O's yank victory out of 0-6 hole, defeat N.Y., 7-6 Bases-loaded walk scores winner in 10th

June 26, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The Orioles did it again. They staked the New York Yankees to a six-run lead last night and wiped it away just as they did in the series-opening victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.

Which leaves one question:

Could this be Orioles magic?

It is starting to look that way. The Orioles scored two runs off Yankees closer Steve Farr in the bottom of the ninth inning to complete another electrifying comeback and went on to score a 7-6, 10-inning victory that extended their latest winning streak to five games.

Former Orioles reliever John Habyan walked Chris Hoiles on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the 10th to make the improbable evening complete and pull the Orioles within four games of first place in the American League East.

How improbable was it? Farr entered the game in the eighth inning with a string of 17 successful save opportunities, but could not protect the victory for hard-luck starter Jim Abbott, who had come off the disabled list to pitch six solid innings.

How improbable? The middle-inning comeback might not have come together if not for a 2-for-2 major-league debut by 1992 first-round draft choice Jeffrey Hammonds, who wasn't even in uniform when the game began.

It certainly would not have been possible if reliever Alan Mills had not pitched 5 2/3 innings of two-hit relief after starter Fernando Valenzuela gave up five runs in the first two innings and left in the fourth.

Anything appears to be possible at Oriole Park right now. The club won for the 18th time in its past 21 games and gave the sellout crowd of 46,318 another night to howl. They even played "Orioles Magic" after the game, if anyone hadn't made the connection.

"I don't think it was anything magical," manager Johnny Oates said. "This ballclub has been playing this way for three weeks. There comes a time when you have to start thinking that it's talent."

The chain of events that led to the victory started in the early innings, but it all came together in a ninth inning that brought back memories of the club's strange and wonderful "Why Not?" season of 1989.

Harold Reynolds led off with a single to left, and Mark McLemore followed with a triple into the gap in right-center. McLemore gambled going from second to third, but he got there just in time to send the crowd into hysterics and set up the tying run. It scored without the benefit of a batted ball when Farr sailed a fastball over the head of catcher Mike Stanley for a wild pitch.

The Orioles eventually loaded the bases with one out and seemed destined to get it over with in regulation after Cal Ripken escaped from two successive rundown plays between third base and home plate. But it was not decided until Hoiles waited out Habyan in the 10th to propel right-hander Todd Frohwirth to his fourth victory.

How improbable, indeed. Hammonds had driven in an important run in the sixth with a single in his major-league debut and also singled in his second at-bat. Fellow rookie center field prospect Damon Buford delivered the key hit in the 10th, a leadoff double that put the Yankees on the defensive.

Manager Buck Showalter ordered an intentional walk to Reynolds and another to Ripken after McLemore laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Then he brought on former Orioles reliever Habyan to face Mike Devereaux with the bases loaded.

Devereaux struck out swinging, but Hoiles never had to swing the bat.

When it was over, Oates didn't want the performance of Mills to get lost in the shuffle. He came in with one out in the fourth inning and shut out the Yankees through the ninth in his most impressive performance of the year.

"I know that there are a lot of heroes tonight," Oates said, "and the guy who probably will get the least attention is a guy named Alan Mills. He came back after throwing 68 pitches [on Tuesday], and he was the one that made this possible."

Mills threw 3 1/3 innings in the comeback victory over the Tigers on Tuesday, giving up two runs on two hits. Frohwirth also pitched in that game and gave up two runs. But an eight-run sixth inning made everything all right. This time, the comeback did not come all at once, so Mills and Frohwirth played much larger in the end result.

"I was just trying to keep the score where it was," Mills said. "You try to keep it close enough to give your team a chance to come back."

The Orioles were down by six runs when Mills entered the game, but he obviously did not treat it like a mop-up job. The events of Tuesday night were enough to convince anyone that the VTC once-struggling offense can no longer be taken lightly.

"You think [you can come back] all the time," Mills said. "You never give up on your team scoring runs. There are a lot of guys on this team with the ability to produce runs, and I'm not just saying that because we have been doing it lately."

Hoiles has been the man in the middle of everything lately.

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