For Orioles, rally out-and-out grand 8-run, 2-out comeback in sixth slams Tigers in opener, 12-9

June 23, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The pennant race officially arrived at Camden Yards last night. It showed up in the sixth inning, long after the division-leading Detroit Tigers had laid waste to Mike Mussina and left every indication that they were going to do the same to the Orioles' midseason revival.

The chase began in earnest with a two-out, eight-run rally that carried the Orioles to a stunning 12-9 victory in the first game of a three-game series that could have a significant effect on the chemistry of the tightening American League East.

"This was a big ballgame for us," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said, "if there is such a thing as a big ballgame before the All-Star break. It was big confidence-wise . . . who we we're playing . . . all those things."

The Tigers had knocked Mussina out of the game after only 1 2/3 innings -- the shortest outing of his major-league career -- and handed starter Bill Gullickson a 7-1 advantage, but the Orioles chipped away in the middle innings and turned the game around with one of the biggest two-out rallies in big-league history.

Catcher Chris Hoiles hit a grand slam to put the club over the top and send the sellout crowd of 46,465 into hysterics. It was his second home run of the game and it was the most dramatic moment in an inning that came just two runs short of tying the American League record for runs scored in an inning after the first two batters were retired.

Hoiles went on to set a career high with six RBI with his second straight three-hit performance, but he was one of a handful of heroes in one of the most exciting innings in club history.

It started with two outs and struggling No. 8 hitter Leo Gomez at the plate. Gomez delivered his 10th home run of the year to shave the Tigers' lead to 7-4.

The next eight batters reached base safely as the Orioles rallied to cut their divisional deficit to seven games with their 17th victory in the past 21 games.

Gullickson walked Harold Reynolds before giving way to reliever Bill Krueger, who gave up a single to Brady Anderson and an electrifying two-run double to Mark McLemore. Tigers manager Sparky Anderson chose to have Krueger walk Cal Ripken intentionally, only to see the last run of his big lead get away on an RBI single by Harold Baines.

That brought on Kurt Knudsen, but the game was about to turn against Detroit for good. Third baseman Alan Trammell bobbled a sharp bouncer by Mike Devereaux to load the bases, bringing bring Hoiles to the plate. Hoiles, whose two-out homer in the fourth made the first chip in the six-run deficit, lined a pitch from Knudsen over the center-field fence for his third career grand slam.

Hoiles also had an RBI single in the eighth to cap the biggest offensive performance of his career.

"It was real good beating these guys the way they usually score runs," Hoiles said. "With the home runs and the power we showed, it felt real good."

It was a major turnabout for a number of reasons. The Tigers have been blowing people away all year and they had just done a number on the best starting pitcher in the Orioles rotation. The Orioles have not had much success offensively this year, and they were facing one of the best pitchers in the Tigers rotation.

"Knowing that we set a goal of trying to win every series and you're down 7-1 to those guys with your ace on the mound," Oates said, "you automatically start wondering how you're going to win the next two."

The Tigers have to be wondering what they have to do to win a game at Oriole Park. They went 0-6 here last year, but had to figure their luck had changed when they rocked Mussina for five runs in the first two innings.

Instead, the Orioles bullpen held on long enough to get left-hander Jim Poole his first victory of the year. The Tigers scored a couple of two-out runs in the ninth, but Gregg Olson got the final out to become the first pitcher in major-league history to record 20 saves in each of his first five major-league seasons.

Mussina suddenly has everyone wondering. Did something happen to him when he was taken down during the Orioles' June 6 brawl with the Seattle Mariners at Camden Yards? He is 1-1 with a 10.05 ERAin his three starts since, his only victory coming in a 16-4 assault on the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

In his previous start against Milwaukee, Mussina worked 6 2/3 innings and gave up seven runs on 11 hits. This time, he got it over with a lot quicker -- quicker than in any previous major-league appearance -- but he denied that there is anything physically wrong with him.

"My mechanics are a little fouled up right now," he said. "I don't have a lot of zip right now. As far as I know, I'm OK. I don't feel too bad. Fortunately, I didn't get hurt in that fight. I could have gotten hurt bad. Fortunately, it's just something mechanically I have to work out."

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