A's strand punchless O's, 4-1 12 left on, 3 errors seal Orioles' fate

June 02, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Manager Johnny Oates had found a bright side to every loss on this tough, 10-game road trip, but he had his work cut out for him trying to find anything good to say about the Orioles' performance in last night's 4-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics.

What is there to say when your team gets shut out for five innings by a pitcher with a 7.28 ERA?

How do you find a silver lining when you leave another dozen runners on base against a pitching staff that doesn't scare anyone?

Where do you go for positive reinforcement when the most dependable shortstop in the American League makes two errors in a game for the first time in more than a year and only the fourth time in his past 1,243 games?

Sure enough, struggling right-hander Shawn Hillegas silenced the Orioles offense through the fifth and then turned the gave over to the beleaguered A's bullpen. There were some more ugly ERAs on the mound before it was over, but it doesn't seem to matter when the Orioles are at the plate.

They made some noise against A's closer Dennis Eckersley in the top of the ninth, but couldn't recover from a three-error performance that sunk starter Ben McDonald in the early innings.

Shortstop Cal Ripken made two of those errors -- one of them in a two-run fifth inning that would factor very heavily in the outcome of the game. He came up with a chance at redemption in the ninth inning, but flied out representing the tying run. Harold Baines had the same opportunity, but he also flied to center as Eckersley recorded his 10th save.

The A's managed four hits, just half the production of the struggling Orioles, but they took advantage of the defensive breakdown to even the series at a game apiece.

"We doubled their hits and we tripled their errors," Oates said. "Across the board, we did more than they did in every category but runs. Unfortunately, that's the only one that counts."

McDonald has not recorded a victory since April 30, even though he carried a string of solid performances into last night's game. In his previous start, he took a one-hitter into the seventh inning and was removed with a two-run lead, but ended up with a no-decision when the New York Yankees tied the game in the ninth against closer Gregg Olson.

It was after that game that McDonald complained about being taken out too soon and expressed hope that Oates eventually would have the confidence in him to let him work out of a late-inning jam. This time, he had trouble working out of a couple of early-inning threats and was gone long before that could become an issue again.

Rookie third baseman Craig Paquette opened the third with a single in his first major-league at-bat and Mike Bordick reached base on a bouncer to third that was bobbled by Leo Gomez for an error. Both runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Scott Hemond before Rickey Henderson drove home the first run with a soft single to center and rookie Brent Gates brought home another with a sacrifice fly.

The defense failed McDonald again in the fifth, when Ripken allowed a ground ball by Paquette to skip through his legs for an error to lead off the inning. Bordick followed with a sacrifice bunt, but he was safe at first when McDonald pounced on the ball and threw too late to third.

Hemond just made it worse with a sharp bouncer down the third-base line that brought both runners home and put the A's up by four.

Oates arrived at the mound one batter later, lifting McDonald after just four innings of work, even though he had given up just one earned run and three hits.

"That's two games in a row," McDonald said. "It's happened before. It's aggravating, but it's not my decision. We had our chances offensively. We didn't score runs and we didn't play defense and I could have pitched better. I figure to stay around long enough for things to turn around for me. I can't sit around feeling sorry for myself. I've just got to pitch better."

The Orioles had plenty of opportunities against Hillegas, and even a team of such questionable offensive clout figured to score some runs against a pitcher of his caliber. He entered the game with just one win this year (April 11) and a 7.26 ERA.

There were base runners all over the place, but the journeyman right-hander used the whole ballpark to carry a shutout through five innings.

Oakland manager Tony La Russa went and got his starter while he was warming up for the sixth inning, which allowed Hillegas the opportunity to walk off the field to the cheers of the crowd -- something he hasn't done many times the past couple of years.

RUNNING IN PLACE

The Orioles left 12 runners on base in last night's 4-1 loss. Here is an inning-by-inning breakdown:

First ...... 2

Second ..... 2

Third ...... 2

Fourth ..... 1

Fifth ...... 1

Sixth ...... 0

Seventh .... 2

Eighth ..... 0

Ninth ...... 2

Total ..... 12

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