, Orioles 0.

Orioles fifth: Hoiles singled to left center. Gomez walked, Hoiles to second. McLemore singled to right, Hoiles to third, Gomez to second. On Gardner's wild pitch, Hoiles scored, Gomez to third, McLemore to second. Reynolds hit sacrifice fly to center fielder McRae, Gomez scored. Anderson fouled out to third baseman Hiatt. Devereaux grounded out to shortstop Gagne. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Royals 7, Orioles 2.

Orioles eighth: Meacham pitching. Anderson flied out to right fielder Pulliam. Devereaux singled to third. Ripken grounded out to third baseman Hiatt, Devereaux to second. Baines singled to center, Devereaux scored. Davis grounded into fielder's choice, shortstop Gagne to second baseman Lind, Baines forced at second. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Royals 7, Orioles 3.

Orioles ninth: Hoiles struck out. Gomez lined out to second baseman Lind. McLemore singled to second. Reynolds hit by pitch, McLemore to second. Anderson tripled to right center, McLemore and Reynolds scored. Devereaux safe at first on third baseman Hiatt's fielding error, Anderson scored. Montgomery relieved Meacham. Ripken flied out to right fielder Pulliam. 3 runs, 2 hits, 1 error, 1 left on. Royals 7, Orioles 6.

ORIOLES TODAY

Site: Royals Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

Time: 2:35 p.m.

Orioles starter: Mike Mussina (1-1, 3.52)

Royals starter: Hipolito Pichardo (1-0, 4.40)

TV: None

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)

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